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Spears v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

December 4, 2019

Anthony Michael SPEARS, Jr., Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

Page 804

          APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04CR-18-1214], HONORABLE ROBIN F. GREEN, JUDGE

          Lisa-Marie Norris, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Michael L. Yarbrough, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

         OPINION

         KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

Page 805

          Appellant Anthony Michael Spears, Jr., was charged in the criminal division of circuit court with accomplice to first-degree battery with an enhancement for engaging in a violent criminal group activity. Spears, who was sixteen years old at the time of the offense, was alleged to have acted in concert with Travis Harris and Bret Jackson in causing physical injury to Chance Cooper by means of a firearm on June 12, 2018.

          Spears filed a motion to transfer the case to the juvenile division of circuit court. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court entered an order denying Spears’s motion to transfer, making written findings in support of its decision.

          Spears now appeals from the order denying his motion to transfer to juvenile court. On appeal, Spears argues that the trial court’s denial of his motion to transfer was clearly erroneous and based on matters not placed in evidence at the transfer hearing. We reverse and remand for reconsideration of the transfer motion.

          Under Arkansas law, a prosecuting attorney has discretion to charge a juvenile sixteen years of age or older in the criminal division of circuit court if the juvenile has engaged in conduct that, if committed by an adult, would be a felony. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(c)(1) (Repl. 2015). On the motion of the court or any party, the court in which the criminal charges have been filed shall conduct a hearing to determine whether to transfer the case to another division of circuit court having jurisdiction. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(e). The moving party bears the burden of proving that the case should be transferred to the juvenile division of circuit court. Kiser v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 198, 487 S.W.3d 374. The trial court shall order the case transferred to another division of circuit court only upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence that the case should be transferred. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(h)(2). Clear and convincing evidence is that degree of proof that will produce in the trier of fact a firm conviction as to the allegation sought to be established. Woods v. State, 2018 Ark.App. 576, 565 S.W.3d 124. We will not reverse a trial court’s determination of whether to transfer a case unless the decision is clearly erroneous. Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id.

          At a juvenile-transfer hearing, the trial court is required to consider all of the following factors:

(1) The seriousness of the alleged offense and whether the protection of society requires prosecution in the criminal division of circuit court;
(2) Whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner;
(3) Whether the offense was against a person or property, with greater weight being given to offenses against persons, especially if personal injury resulted;
(4) The culpability of the juvenile, including the level of planning and participation in the alleged offense.
(5) The previous history of the juvenile, including whether the juvenile had been adjudicated a juvenile offender and, if so, whether the offenses were against persons or property, and any other previous history of antisocial behavior or patterns of physical violence;

Page 806

(6) The sophistication or maturity of the juvenile as determined by consideration of the juvenile’s home, environment, emotional attitude, pattern of living, or desire to be treated as an adult;

(7) Whether there are facilities or programs available to the judge of the juvenile division of circuit court that are likely to rehabilitate the juvenile before the expiration of the juvenile’s twenty-first birthday;
(8) Whether the juvenile acted alone or was part of a group in the commission of the alleged offense;
(9) Written reports and other materials relating to the juvenile’s mental, physical, educational, and social history; and
(10) Any other factors deemed relevant by the judge.

Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(g). Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-318(h)(1), a trial court shall make written findings on all of the factors set forth above. However, there is no requirement that proof be introduced against the juvenile on each factor, and the trial court is not obligated to give equal weight to each of these factors in determining whether a case should be transferred. K.O.P. v. State, 2013 Ark.App. 667, 2013 WL 6002068.

         Liliana Salamanca, Spears’s mother, testified at the transfer hearing. Salamanca testified that she worked long hours and often left Spears in someone else’s care. Salamanca testified that Spears was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when he was twelve years old and continues to take medication for it. Salamanca indicated that she did not have any trouble with Spears until he was thirteen. At that age, Spears began acting "strange and really aggressive," and he was arrested and adjudicated delinquent for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. According to Salamanca, Spears was then placed on juvenile probation and went to some inpatient counseling. During his probation, Spears committed probation violations because he "did not want to be home when he was supposed to be home." Based on his violations, Spears had to wear an electronic ankle monitor. Salamanca testified that Spears was also arrested in early 2018 for third-degree battery committed against the victim herein, Chance Cooper. ...


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