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COA: 6th Amendment not violated in juvenile murder case

August 30, 2011

The Indiana Court of Appeals has found that a juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in waiving a 15-year-old boy’s murder trial to adult court and that Indiana’s juvenile waiver statute does not violate the Sixth Amendment.

On August 22, 2008, Martin Villalon chased down 15-year-old John Shoulders and fatally shot him because Villalon believed Shoulders was a Vice Lord gang member. Villalon, who was also 15 at the time, was waived to adult court in 2009 following a hearing in juvenile court. He was charged with murder, and a jury trial found him guilty as charged. On July 26, 2010, the trial court sentenced him to 60 years in prison.

In Martin A. Villalon, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-1010-CR-544, Villalon appealed his conviction and sentence. He raised several issues for review, including the claim that Indiana’s juvenile waiver statute is unconstitutional because it deprives juveniles of a Sixth Amendment right to have a jury determine facts supporting enhanced punishment for an offense.

Villalon argued that, because his trial in adult court greatly increased his punishment, he was entitled to have a jury determination of facts supporting the enhancement. In support of that argument, Villalon cited Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000), which set forth the general rule that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury.”  However, more recently in Oregon v. Ice, 555 U.S. 160, 129 S.Ct. 711, 714 (2009), the United States Supreme Court declined to extend the Apprendi rule in the context of consecutive versus concurrent sentencing, holding that Apprendi did not apply to concurrent or consecutive sentencing in which the jury had traditionally played no role.

The appeals court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial does not apply to juvenile proceedings, and that Villalon had not proved that the Indiana juvenile statute violates that amendment. Villalon also failed to establish that his waiver to adult court lacked evidentiary support for the statutory prerequisites, and he failed to demonstrate ineffectiveness of trial counsel or reversible error in the admission of evidence or the conduct of the trial. In light of Villalon’s character and previous criminal history, the court held that his 60-year sentence is not inappropriate.

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