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Quick take on today's Illinois Supreme Court opinion In re Jonathan C.B.

CRIMINAL

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.
Posted on June 30, 2011 by Chris Bonjean
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