On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
The opinion of the Court was delivered by Handler. J. Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Pollock, O'hern, Garibaldi, Stein, and Coleman join in Justice HANDLER's opinion.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Handler
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
STATE OF NEW JERSEY V. CLARENCE SCOTT (A-65-94)
Argued January 3, 1995 -- Decided August 7, 1995
HANDLER, J., writing for a unanimous Court.
The issue on appeal is whether and to what extent remission through treatment of an underlying mental illness may constitute rehabilitation in determining whether jurisdiction of the juvenile court should be waived.
Sixteen-year-old Clarence Scott pointed a sawed-off shotgun at two men in an unsuccessful attempt to rob them. Thereafter, Scott attempted to rob a man sitting in his car. Scott pointed the shotgun and told the man to exit his car. A fight ensued and the victim was shot. Scott and his cohort fled in the victim's automobile.
Scott was charged in the Family Part of the Chancery Division (family court), as a juvenile with offenses that would have constituted certain crimes if committed by an adult, including robbery, aggravated assault and weapons offenses. Based on the serious nature of the offenses charged, the State moved to waive jurisdiction from the family court to the Law Division and to have Scott prosecuted as an adult. At a hearing on this issue, Scott presented testimony of a psychologist, Dr. Dyer, who expressed the opinion that Scott was suffering from chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia, an incurable disorder. Dr. Dyer was of the belief that with proper treatment and supervision, including psychotherapy and medication, Scott could achieve a state of remission prior to reaching age nineteen.
The trial court determined that Scott could not be rehabilitated prior to reaching age nineteen, noting that his mental illness would require treatment over an extended period of time, that proper treatment would require appropriate dosages of medication combined with psychotherapy, and that although a state of remission could be achieved through treatment, the disease would not be cured. Furthermore, the court concluded that even if Dr. Dyer's testimony did establish a probability of rehabilitation, that probability did not substantially outweigh the reasons for waiver.
After the family court waived jurisdiction and transferred the case to the Law Division, Scott was indicted on twelve counts for the adult crimes covering the juvenile offenses with which he had been charged. He pled guilty to three counts of first degree robbery and one count of second degree aggravated assault. Scott pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and was sentenced to fifteen-year term of imprisonment with a five-year period of parole ineligibility on each of the robbery charges, and a seven-year term of imprisonment with a three-year period of parole ineligibility on the assault charge. Those sentences were to run consecutively.
Scott appealed the waiver determination and the sentence imposed. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Scott's petition for certification, seeking review of the determinations relating to his waiver to the Law Division and the excessiveness of the sentence imposed. The Court vacates, as improvidently granted, the petition for certification relating to the issue of excessiveness of sentence.
HELD : There was adequate evidence in the record to support the trial court's determination that the reasons for sixteen-year-old Clarence Scott's waiver to the adult court for prosecution outweighed any probability of rehabilitation.
1. For certain enumerated offenses, the family court may waive its juvenile jurisdiction and transfer the case to the adult court for criminal prosecution. There is a presumption in favor of waiver for such juveniles; however, that presumption can be overcome. Waiver should not be granted if the juvenile can show that the probability of his rehabilitation prior to the juvenile reaching the age of nineteen substantially outweighs the reasons for waiver. The juvenile has the burden to establish both that there is a probability of rehabilitation prior to reaching the age of nineteen and that the probability of rehabilitation substantially outweighs the reasons for waiver. The probability of rehabilitation must be established prior to balancing that probability against reasons for waiver. (pp. 5-7)
2. Although mental illness may make a juvenile less amenable to rehabilitation, it does not constitute a bar to a determination of potential for rehabilitation. The key to the statutory concept of rehabilitation in the context of a juvenile with a mental illness, is the assurance, on a stable and continuing basis, that the juvenile offender will not engage in future criminal behavior. A chronic and incurable mental illness is highly relevant in predicting future conduct, if that illness causes or contributes to criminal behavior. The existence of such mental illness must be evaluated in light of all the factors that form the basis for the determination of the likelihood of rehabilitation. The nature, extent and effect of such a mental illness must be analyzed, weighed and applied. Moreover is treatment central to any determination of the prospect of rehabilitation. (pp. 7-9)
3. The Court's standard for review is whether the findings of fact are grounded in competent, reasonable, credible evidence, whether correct legal principles were applied, and whether the trial court's decision constituted a clear error of judgment that shocks the judicial conscience. (p. 10)
4. Dr. Dyer's testimony arguably supports the Conclusion that Scott was amenable to rehabilitation prior to reaching age nineteen. However, the family court understood and applied the proper standard by which to Judge rehabilitation. It clearly determined that the reasons for waiver outweighed the probability of Scott's rehabilitation. (pp. 9-16)
5. Once the probability of rehabilitation is established, then the age of the offender, his prior record of delinquency, the circumstances of the crime, and the role of the individual participants may be taken into account in determining whether to waive jurisdiction. The court must balance the value of probable rehabilitation of the juvenile offender, if shown, against the general deterrent value of exposing the offender to the more severe sentences available in adult court. Despite the Conclusion that Scott could be rehabilitated and would be better served in the juvenile system, Dr. Dyer admitted that Scott's condition is severe, that his prognosis is poor, and that treatment of schizophrenia takes many years and is contingent on finding the correct drugs and continued post-care treatment. Most important, Dr. Dyer could not conclude that Scott would not act in an anti-social manner in the future. Therefore, there was adequate evidence to support the trial court's determination that the reasons for waiver outweighed any probability of rehabilitation. (pp. 16-19)
Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILENTZ and JUSTICES POLLOCK, O'HERN, GARIBALDI, STEIN, and COLEMAN join in JUSTICE HANDLER's opinion.
The opinion of the Court was delivered by HANDLER, J.
This case requires the Court to consider the statutory concept of rehabilitation as a condition for determining whether a juvenile offender is eligible to be tried as an adult. Defendant was arrested for his alleged involvement in a series of armed robberies. Because defendant was only sixteen years old at that time, he was charged with acts of juvenile delinquency. The court held a waiver hearing and determined that defendant should be tried as an adult. Under the waiver statute, the court found that the State had established probable cause to believe that defendant committed the offenses charged, and, further, that defendant had failed to establish the probability of his rehabilitation prior to reaching the age of nineteen and that the need for waiver outweighed any potential for rehabilitation.
The circumstance that poses special difficulty in interpreting and applying the statutory concept of rehabilitation in this case is that the defendant suffers from a serious and chronic mental illness, but is nonetheless amenable to treatment for that condition. The Court must consider whether and to what extent remission through treatment of an underlying mental illness may ...