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In re Kevin R.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

August 6, 2014

In the Interest of Kevin R., A Juvenile Under the Age of Seventeen, Appellant Appellate Case No. 2012-212655.

Heard April 16, 2014

Appeal From Richland County. The Honorable Robert E. Newton, Family Court Judge. The Honorable Gwendlyne Y. Smalls, Family Court Judge.

Appellate Defender Susan Barber Hackett, of South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds Farthing, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

John S. Nichols, of Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson & Delgado, L.L.C., of Columbia; John D. Elliott, of Law Offices of John D. Elliott, P.A., of Columbia; and Bert G. Utsey, III, of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, P.A., of Walterboro; for Amici Curiae, South Carolina Association for Justice, South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Lawyers Committee for Children's Rights.

JUSTICE BEATTY. HEARN, J., concurs. TOAL, C.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part in a separate opinion. PLEICONES, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part in a separate opinion in which KITTREDGE, J., concurs.

OPINION

[409 S.C. 298] BEATTY, JUSTICE:

In a juvenile petition, the State charged Kevin R. (" Appellant" ) with possessing a weapon on school grounds in violation of section 16-23-430 of the South Carolina Code.[1] Prior to his adjudicatory hearing before a family court judge, Appellant moved for a jury trial on the ground the United States Constitution[2] and the South Carolina

Page 388

Constitution[3] guaranteed [409 S.C. 299] him the right to a jury trial. The judge denied the motion and proceeded to hear Appellant's case in a bench trial. Ultimately, the judge adjudicated Appellant delinquent and deferred sentencing until an evaluation of Appellant was completed. The sentencing hearing was conducted before a second family court judge, who sentenced Appellant to an indeterminate period of time not to exceed his twenty first birthday. The judge then suspended the sentence and placed Appellant on probation until his eighteenth birthday.

On appeal, Appellant contends the family court judge erred in denying his motion for a jury trial. Recently, this Court held a juvenile does not have a constitutional right to a jury trial in adjudication proceedings. In re Stephen W., Op. No. 27413, 409 S.C. 73, 761 S.E.2d 231 (S.C. S.Ct. filed July 16, 2014) (Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 28 at 29). (" Stephen W." ). However, our decision in that case is not dispositive as we have now been presented with additional arguments raised by Appellant and the Amici Curiae. After consideration of these issues, we adhere to our decision in Stephen W. Accordingly, we affirm the ruling of the family court.

I. Factual / Procedural History

On October 4, 2011, Richland County Deputy Milton Clark, the school resource officer at Olympia Learning Center, received a call from an employee of the school. Based on this call, Deputy Clark removed Appellant, a sixteen-year-old student at the school, from a classroom and took him to a secure area to question him regarding his alleged possession of a weapon. Appellant admitted that he had a pocketknife in his [409 S.C. 300] sock. Deputy Clark then searched Appellant and found a pocketknife with a three-inch retractable blade.

On October 24, 2011, Deputy Clark filed a juvenile petition in Richland County family court, alleging Appellant was a delinquent for carrying a weapon on school grounds. The Honorable Robert E. Newton held an adjudicatory hearing on July 24, 2012. At the beginning of the hearing, Appellant's counsel moved for a jury trial on the ground Appellant was entitled to have a jury adjudicate his case based on the federal and state constitutions. Judge Newton denied Appellant's motion and proceeded with the bench trial. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Newton adjudicated Appellant to be delinquent for possessing a weapon on school grounds. Because Appellant was currently being evaluated at the Midlands Evaluation Center, Judge Newton delayed sentencing until the evaluation was completed.

On August 1, 2012, the Honorable Gwendlyne Y. Smalls held a hearing and ultimately sentenced Appellant to an indeterminate period of time not to exceed his twenty-first birthday. She then suspended the sentence and placed Appellant on probation, subject to certain conditions, until his eighteenth birthday. Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeals. This Court certified the case pursuant to Rule 204(b) of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules.

II. Discussion

A. Arguments

1. Appellant

Appellant contends section 63-3-590 of the South Carolina Code,[4] ...


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