Justia South Carolina Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Juvenile Law
South Carolina v. Smith
Four months shy of his eighteenth birthday, petitioner Terrell Smith stabbed his friend Brandon Bennett (the victim) to death. When the victim's father Darryl Bennett walked in on the stabbing, Smith laughed at Bennett's anguish and attempted to stab Bennett to death as well. Following a jury trial, Smith was convicted and sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment for murder and thirty years' imprisonment for attempted murder, the sentences to be run concurrently. Despite receiving a sentence longer than the mandatory minimum, Smith argued the statute was unconstitutional because it placed juvenile and adult homicide offenders on equal footing for sentencing purposes, and the Eighth Amendment, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, forbade such a result. In accordance with the overwhelming majority of states that have addressed similar arguments, the South Carolina Court held the mandatory minimum sentence imposed by section 16-3-20(A) of the South Carolina Code (2015) was constitutional as applied to juveniles, and affirmed Smith's convictions and sentences. View "South Carolina v. Smith" on Justia Law
South Carolina v. Slocumb
At age 13, petitioner Conrad Slocumb kidnapped and sexually assaulted a teacher before shooting her in the face and head five times and leaving her for dead. Three years later, following his guilty plea for the first set of crimes, he escaped from custody and raped and robbed another woman in a brutal manner before being apprehended again. For these two sets of crimes, Slocumb received an aggregate 130-year sentence due to the individual sentences being run consecutively. Before the South Carolina Supreme Court, Slocumb argued an aggregate 130-year sentence for multiple offenses committed on multiple dates violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The South Carolina Court acknowledged the “ostensible merit in Slocumb's argument, for it is arguably a reasonable extension of Graham [v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010)] and Miller [v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012)]. Yet precedent dictates that only the Supreme Court may extend and enlarge the protections guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Once the Supreme Court has drawn a line in the sand, the authority to redraw that line and broaden federal constitutional protections is limited to our nation's highest court.” Because the decision to expand the reach and protections of the Eighth Amendment lay exclusively with the Supreme Court, the South Carolina Supreme Court felt constrained to deny Slocumb relief. View "South Carolina v. Slocumb" on Justia Law
In the Interest of Justin B.
Justin B. was found delinquent for committing criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree. The family court imposed the mandatory, statutory requirement that he register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitor, both for life. Justin B. claimed the mandatory imposition of lifetime registration and electronic monitoring on juveniles was unconstitutional. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the family court. View "In the Interest of Justin B." on Justia Law
In the Interest of Kevin R.
The State charged appellant "Kevin R." with possessing a weapon on school grounds. Prior to his adjudicatory hearing before a family court judge, Appellant moved for a jury trial on the grounds the federal and state Constitutions guaranteed him the right to a jury trial. The judge denied the motion and proceeded to hear Appellant's case in a bench trial. Ultimately, the judge adjudicated Appellant delinquent and deferred sentencing until an evaluation of Appellant was completed. The sentencing hearing was conducted before a second family court judge, who sentenced Appellant to an indeterminate period of time not to exceed his twenty- first birthday. The judge then suspended the sentence and placed Appellant on probation until his eighteenth birthday. On appeal, Appellant contended the family court judge erred in denying his motion for a jury trial. Recently, the South Carolina Supreme Court held a juvenile did not have a constitutional right to a jury trial in adjudication proceedings. However, the Court's decision in that case was not dispositive as it was presented with additional arguments raised by Appellant and the Amici Curiae. After consideration of these issues, the Court adhered to its decision in the earlier case, and affirmed the family court. View "In the Interest of Kevin R." on Justia Law
In the Interest of Stephen W.
In August 2012, then-sixteen-year-old Appellant Stephen W. was charged with possession of marijuana. At the adjudicatory hearing, Appellant moved for a jury trial, claiming that he was entitled to a jury trial under the United States and South Carolina Constitutions. The family court denied Appellant's motion. The family court adjudicated Appellant delinquent and ordered that Appellant spend six consecutive weekends at the Department of Juvenile Justice, complete an alternative educational program, and continue with his prior probation for a period of time not to exceed his eighteenth birthday or until he obtained a G.E.D. Appellant directly appealed to the Supreme Court. He argued that the family court erred in denying his motion for a jury trial in a family court juvenile proceeding. Because there was no constitutional right to a jury trial in a family court juvenile proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Interest of Stephen W." on Justia Law
In the Interest of Justin B.
Appellant Justin B. challenged the active electronic monitoring requirements of section 23-3-540 of the South Carolina Code. Appellant argued that because he was a juvenile, the imposition of lifetime monitoring under the statute constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the federal and state constitutions. The Supreme Court found that electronic monitoring was not a punishment, and rejected Appellant's claim. However, the Court concluded Appellant must be granted periodic judicial review to determine the necessity of continued monitoring. View "In the Interest of Justin B." on Justia Law