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J.T.A. v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

May 24, 2018

J.T.A., Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellee.

          AN APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TULSA COUNTY THE HONORABLE JAMES CAPUTO, DISTRICT JUDGE

          ALEX BRAMBLETT ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT

          JAMES PFEFFER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR THE STATE

          RICHARD COUCH ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT

          MARK MORGAN ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR THE STATE

          SUMMARY OPINION

          Lumpkin, Presiding Judge

         ¶1 Appellant, J.T.A., is charged pursuant to the Youthful Offender Act with Count 1 - Robbery With a Dangerous Weapon, Count 2 - Robbery With a Dangerous Weapon, Count 3 - Conjoint Robbery, Count 4 - Conjoint Robbery, and Count 5 - Robbery First Degree, and/or in the alternative Conjoint Robbery in Tulsa County District Court Case No. YO-2017-30. On September 19, 2017, the State filed a motion to sentence Appellant as an adult. The motion was heard on December 19, 2017. The Honorable James Caputo, District Judge, granted the State's motion to sentence Appellant as an adult. From this Judgment, Appellant appeals, raising one proposition of error:

The District Court abused its discretion by granting the State's motion to impose an adult sentence when the State did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to believe that Appellant would not reasonably complete a plan of rehabilitation and that the public would not be adequately protected if Appellant were to be sentenced as a Youthful Offender.

         ¶2 Pursuant to Rule 11.2(A)(2), Rules of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Title 22, Ch.18, App. (2018), this appeal was automatically assigned to this Court's Accelerated Docket. The propositions or issues were presented to this Court in oral argument April 5, 2018, pursuant to Rule 11.2(E). Rule 11.2(E), Rules, supra. At the conclusion of oral argument, the parties were advised of the decision of this Court.

         ¶3 The District Court's order granting the State's motion to sentence Appellant as an adult is REVERSED and this case is REMANDED to the District Court of Tulsa County with instructions Appellant be treated and sentenced as a Youthful Offender.

         ¶4 Appellant was allegedly involved in a series of convenience store robberies taking place between June 22, 2016, and June 18, 2017. No evidence regarding the specifics of these crimes was introduced at the December 19, 2017, hearing on the State's motion. The only evidence received by the trial court at this hearing was the unsworn statement of Appellant's Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) caseworker Sarah Havenstrite and the sworn testimony of Appellant. At the conclusion of this hearing Judge Caputo ruled in favor of the State. On December 28, 2017, by agreement of the parties, the hearing had to be reopened for the limited purposes of allowing the State to introduce the OJA Psychological Evaluation and OJA Youthful Offender Study into evidence. [1] The trial court filed its written order granting the State's motion on December 28, 2017.

         ¶5 The Psychological Evaluation does not discuss the details of Appellant's alleged crimes. [2] Appellant's Psychological Evaluation states the Youthful Offender system could rehabilitate Appellant but for his age. Due to the eighteen year and five month age cutoff the Psychological Evaluation concludes Appellant could not complete a treatment program. See 10A O.S.2011, § 2-5-207. The Youthful Offender Study, prepared by Ms. Havenstrite, describes Appellant's amenability to treatment as "unknown." [3] However, at the motion hearing Ms. Havenstrite stated her belief Appellant could be rehabilitated within the approximately one year of remaining treatment eligibility. Neither trial counsel, nor the trial court, questioned Ms. Havenstrite regarding the inconsistencies between her Youthful Offender Study and her in-court statements made at the motion hearing.

         ¶6 The Psychological Evaluation, Youthful Offender Study, and Ms. Havenstrite's statements at the motion hearing contain no specifics as to an appropriate plan of treatment unique to Appellant. All three include comments regarding types of treatment that might benefit Appellant but none reduced these concepts to a treatment plan designed specifically to meet Appellant's needs. Appellate Youthful Offender proceedings require this Court to determine if the trial court has abused its discretion when ruling upon various Youthful Offender issues. Judge Caputo was required to determine whether the State presented clear and convincing evidence that there was good cause to believe Appellant would not reasonably complete a plan of rehabilitation. See 10A O.S.2011, § 2-5-208 (D), (E). There was no evidence presented to the trial court outlining a treatment plan for Appellant based on his specific needs or the current availability of such treatment within the Youthful Offender system.

         ¶7 In the overwhelming majority of Youthful Offender cases, the evidence presented at hearings fails to detail with specificity a treatment plan tailored to a particular appellant, and to advise the trial court of the availability of such treatment. This Court has repeatedly seen general statements regarding treatment options relied upon in Youthful Offender cases presented for appellate review. This practice makes it difficult for the parties to argue their respective positions and provides scant guidance to the trial court which is then required to make detailed decisions relying on minimal, generic information. 10A O.S.2011, § 2-5-208 (D). This Court must then struggle to adequately review these decisions on appeal. Id. For the trial court, and in turn this Court, to be able to make a reasoned decision both need more than bald assertions regarding a Youthful Offender's ability to complete a generic treatment plan. In order to better review these cases, trial courts and this Court need more specific information ...


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