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In re Welfare of L.M.

August 15, 2006

IN THE MATTER OF THE WELFARE OF: L.M.


Nobles County District Court File No. 53-JV-05-268.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Under the presumptive-certification statute, Minn. Stat. § 260B.125 (2004), when the state establishes that a juvenile is 16 or 17 years old at the time of the offense and has been charged with an offense that carries a presumptive prison sentence, the burden shifts to the juvenile to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he is amenable to treatment and that adequate programming is available in the juvenile system.

2. In a presumptive-certification case, the mere possibility that a more comprehensive search for adequate juvenile programming than that conducted by the state might reveal the existence of an appropriate program is insufficient to satisfy the defendant's burden of proving that retaining the case in the juvenile system serves public safety.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dietzen, Judge

Reversed and remanded

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.

OPINION

Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court's denial of its motion to designate L.M. as an adult for the charges of aiding and abetting aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and felony theft, arguing that the court abused its discretion by shifting to the state the burden of rebutting the presumption of certification. We reverse and remand.

FACTS

Respondent L.M. is a Guatemalan native who moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in March 2005 to live with his aunt. L.M. speaks no English and has never attended school. Instead of attending school, he worked in the fields to earn money. L.M. can read Spanish but cannot write. Because of his age and the lack of proper documentation, L.M. was unable to obtain employment after arriving in the United States.

In October 2005, L.M. drove to a video store in Worthington, Minnesota, with Jeni Garcia and Jairo Sandoval-Lopez. Garcia entered the store to buy a calling card, while L.M. and Sandoval-Lopez waited in the car. When Garcia returned, Sandoval-Lopez asked her who was running the store. Garcia told him that it was a "girl."

When L.M. and Sandoval-Lopez entered the store, L.M. got two bottles of juice and went to the register. When the cashier opened the register, Sandoval-Lopez went behind the counter with a look-alike gun and began taking money from the register while L.M. acted as a lookout. After L.M. and Sandoval-Lopez left the store, the cashier fell to her knees. When the police arrived, they found her crying and shaking. The robbery was captured on the store's video-recording system. The police then stopped the car based on the description witnesses had given them. In the car, officers found a pellet gun under an infant seat's cover and more than $1,700 in cash.

L.M. initially denied knowing anything about the robbery but later admitted being there. Sandoval-Lopez told police that he and L.M. had planned the robbery for two or three days and identified duct tape and plastic ties that the police had found in their possession as items that they intended to use during the robbery. Sandoval-Lopez indicated that although Garcia may have been suspicious, she was not involved in the robbery.

The state charged 17-year-old L.M. with aggravated robbery and theft and moved to certify him for adult prosecution. The juvenile-certification study recommended certification based on the seriousness of the offense, L.M.'s culpability, the lack of programming in the juvenile system, and the lack of dispositional options. But the district court denied the state's certification motion reasoning that although the offense was serious and the child was culpable, the remaining statutory factors, including the lack of a prior delinquency record and programming history, weighed against certification. The court also noted that the ...


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