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Circuit court properly exercised its discretion in waiving juvenile to adult court

State v. K.J.P.,  2022AP807, District 2, 11/2/22 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The court of appeals rejects K.J.P.’s arguments that the circuit court erred in deciding to waive juvenile court jurisdiction and allow him to be prosecuted in adult court.

The state filed a delinquency petition charging K.J.P. with kidnapping, armed carjacking, armed robbery, and sexual assault. The state also petitioned for waiver of juvenile jurisdiction and transfer of the case to adult court. The circuit court granted the waiver petition after a hearing. (¶¶1-2).

Under § 938.18(5) a court must consider five factors when deciding whether to waive juvenile jurisdiction: 1) the juvenile’s personality, including his “pattern of living” and amendability to treatment; 2) the juvenile’s prior record; 3) the type and seriousness of the offense; 4) the adequacy and suitability of facilities, services, and procedures available in the juvenile justice system for treatment of the juvenile and public protection; and 5) the desirability of trial and disposition of the case in one court if the juvenile was allegedly associated in the offense with persons who will be charged in adult court. K.J.P. claims the circuit didn’t correctly consider these factors in three specific ways:

Pattern of living: K.J.P. claims the circuit court didn’t consider his pattern of living or, to the extent it did, erred in concluding that, based on the factors relevant to assessing K.J.P.’s personality and set forth in § 938.18(5)(a), his personality weighted only slightly in his favor. The record shows the circuit court did consider K.J.P.’s pattern of living, and it reasonably concluded based on all the relevant factors that K.J.P.’s personality didn’t weigh strongly in his favor, as K.J.P. asserts. (¶¶13-16).

Prior record: K.J.P. argues that under § 938.18(5)(am), a circuit court can consider the juvenile’s “motives and attitudes” only with respect to prior offenses, not the offenses alleged in the current case, and that the circuit court erred in considering his explanations for the pending charges as part of its assessment of his prior record. The court of appeals agrees with his statutory interpretation but concludes the circuit court may consider the juvenile’s explanations for the current offenses under par. (b), which requires consideration of the current offense. Thus, even though the circuit court said it was considering K.J.P.’s explanations when assessing his prior record, it didn’t erroneously exercise of discretion because K.J.P.’s explanations were a relevant factor to the waiver decision. (¶¶17-21).

Availability of treatment in juvenile system: K.J.P. argues the circuit court erred in concluding he would not take treatment seriously and so didn’t show potential to respond to treatment, a factor under § 938.18(5)(a). In particular, he faults the circuit court for giving little weight to the opinions and recommendations of the county department of health and human services and the court-appointed psychologist. But the circuit court gets to decide how much weight to give an expert’s opinion. Further, K.J.P. doesn’t show that the court’s factual conclusions are clearly erroneous or lack a reasonable basis in the record, and K.J.P.’s disagreement with the court’s conclusion doesn’t establish an erroneous exercise of discretion. (¶¶22-25).

K.J.P. also argues the circuit court erred by comparing his conduct to that of the defendant in B.B. v. State, 166 Wis. 2d 202, 479 N.W.2d 205 (Ct. App. 1991), who killed five family members, burned the bodies, and buried some of the remains. The circuit court said K.J.P.’s alleged offenses “carry with them the sheer brutality [and] casual disregard” for the victims as this in B.B. (¶26). This wasn’t improper:

¶27     …. Although the court found that the offenses charged against K.J.P. were comparable in some respects to the homicide offenses in B.B., it specifically stated that the offenses charged in this case “do not rise to the level of” the conduct at issue in B.B. The court’s statement reflects its understanding of the difference between the conduct at issue in B.B., and the charged offenses in the present case. At the same time, however, it is evident from the court’s remarks that it believed the type and seriousness of the offenses weighed heavily in favor of waiving juvenile jurisdiction over K.J.P, as was the case in B.B.

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