Morris Kent was 16 years old when police arrested and charged him for multiple counts of burglary, robbery, and rape. The teen was already on probation in Washington D.C. for prior burglaries and theft. The prosecutor on the case wanted Kent's trial to happen in adult court. His reasons included Kent's criminal history and the serious nature of the current charges. Kent's lawyer, of course, wanted the case to stay in juvenile court. Had the judge allowed a hearing, Kent's lawyer would have argued that his client was mentally ill. He would have said this fact should be considered before determining which trial court to use. Yet the judge made the decision without holding a hearing. The adult court tried Kent and found him guilty of the charges. His sentence was 30 to 90 years in prison. In his appeal, Kent argued that the case should have stayed in juvenile court.
The Supreme Court did not agree with Morris Kent that his conviction and case should be thrown out, but it did not uphold his conviction either. It ruled that state judges could decide to try minors in adult court but emphasized that several factors must be considered before making that choice. The factors should include the seriousness of the crime as well as the suspect's age, criminal background, and mental state.
The Supreme Court did remand, or send the case back to the lower courts to review the decision to remove it from juvenile court. The justices said the juvenile court judge either did not adequately consider the factors for removal or failed to explain his reasons for the removal. They also noted the failure of other law enforcement officials to follow proper procedures in the case. The Court said that if the review determined the transfer to have been improper, Kent's conviction should be thrown out. Since by this time Kent was over 21, the juvenile court no longer had jurisdiction and could not hold a new trial. However, if the transfer was found to be proper then the adult court...
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