January 2005 Term
STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA,
Plaintiff Below, Appellee
KENNETH Y., Juvenile,
Defendant Below, Appellant
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County
Honorable Thomas C. Evans, III, Judge
Case No. 02-JD-36
REMANDED FOR RESENTENCING
Submitted: January 12, 2005
Filed: March 22, 2005
| Elizabeth Shaver, Esq.
Public Defender Corporation
Ripley, West Virginia
Attorney for the Appellant
| Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Esq.
Kelley M. Goes, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Charleston, West Virginia
Attorneys for the Appellee
The Opinion of the Court was delivered PER CURIAM.
JUSTICE DAVIS concurs and reserves the right to file a concurring opinion.
1. In the circuit and magistrate courts of
this state, the judge or magistrate shall, sua sponte, afford to any person about to be sentenced the right of
allocution before passing sentence. Syl. pt. 6, State v. Berrill, 196 W.Va. 578, 474
S.E.2d 508 (1996).
2. Where no objection to the denial of allocution
was made at trial, the error is subject to review for plain error. Syl.
pt. 5, State v. Berrill, 196 W.Va. 578, 474 S.E.2d 508 (1996).
This case is before this Court upon the July 31,
2003, order of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, West Virginia, sentencing
the appellant, Kenneth Y., a juvenile, to the Industrial Home for Youth near
Salem, West Virginia, for a term not to exceed 1 year. The Circuit Court
adjudicated the appellant to be a juvenile delinquent within the meaning
of W.Va. Code, 49-1-4(8) (1998), upon the appellant's admission to
the charge of destruction of property. (See
The charge and adjudication of delinquency arose
from an incident wherein the appellant damaged the automobile of Matthew
D. Francis. The appellant does not challenge that aspect of the case. Rather,
he contends that the Circuit Court abused its discretion in sentencing him
to the Industrial Home for Youth. In that regard, the appellant asserts, inter
alia, that the Circuit Court committed error by failing to afford him,
or his counsel, an opportunity to comment upon alternative sentencing arrangements.
According to the appellant, the sentence to the Industrial Home should, therefore,
be set aside.
This Court has before it the petition for appeal, the briefs of the parties and all matters of record. As discussed below, W.Va. Code, 49-5-13 (2002), sets forth a number of alternative sentencing arrangements in cases of this nature, including the placement of a juvenile in a facility such as the Industrial Home for Youth. A review of the record herein supports the appellant's assertion that the Circuit Court did not afford him or his counsel an opportunity to comment upon those alternatives prior to his sentence to the Industrial Home. For the reasons stated below, this Court is of the opinion that that omission constitutes plain error. Accordingly, the July 31, 2003, order of the Circuit Court of Jackson County is set aside, and this case is remanded to that Court for resentencing with an opportunity to be provided to appellant for comment upon alternative sentencing arrangements.
On June 13, 2002, the appellant, Kenneth Y., age 16, engaged in a confrontation with Matthew D. Francis, age 18, concerning the appellant's girlfriend. (See footnote 2) The confrontation occurred in a parking lot in Ravenswood, West Virginia. During the incident, the appellant kicked Francis' 1995 Ford Contour automobile, thereby damaging the vehicle in an amount in excess of $700.
A petition was filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, West Virginia, by the investigating police officer charging the appellant with destruction of property, i.e., damaging the Ford Contour, and asking the Court to adjudicate him a juvenile delinquent. W.Va. Code, 49-5-2 (2001); W.Va. Code, 49-5-7 (2003). The Jackson County Public Defender was appointed to represent the appellant. Pursuant to an order entered on January 3, 2003, the Circuit Court accepted the appellant's admission to the charge and adjudicated him a juvenile delinquent. W.Va. Code, 49-5-11 (1998).
The Circuit Court granted the appellant, who had dropped out of high school and had a history of delinquency, leave to attend the educational program at the Mountaineer Challenge Academy in Kingwood, West Virginia, pending final disposition. (See footnote 3) The appellant attended the Academy for about 10 days but left without completing the program.
Thereafter, on July 31, 2003, the Circuit Court conducted a dispositional hearing pursuant to W.Va. Code, 49-5-13 (2002). Although the appellant did not testify at the hearing, his sister, Beverly Y., appeared and indicated, through her testimony, that the appellant should be placed on probation and allowed to reside with her. Jackson County Probation Officer John R. Mellinger, however, recommended that the appellant be sentenced to the Industrial Home for Youth. According to Officer Mellinger, confinement at the Industrial Home was warranted because of the appellant's (1) history of delinquency, (2) failure to pursue educational and employment opportunities, (3) failure to pay restitution in this case and (4) lack of exposure to discipline throughout his life.
