Quick take on today's Illinois Supreme Court opinion In re Jonathan C.B.
In re Jonathan C.B.By Kerry J. Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender In August 2006, the minor was charged with attempt robbery and criminal sexual assault by use of force. In the Supreme Court, the minor argued that he was not proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt, that he was denied due process when he was shackled during his trial without an individualized determination of necessity under People v. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d 261 (1977), and that Section 5-101(3) of the Juvenile Court Act was unconstitutional because juveniles charged with sexual offenses have a constitutional right to a jury trial. In a 69-page opinion, the Court unanimously rejected the reasonable doubt claim in light of the standard of review requiring the court to take the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and to give deference to the findings of the trier of fact, here, the trial judge. The Court split 4-3 on the shackling claim, with the majority concluding that it was forfeited and that the record did not support the minor’s claim of error. The dissenting justices, Kilbride, Freeman, and Burke, noted that the State had conceded that there was error and believed that the Court should have gone on to find plain error and grant the minor a new trial. Finally, the Court split 6-1 in rejecting the contention that there is a right to a jury trial in juvenile cases involving sex offense allegations, with Justice Burke as the lone dissenter. The majority cited case law consistently rejecting the argument that the 1999 amendments to the Juvenile Court Act render it punitive and criminal in nature, and concluded that there are still significant differences between the Act and criminal proceedings such that minors need not be provided the right to a jury trial. Thus, Section 5-101(3) does not violate the Illinois Constitution. The court also rejected the minor’s equal protection and unconstitutional-as-applied challenges to the statute. Justice Burke concluded that the changes to the Act since 1999 render juvenile proceedings “fundamentally more criminal in nature” and would have held that Section 5-101(3) violated the Illinois Constitution. While there is much more to this decision than the (somewhat) brief summary offered here, perhaps the most pointed comment comes from Justice Freeman’s dissent:
...there still exist significant differences between the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system, which indicate that the goal of treating children separately is still worth pursuing. [citation omitted]. If juvenile delinquency proceedings are so different from the criminal justice system as to justify denial of a jury, then juvenile proceedings are sufficiently unique to require atrial judge to ascertain whether a juvenile is physically restrained in the courtroom. Jonathon C.B., slip op. at 43-44, Freeman, J., dissenting.Ultimately, this decision does not really deviate from existing law. Juveniles still are entitled to Boose hearings, but they must affirmatively exercise that right by objecting to being shackled. And, juveniles still are not entitled to jury trials except in the very limited circumstances provided under the Act.