In re D.M.

NJDC, the Children’s Law Center, and the Office of the Ohio Public Defender filed a brief in the Supreme Court of Ohio in support of a juvenile facing transfer to adult court, arguing that a youth is entitled to full discovery, inclusive of police reports and law enforcement materials, which may allow a youth charged with a mandatory transfer offense to challenge probable cause and prevent transfer to adult court.

This case originated in October 2012 when the State of Ohio filed a complaint against 16 year-old D.M. for aggravated robbery and filed a motion to transfer D.M. to adult court. Despite D.M.’s discovery request for police reports, and the juvenile court’s multiple demands for compliance with D.M.’s request, the prosecution refused to turn over the police reports. The trial court dismissed the case without prejudice holding that “the State errantly, and in violation of a direct Court order, refused to provide discoverable information in violation of Defendant’s rights to due process.” The State appealed and the First District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision holding that the State only had to turn over Brady materials in its possession and evidence it intended to use at the probable-cause hearing.

In their brief, amici discussed that both the U.S. Supreme Court and Ohio Supreme Court have held transfer proceedings (termed “bindover” in Ohio) are critically important, as the decision to transfer a youth to adult court is one of grave magnitude. Great care must be taken to safeguard the youth’s due process rights and ensure fundamental fairness in these proceedings. Citing to recent research on adolescent development and brain science, amici discussed the gravity of transferring a youth to adult court. Placing youth in adult jails and prisons can result in long-lasting harms. Amici asserted that the Court of Appeals decision violated D.M.’s right to due process and fundamental fairness, contravenes national standards, model rules, and guidelines, and asked the Supreme Court of Ohio to overturn the decision and uphold the trial court’s finding.

Court: Supreme Court of Ohio
September 3, 2013 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Adolescent Development; Discovery; Transfer

Oral Argument: March 12, 2014
 On Aug. 28, 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that “a prosecuting attorney is under a duty imposed by the Due Process Clauses of the Ohio Constitution and the United States Constitution and by Juv.R. 24(A)(6) to disclose to a juvenile respondent all evidence in the state’s possession that is favorable to the juvenile and material either to guilt, innocence, or punishment.”  140 Ohio St.3d 309, 309 (OH 2014).