Tuesday, December 21, 2010

State v. Andrews[1]

Opinion handed down December 21, 2010
Link to Mo. Sup. Ct. Opinion

In cases where juveniles between the ages of twelve and seventeen are alleged to have committed a felony, the juvenile division may hold a certification hearing in which it may decide to transfer jurisdiction of the juvenile’s case to a court of general jurisdiction, where the juvenile may be tried as an adult. In State v. Andrews, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that Missouri’s juvenile certification statute did not violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial as applied in Apprendi v. New Jersey when the certification determination was made by a judge rather than a jury and when the only possible sentence under Missouri law for a minor convicted of first degree murder is life without parole. Additionally, the court held that sentencing a minor to life without parole for first degree murder does not deprive him of his right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment as provided by the Eighth Amendment.



I. Facts and Holding

Fifteen-year-old Antonio Andrews was charged with and found guilty of first degree murder and armed criminal action for the shooting and killing of a police officer.[2] He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.[3] The events that led to Andrews’ conviction occurred on August 15, 2007 and began with Andrews and three of his friends “hanging out” on his porch in St. Louis, Missouri.[4] Andrews and his friend, Lamont Johnson, decided to go to the corner to get some Chinese food.[5] However, before they left, Andrews requested and obtained a .38 caliber revolver from one of his friends.[6] While walking to the restaurant, the two boys encountered Officer Norvelle Brown, who tried to stop and question them.[7]

After fleeing from Officer Brown, who pursued the boys in his patrol vehicle, the boys stopped in a vacant lot at which time Andrews told Johnson that that he was “tired of him chasing us.”[8] Andrews then removed the revolver from his pocket and waited for the pursuing officer to arrive.[9] Upon arrival, Officer Brown exited his vehicle, and Andrews fired a shot that hit him in his upper back, eventually killing him.[10]

The juvenile justice system had original jurisdiction over Andrews because he was a minor at the time he committed the crime.[11] However, on December 26, 2007, after finding that Andrews could not be rehabilitated by the juvenile justice system before his twenty-first birthday, at which time it would lose jurisdiction over Andrews, he was certified to be prosecuted as an adult under the general laws of the State of Missouri.[12]

After Andrews was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for first degree murder and a fifty-year consecutive sentence for armed criminal action, his appeal came directly to the Supreme Court of Missouri.[13] Andrews raised four points on appeal: (1) he challenged “Missouri’s juvenile-certification statute, section 211.071, as violating his right to a jury trial in a criminal prosecution under the Sixth Amendment as applied in Apprendi v. New Jersey;” (2) he challenged Missouri Revised Statutes section 565.020, which provides that a minor who is convicted of first degree murder must be sentenced to life without parole, asserting that it violated “the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment;” (3) he appealed the jury’s guilty verdict, asserting that “there was insufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Andrews committed first degree murder;” and (4) he claimed that the trial court erroneously overruled his motion in limine to prevent the presence of uniformed police officers during the trial.[14]

The majority affirmed the lower court’s verdict, denying all four of Andrews’ points on appeal.[15] As to Andrews’ constitutional challenges, the court held that Missouri’s juvenile certification statute did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, concluding that the rule laid out in Apprendi simply does not apply to a juvenile certification hearing.[16] Additionally, the majority held that Missouri Revised Statutes section 565.020 did not violate Andrews’ right under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, pointing to past precedent that has recognized that life without parole for a minor convicted of first degree murder is not cruel and unusual punishment.[17]

Regarding Andrews’ challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence at trial, the majority concluded that there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to show that he deliberated before killing Officer Brown: Andrews stated that he was tired of the officer chasing them, pulled the murder weapon out of his pocket, and waited for the officer to arrive.[18] Finally, the court quickly dismissed Andrews’ challenge to the trial court overruling his motion in limine, finding that Andrews failed to preserve the issue for appeal because he never brought it up during the trial after his original motion was overruled.[19]

Judge Wolff filed a separate dissenting opinion in which he argued that sentencing a minor to life without parole is cruel and unusual punishment and thus prohibited under the Eighth Amendment.[20] He further argued that if a minor is to receive such a sentence, then it should be because he has been found sufficiently culpable rather than as the result of a statute with a mandatory sentencing scheme.[21]

