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In re D.T.

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 25, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF D.T., A MINOR.
v.
THE STATE OF NEVADA, Respondent. D.R.T., Appellant,

         Appeal from a juvenile court order certifying appellant to stand trial as an adult on charges of sexual assault, battery with intent to commit a crime (sexual assault), burglary, second-degree kidnapping, and battery constituting domestic violence. Eighth Judicial District Court, Family Court Division, Clark County; William O. Voy, Judge.

          Philip J. Kohn, Public Defender, and Kerri J. Maxey, Deputy Public Defender, Clark County, for Appellant.

          Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, Steven S. Owens and Jonathan VanBoskerck, Chief Deputy District Attorneys, and Cynthia L. Herren, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent.

         BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.

          OPINION

          HARDESTY, J.

         In this appeal, we consider whether a juvenile court order certifying appellant to stand trial as an adult violated his right to procedural due process and whether the certification of cognitively impaired juveniles is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. We reject both claims and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Appellant D.T.'s minor girlfriend, S.B., broke up with him through a text message. Later, while at the park in her apartment complex, D.T. approached S.B., bit her on the hand and chin, and then grabbed her by the arm and pulled her toward her apartment building. The two then went to S.B/s apartment to retrieve D.T.'s property, but S.B. did not return D.T.'s cell phone to him.

         Twenty-two days later, D.T. returned to S.B.'s apartment to retrieve his cell phone. D.T. entered the second-story apartment through an open window. Upon finding S.B. sleeping in the room with her two brothers, D.T. woke her up, asked for his phone, and after discussing the missing phone, laid down next to her. He then removed her shorts and had sex with her against her will. D.T. was taken into custody, and after being advised of his rights, agreed to talk to detectives. Based on the interview with detectives, D.T. was transferred to Las Vegas Juvenile Hall and booked accordingly.

         The State filed a certification petition against D.T. on five counts: sexual assault, battery with intent to commit a crime, burglary, kidnapping, and battery constituting domestic violence. D.T.'s counsel argued that D.T. suffered cognitive impairment and requested a court- ordered competency evaluation. After D.T. was found competent, counsel requested a continuance to seek a second opinion. D.T. was again found competent.

         Following argument from the parties, the juvenile court certified D.T. to adult status, noting that discretionary certification was warranted because the subjective factors in Seven Minors did not outweigh the nature and seriousness of the offenses or D.T.'s prior adjudicated offenses. The court further found that public safety was best served by transferring D.T. to the adult system. This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         Appellant first contends that the juvenile court's ruling and written order are not sufficiently specific to satisfy procedural due process. Relying on Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966), appellant asserts that the juvenile court's order does not demonstrate that a full investigation was performed prior to the certification hearing. He also contends that because the juvenile court merely listed the subjective factors without explaining how each factor impacted public safety, the record is insufficient to demonstrate that the juvenile court meaningfully reviewed his case or provided a basis for appellate review. See id. at 561 (requiring juvenile court, when making a decision to transfer a child to adult status, to make a statement of reasons for the transfer).

         Although we acknowledge that the juvenile court's oral ruling and written order lack detail, we conclude they meet the minimum requirements of due process. It is clear from the record that the juvenile court conducted a full investigation into appellant's background before the certification hearing. The record indicates that the court considered the information obtained as a result of that investigation, as well as information from appellant's psychological evaluation and defense counsel's opposition to the certification petition, when rendering its decision. See Lewis v. State,86 Nev. 889, 894, 478 P.2d 168, 171 (1970) (looking to court's oral decision to determine compliance with Kent). Further, there is no requirement that the juvenile court explain how each subjective factor impacts public safety. But cf. In re Glenda Kay S.,103 Nev. 53, 59, 732 P.2d 1356, 1360 (1987) (requiring the juvenile court to state the reasons for selecting a ...


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