[JURIST] The Kansas Supreme Court [official website] ruled [text; press release] 6-1 Friday that juvenile defendants in the state have a constitutional right to a jury trial. The Court found that recent changes to the Kansas Juvenile Justice Code [PDF text] made juvenile proceedings "more akin to an adult prosecution" in which jury trials are constitutionally provided under Section 10 of the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights [text] stating that "In all prosecutions, the accused shall be allowed to appear and defend in person, or by counsel [and have] a speedy public trial by an impartial jury". In finding for the juvenile right the Kansas court overturned its own 1984 decision in Findlay v. State and distinguished the US Supreme Court's 1971 ruling in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania [opinion text]. Justice Eric Rosen [official profile] wrote for the majority:
The United States Supreme Court relied on the juvenile justice system's characteristics of fairness, concern, sympathy, and paternal attention in concluding that juveniles were not entitled to a jury trial. Likewise, this court relied on that parens patriae character in reaching its decision in Findlay. However, because the juvenile justice system is now patterned after the adult criminal system, we conclude that the changes have superseded the McKeiver and Findlay courts' reasoning and those decisions are no longer binding precedent for us to follow. Based on our conclusion that the Kansas juvenile justice system has become more akin to an adult criminal prosecution, we hold that juveniles have a constitutional right to a jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments [text].Kansas Chief Justice Kay McFarland dissented.
Ten states - Alaska, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming - provide jury trials for delinquent juveniles [Juvenile Law Center amicus brief, PDF], while eleven others, including Kansas, allow them under specific circumstances. AP has more. The Kansas City Star has local coverage.
The case arose when a 16 year old boy was ordered to register as a sex offender after he was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and possession of alcohol when he forcibly kissed a woman while walking home. The boy's attorney had originally requested a jury trial, but the request was refused. Kansas Attorney General Steve Six [official website] said he does not intend to appeal the decision.