Judge Stith also filed a separate dissenting opinion.[22] In her dissent, she argued that Missouri’s juvenile-certification statute did in fact violate Andrews’ right to a jury trial as provided for under the Sixth Amendment.[23] Specifically, she argued that the Eighth Amendment requires that an offender’s age be taken into account when determining the punishment to be imposed, and therefore the findings of fact that a judge makes during a juvenile certification hearing, which include consideration of the defendant’s age, should be also be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt as required by Apprendi.[24]


II. Legal Background

Missouri Revised Statutes section 211.031 provides that the juvenile justice system has exclusive jurisdiction over all children under seventeen years of age.[25] However, section 211.071 provides that the juvenile division may hold a hearing and waive its jurisdiction regarding any case involving a child between the ages of twelve and seventeen who is accused of committing a felony.[26] When making such a determination, the juvenile division is required to analyze ten factors specified by the statute in determining whether to waive its jurisdiction.[27] When the juvenile division decides to waive its jurisdiction, the effect is that the jurisdiction is transferred to a court of general jurisdiction, where the juvenile may be prosecuted as an adult.[28] Further, Missouri Revised Statutes section 565.020.2 provides that the only possible penalty for a minor convicted of first degree murder is life without parole.[29]


A. Apprendi v. New Jersey

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial in a criminal prosecution for first degree murder.[30] The United States Supreme Court further elaborated on this right in Apprendi v. New Jersey.[31] In Apprendi, the court held that “[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”[32] Furthermore, almost a decade after Apprendi was decided, the Supreme Court held in Oregon v. Ice that the requirement laid out in Apprendi with regard to the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial did not apply to findings of fact required in order for a judge to impose consecutive rather than concurrent sentences.[33]

On appeal, Andrews argued that the effect of the juvenile certification hearing that allowed him to be prosecuted as an adult was to enhance his sentence to life without parole.[34] Thus, he asserted that the judge who decided to transfer his case to a court of general jurisdiction must have found that the factors set forth in section 211.071.6 would be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to satisfy Apprendi.[35] However, the majority concluded that the determination that Andrews’ case be transferred to a court of general jurisdiction did not serve as a sentence enhancement and thus Apprendi was inapplicable.[36] In fact, the majority concluded that the only effect that the certification judgment had on Andrews was that it determined that his case could be heard by a court of general jurisdiction rather than by a court in the juvenile division.[37]


B. Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.[38] However, much case law has been devoted to determining what precisely qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.[39] Furthermore, a distinction has emerged from this plethora of case law regarding what kind of punishments violate the Eighth Amendment when they are applied to juveniles versus when they are applied to adults.[40]

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Roper v. Simmons that sentencing an individual under eighteen years of age to death constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[41] More recently in 2010, in Florida v. Graham, the Court was confronted with the issue of whether sentencing a minor to life without parole for a non-homicide offense violates the Constitution.[42] The majority answered this question in the affirmative concluding that minors are less culpable than adults and therefore should not be subject to the most severe punishments.[43]

While Andrews argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Graham should be extended to the case in which a minor is convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, the Supreme Court of Missouri looked to Roper and Graham and determined that such a punishment for first degree murder committed by a minor does not violate the Eighth Amendment.[44] Specifically, the court noted that in Roper, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that a sentence of life without parole is sufficiently severe to deter minors from committing homicide.[45] Additionally, the majority noted that in Graham, the Court made a distinction “‘between homicide and other serious violent offenses against the individual’” and concluded that those convicted of non-homicide defenses are less deserving of the most serious punishments than those who commit homicide.[46] Therefore, based on Roper and Graham, the Supreme Court of Missouri concluded that past precedent has implied that life without parole for a minor who is convicted of first degree murder is permitted under the U.S. Constitution.[47]


III. Comment

Justice Wolff stated in his dissent, “Young Christopher Simmons, convicted in Roper of a murder he committed at age 17, was sent to prison to be put to death. In this case, young Andrews also has been sent to prison to die, albeit of whatever natural causes might take him.”[48] This statement correctly illustrates where the Supreme Court of Missouri went wrong in Andrews’ case.

