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North Carolina v. T. D. R.

When Juveniles Are Adults

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the court of appeal's ruling. Chief Justice Mitchell, writing for the court, found that the court of appeals had authority to hear any direct appeal in a juvenile transfer order, not just those with final decisions. Since the juvenile transfer order terminated district court jurisdiction by sending the case to a superior court, the district court action was completed. In addition, Mitchell ruled the superior court did not have legal authority to conduct a review of district court transfer order. Only the court of appeals possessed proper jurisdiction for review of district court orders transferring jurisdiction over juveniles to the superior court.

Mitchell found that the district court had legal authority to transfer T. D. R.'s case to superior court for adult trial since he was (1) older than 13 years-of-age; (2) had allegedly committed an offense constituting a Class A felony if committed by an adult; and, (3) had completed a district court probable cause hearing.

If the district court had found probable cause, but the offense was not a Class A felony, the district court would have had to determine whether the "needs of the juvenile or the best interest of the State will be served by transfer of the case to Superior Court." Mitchell wrote that in order to avoid due process constitutionality challenges as addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Schall v. Martin, the district court should have allowed T. D. R. a hearing in which the juvenile, represented by counsel, could have testified on his own behalf, calling and examining witnesses, and producing other evidence dealing with the issue of whether the he should be sent to the superior court to be tried as an adult. Mitchell held that juveniles should be afforded the same constitutional guarantees as adults in criminal prosecutions.

Mitchell also concluded that the superior court had authority to review the indictment against T. D. R. and to dismiss charges if T. D. R.'s rights had been "flagrantly violated and there is such irreparable prejudice to the defendant's preparation of his case that there is no remedy but to dismiss the prosecution." Mitchell held this requirement for dismissal was not satisfied since T. D. R. was merely denied more time to gather evidence to respond to the state's expert witness, which T. D. R. argued was available had the additional time been granted. Mitchell wrote that denial of such motions are reviewed on appeal only if the defendant can demonstrate "gross abuse" of discretion. Mitchell asserted T. D. R. had over three months to gather evidence, and at no time offered an explanation why this time was not sufficient. In fact, T. D. R. not only had ample time to gather evidence, but the district court delayed the hearing date more than once, and assisted T. D. R. in gathering evidence when requested. As a result, Mitchell concluded the district court neither abused its discretion nor committed any constitutional error in denying T. D. R.'s motion for continuance.

Consequently, Mitchell continued, the superior court order dismissing the indictments, and returning the case to district court was in error, and should have been reversed by the court of appeals. To set the case record straight again, Mitchell reversed the court of appeals' ruling and the superior court's order. He then returned the case to the court of appeals under orders to return the matter to the superior court for reinstatement of the indictments against T. D. R. Any further proceedings should be in accordance with trying T. D. R. as an adult.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentNorth Carolina v. T. D. R. - Significance, Teen Assault And Court Jurisdiction, When Juveniles Are Adults, Impact, Further Readings