Calif. Upholds Youth Crime Measure
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ California’s highest court Thursday upheld a voter-approved measure that was designed to crack down on juvenile crime by, among other things, letting prosecutors decide whether to try children as adults.
In a 6-1 ruling, the state Supreme Court said that Proposition 21 is constitutional even though it strips judges of the authority to decide whether a youth goes to juvenile or adult court.
The court also rejected arguments that Proposition 21 intertwined too many unrelated issues. The court said the measure dealt with the single subject of crime, even though it amends dozens of laws dealing with gangs, juvenile justice and adult sentencing.
Voters approved the proposition 2-1 in 2000 amid concerns the justice system was too lenient.
Youths sentenced as adults can get life terms, but those sentenced as juveniles cannot serve past their 25th birthday for any crime.
Critics said that imprisoning juveniles with adults, and for longer terms, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Statistics on the measure’s effects are inconclusive. Because of the legal challenges, it has not been widely enforced.
The case the justices decided involved a group of eight San Diego-area youths facing adult charges of committing a hate crime for allegedly beating up Mexican farm workers at a migrant camp last summer.
A lower court ruled that the proposition impinged on the authority of judicial branch by transferring one of its powers to another branch of government _ the executive branch, as represented by prosecutors.
The Supreme Court’s lone dissenter, Justice Joyce L. Kennard, said prosecutors should not have the final say on where a juvenile is tried. She said such power is ``susceptible to arbitrary exercise.″
On the Net:
Court ruling: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S095992.PDF