The majority in this case relies on U.S. Supreme Court precedent from both Roper and Graham in determining that sentencing Andrews, a minor, to life without parole does not violate the Eighth Amendment.[49] However, as Justice Wolff correctly pointed out, neither of these two cases expressly held that such a punishment for a minor is permitted by the Constitution, nor has any other U.S. Supreme Court case done so since.[50] In Roper, the Court simply held that sentencing a minor to death violates the Eighth Amendment; however, it declined to go any further and address a sentence of life without parole.[51] The Court in Graham drew a distinction between the culpability of those who commit a homicide and those who commit other violent offenses against the person; however, it did not hold that sentencing a minor to life without parole for first degree murder satisfies the Constitution.[52]

Therefore, while both Roper and Graham may provide guidance on this issue, they certainly are not dispositive. Further, as Justice Wolff so eloquently stated, sentencing a minor to life without parole is essentially equivalent to a death sentence.[53] A sentence of life without parole for a minor denies that child the opportunity for personal growth as he matures and the opportunity for a second chance. Therefore, for the same reasons that it is unconstitutional to execute a minor, it should also be unconstitutional to sentence a minor to life without parole.


-Lindsay A. Ponce

[1] No. SC91006, 2010 WL 5209310 (Mo. 2010) (en banc).
[2] Id. at *1.
[3] Id.
[4] Id. at *2.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Id.
[12] Id. at *2-3.
[13] Id. at *1.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id. at *11-12.
[17] Id. at *4-6.
[18] Id. at *6-7.
[19] Id. at *7-8.
[20] Id. at *16-17 (Wolff, J., dissenting).
[21] Id.
[22] Id. at *17-22 (Stith, J., dissenting).
[23] Id. at *21-22.
[24] Id. at *17.
[25] Id. at *2 (citing Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.031 (2000)).
[26] Id. (citing Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.071 (2000)).
[27] Id. (citing Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.071.6). These factors are: “(1) The seriousness of the offense alleged and whether the protection of the community requires transfer to the court of general jurisdiction; (2) Whether the offense alleged involved viciousness, force and violence; (3) Whether the offense alleged was against persons or property with greater weight being given to the offense against persons, especially if personal injury resulted; (4) Whether the offense alleged is a part of a repetitive pattern of offenses which indicates that the child may be beyond rehabilitation under the juvenile code; (5) The record and history of the child, including experience with the juvenile justice system, other courts, supervision, commitments to juvenile institutions and other placements; (6) The sophistication and maturity of the child as determined by consideration of his home and environmental situation, emotional condition and pattern of living; (7) The age of the child; (8) The program and facilities available to the juvenile court in considering disposition; (9) Whether or not the child can benefit from the treatment or rehabilitative programs available to the juvenile court; and (10) Racial disparity in certification.” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.071.6.
[28] Andrews, 2010 WL 5209310 at *2.
[29] Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.020.2 (2000).
[30] U.S. Const. amend. VI.
[31] Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000).
[32] Id. at 525.
[33] Andrews, 2010 WL 5209310 at *3 (citing Oregon v. Ice, 555 U.S. 160 (2009)).
[34] Id. at *2.
[35] Id.
[36] Id. at *5.
[37] Id.
[38] U.S. Const. amend. VIII.
[39] See Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005); see Florida v. Graham, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010).
[40] Id.
[41] 2010 WL 5209310 at *6 (citing Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)).
[42] Id. (citing Florida v. Graham, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010)).
[43] Id.
[44] Id.
[45] Id. (citing Roper, 543 U.S. at 572).
[46] Id. (citing Graham, 130 S. Ct. at 2027).
[47] Id. at *7.
[48] Id. at *8 (Wolff, J., dissenting).
[49] Id. at *6-7.
[50] Id. at *8-9 (Wolff, J., dissenting).
[51] Id. at *9-10 (citing Roper, 543 U.S. at 551).
[52] Id. (citing Graham, 130 S. Ct. 2011).
[53] Supra note 45.

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