Immediately following the statements of Beverly Y. and Officer Mellinger, the Circuit Court sentenced the appellant to the Industrial Home for Youth for a term not to exceed 1 year. In so ruling, the Circuit Court set forth a number of reasons why it was accepting Officer Mellinger's recommendation, a primary reason being the educational programs offered at the Industrial Home. It is apparent to this Court that the Circuit Court considered the education of appellant to be of importance in the best interests of appellant. In imposing sentence, however, the Circuit Court did not afford the appellant or his counsel an opportunity to comment upon alternative sentencing arrangements.
The appellant's sentence to the Industrial Home for Youth is reflected in the
order of July 31, 2003. In September 2003, the Circuit Court stayed the appellant's
sentence pending appeal to this Court. W.Va. Code, 49-5-13(d) (2002).
As stated above, W.Va. Code, 49-5-13 (2002), sets forth a number
of alternative sentencing arrangements in cases of this nature, including
the placement of a juvenile in a facility such as the Industrial Home for
Youth. Other options available under the statute range from dismissal of
the delinquency petition to the referral of the juvenile to community- based
programs or the placement of the juvenile under extra-parental supervision
through the local probation office. In the case now to be determined, the
appellant was sentenced to the Industrial Home pursuant to W.Va. Code,
49-5-13(b)(5) (2002), which states in part:
Upon a finding that the best interests of the
juvenile or the welfare of the public require it, and upon an adjudication
of delinquency . . . the court may commit the juvenile to the custody of
the director of the division of juvenile services for placement in a juvenile
services facility for the treatment, instruction and rehabilitation of juveniles.
Subsection (b)(5) further provides that a circuit court maintains discretion to consider alternative sentencing arrangements.
Accordingly, the standard of review with regard to a circuit court's sentencing order or disposition under W.Va. Code, 49-5-13 (2002), is whether the circuit court's ruling constitutes an abuse of discretion. State v. Kirk N., 214 W.Va. 730, 741, 591 S.E.2d 288, 299 (2003), quoting State ex rel. D. D. H. v. Dostert, 165 W.Va. 448, 471, 269 S.E.2d 401, 416 (1980), (discretionary rulings of circuit courts at the dispositional stage in juvenile cases should only be reversed where they are not supported by the evidence or are wrong as a matter of law); In the Interest of Thomas L., 204 W.Va. 501, 504, 513 S.E.2d 908, 911 (1998), (disposition in juvenile case held to be within the circuit court's sound discretion); State ex rel. Department of Health and Human Resources v. Frazier, 198 W.Va. 678, 683, 482 S.E.2d 663, 668 (1996), (circuit courts are vested with discretion to select the appropriate disposition for a particular juvenile). (See footnote 4)
Nevertheless, a number of factors suggest that an abuse of discretion occurs where no right of allocution or opportunity to comment on sentencing is afforded a juvenile at the dispositional stage of the proceedings. (See footnote 5) As W.Va. Code, 49-5-13(b) (2002), expressly states,
a circuit court is required, in selecting an appropriate sentence, to consider the best interests of the juvenile and the welfare of the public. Consistent with that requirement is the admonition of the West Virginia Legislature in W.Va. Code, 49-5-2(i) (2001), and again in W.Va. Code, 49-5-13(b) (2002), that the parties in a juvenile proceeding shall be given an opportunity to be heard. (See footnote 6) Moreover, a juvenile has the right under W.Va. Code, 49-5-2(h) (2001), to be effectively represented by counsel at all stages of the proceedings. Manifestly, the opportunity to he heard and the right to effective representation encompass the right to comment upon alternative sentencing arrangements as an integral part of the circuit court's mandate to consider the best interests of the juvenile and the welfare of the public.
Where sentencing to a facility such as the Industrial Home for Youth is contemplated, the opportunity to comment is a fortiori warranted, especially in view of the obligations of the sentencing court set forth in syllabus point 4 of D. D. H. v. Dostert, supra:
In a juvenile proceeding it is the obligation of a trial
court to make a record at the dispositional stage when commitment to an industrial
school is contemplated under W.Va. Code, 49-5-13(b)(5)  and where
incarceration is selected as the disposition, the trial court must set forth
his reasons for that conclusion. In this regard the court should specifically
address the following: (1) the danger which the child poses to society; (2) all
other less restrictive alternatives which have been tried either by the court
or by other agencies to whom the child was previously directed to avoid formal
juvenile proceedings; (3) the child's background with particular regard to whether
there are pre- determining factors such as acute poverty, parental abuse, learning
disabilities, physical impairments, or any other discrete, causative factors
which can be corrected by the State or other social service agencies in an environment
less restrictive than an industrial school; (4) whether the child is amenable
to rehabilitation outside an industrial school, and if not, why not; (5) whether
the dual goals of deterrence and juvenile responsibility can be achieved in some
setting less restrictive than an industrial school and if not, why not; (6) whether
the child is suffering from no recognizable, treatable determining force and
therefore is entitled to punishment; (7) whether the child appears willing to
cooperate with the suggested program of rehabilitation; and, (8) whether the
child is so uncooperative or so ungovernable that no program of rehabilitation
will be successful without the coercion inherent in a secure facility.
