After charging J.M. in juvenile court with crimes ranging from child sexual assault to disorderly conduct, the State sought to waive J.M. into adult court by arguing that Lincoln Hills was not an appropriate place for C.M. because, according to the recent news reports, it is so awful. The circuit court cited the news reports in granting waiver. That was error, but it’s harmless because there are other facts in the record supporting the waiver decision.
At the waiver hearing the State argued there is “a cloud over Lincoln Hills,” citing DOJ’s investigation of physical and sexual abuse there and recent news reports about the inhumane treatment of juveniles, and a county case manager testified there is “somewhat of a moratorium” on using the facility. (¶4). The deputy superintendent for Lincoln Hills, however, testified at the hearing that they were cooperating with the investigation, rectifying the problems, and continuing to provide the same programming services they always have. (¶¶6-7).
In ordering waiver the circuit court followed the State’s lead and cited the news reports as well as information it heard about another county removing its juveniles from the facility. (¶4). But the news articles and the court’s personal knowledge were not facts in evidence, so the court erroneously exercised its discretion in considering that information. (¶8). The error’s harmless, though, because the waiver decision is sustainable as a proper exercise of discretion.
The circuit court considered all the relevant waiver factors under § 938.18(5) and emphasized, as it is allowed to do, the type and seriousness of the offenses, the adequacy and suitability of services available for the treatment of C.M. and the protection of the public, and the short period of time left in the juvenile system. G.B.K. v. State, 126 Wis. 2d 253, 260, 376 N.W.2d 385 (Ct. App. 1985). The evidence in the record supported the circuit court’s conclusions on these factors, so the waiver decision is affirmed. (¶¶9-11).