Federal Judge Rules Connecticut’s Juvenile Transfer Act Unconstitutional

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney juvenile crime

Nearly every jurisdiction in the United States has a special court system for minors designed to rehabilitate them rather than punishing them. This is based on the knowledge that juveniles have a greater capacity for change than adults, which is why Connecticut’s Juvenile Transfer Act was created. The act was intended to close courtrooms and seal the records of juveniles charged with the most serious felonies and whose cases were transferred to adult court. This act went into effect in October 2019, but a federal judge recently ruled that the Juvenile Transfer Act violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution.

Federal Judge Orders Records to Be Unsealed

A federal judge in Hartford, CT recently ordered the Connecticut judiciary to open courtrooms and unseal court records related to cases involving juveniles charged with the most serious felonies that were transferred from juvenile to adult court. Under the state’s Juvenile Transfer Act, cases involving minors who commit the most serious felonies, such as murder or sexual assault, which are transferred to adult court are closed to the public, and records are sealed, unless a conviction is reached. The judge ordered all juvenile cases transferred to adult court going forward must be open to the public and all case records, past and future, must be unsealed.

High-Profile Juvenile Murder Case Files to Be Unsealed

When a juvenile is charged with a crime, their case is not open to the public. Nobody -- not even reporters -- is permitted to sit in on the court proceedings and the court records are sealed from the public eye. In most cases and in most jurisdictions, when a juvenile’s case is transferred to adult court, the rules of juvenile court no longer apply and the proceedings and records are available to the public.

Michael Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted in 2002 of the murder of Martha Moxley when the two were 15 years old in 1975. Skakel served 11 years in prison before his conviction was overturned in 2013 due to mistakes made by his trial attorney.

Connecticut’s Supreme Court reinstated the conviction in 2016 but later reversed that decision and overturned the conviction once more. In 2019, state prosecutors attempted to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the conviction, but the court refused to hear the appeal. Now, with the recent order by the Connecticut federal judge, Skakel’s court records will be unsealed once again and available to the public and prosecutors.

Contact an East Hartford, CT Criminal Defense Attorney

If your child has gotten into legal trouble, it can be a scary experience for the entire family. At the accomplished Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we understand that one mistake should not follow your child for the rest of his or her life. Our experienced Hartford, CT juvenile crime defense lawyer will do everything in his power to protect your child’s case from being transferred to adult court. To discuss your child’s case, call us today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://apnews.com/1edbaac827fdb74cc10ca2bedff0c6f2

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-juvenile-transfer-courant-first-amendment-20200724-20200724-fgyo7h5brrd37brkedqk5xnifq-story.html

 

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