Syl., State v. Craig D., 205 W.Va. 269, 517 S.E.2d 746 (1999); syl., In the Matter of Willis Alvin M., 198 W.Va. 210, 479 S.E.2d 871 (1996); syl. pt. 1, State v. M. E., 170 W.Va. 367, 294 S.E.2d 171 (1982). (See footnote 7)
By analogy, Rule 32(c)(3)(C) of the West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure
states that, before imposing sentence, the court must address the defendant
personally and determine whether the defendant wishes to make a statement and
to present any information in mitigation of sentence [.] (See
footnote 8) In State v. Brewster, 213 W.Va. 227, 579
S.E.2d 715 (2003), this Court indicated that Rule 32(c)(3)(C) is part of this
State's longstanding tradition of conferring the right of allocution
in criminal cases. 213 W.Va. at 229, 579 S.E.2d at 717. Thus, in syllabus point
6 of State v. Berrill, 196 W.Va. 578, 474 S.E.2d 508 (1996), this Court
held: In the circuit and magistrate courts of this state, the judge or
magistrate shall, sua sponte, afford to any person about to be sentenced
the right of allocution before passing sentence. Syl. pt. 5, State
v. Bruffey, 207 W.Va. 267, 531 S.E.2d 332 (2000). See, Vol. 2, F.
D. Cleckley, Handbook on West Virginia Criminal Procedure, 317-18 (Michie
- 1993). Certainly, the number of considerations, enumerated above, relevant
to dispositional orders in juvenile proceedings justify a favorable comparison
between affording a juvenile an opportunity to comment upon sentencing and
the right of allocution under Rule 32(c)(3)(C).
Here, the State asserts that the appellant's right to be heard concerning
his sentence was satisfied at the dispositional hearing by his sister's testimony
to the effect that he should be placed on probation. In addition, the State asserts that the appellant
waived the right to comment at the hearing by not requesting the opportunity
to speak and by not objecting when the Circuit Court proceeded to impose
the sentence. Nothing in the record, however, demonstrates that the sister's
testimony was wholly reflective of the appellant's expectations concerning
his sentence. More important, however, was the Circuit Court's failure to
affirmatively provide an opportunity for the appellant or his counsel to
give the Court their in-put concerning alternative sentencing arrangements.
As stated above, a circuit court's duty in that regard is part of ruling
in the best interests of the juvenile and the welfare of the public. The
State's assertions are, therefore, deprived of significance by syllabus point
5 of Berrill, supra, which states: Where no objection
to the denial of allocution was made at trial, the error is subject to review
for plain error. Bruffey, supra, 207 W.Va. at 273 n.
6, 531 S.E.2d at 338 n. 6. As stated in Vol. 2, F. D. Cleckley, Handbook
on West Virginia Criminal Procedure, (Michie - 2004 Supplement):
Where no objection has been made to the denial
of the right to allocution, the deprivation is nevertheless subject to review
under plain error. * * * In light of the obligation that [Rule 32(c)(3)(C)]
imposes upon the sentencing court to invite a defendant's allocution, it
is not plain that a defendant should be held to have forfeited his or her
right to allocution because of any failure to request that opportunity.
The record demonstrates that the Circuit Court did not afford the appellant or his counsel an opportunity to comment upon alternative sentencing arrangements at the dispositional hearing prior to the imposition of sentence to the Industrial Home for Youth. That omission constitutes plain error. (See footnote 9)
Remanded for Resentencing
Moreover, the appellant contends that his sentence to the Industrial Home is invalid because no multidisciplinary team was convened in the case as required by W.Va. Code, 49-5D-1(1998), et seq. However, in addition to the prosecutor and appellant's counsel, those present at various stages of the proceedings included Officer Mellinger, the appellant's mother and Amy Bain of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Nevertheless, the record is not sufficiently developed on this issue for purposes of review. In light of the remanding of this case for resentencing, further development of the record can be made at the circuit court level concerning the presence or absence of a multidisciplinary team.
Finally, the appellant contends that the Circuit Court made an unfair inference that he acted unreasonably in not completing the program at the Mountaineer Challenge Academy where the State submitted no evidence on that point. A review of the transcript of the dispositional hearing, however, reveals that, inasmuch as comments were made during the testimony of the appellant's sister that the appellant was not used to the discipline he experienced at the Academy, the Court's inference was not unfair and does not reach the level of reversible error.