N.D. v. State

27 06 2011

In one of the most hotly debated decisions of the year, the Court announced a surprising decision reversing the trial court’s denial of transfer to juvenile court.  The result came about, not because the defendant qualified for transfer under Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-318, but rather due to the State failing to turn over the discovery and witness lists in a timely manner.

Legally, I cannot possibly agree with this decision.  I do not see any authority that allows the Court to reverse and transfer the case due to very slight prosecutorial misconduct.  Although the majority puts emphasis on the fact that defense counsel claimed surprise and prejudice, there is absolutely nothing in the opinion that would lead someone to buy that argument.  There was no prejudice.  Anyone who has dealt with a juvenile transfer knows that this was an open and shut case.

The appellant was charged with capital murder.  He planned out this act in great detail and with a high level of sophistication.  He also had a good deal of criminal history.  If this case was eligible for transfer, then all persons should have their cases transferred.

On the upside, I’m thrilled about the Arkansas Supreme Court sending messages to prosecutors not to hide the ball and play discovery games.  This was a very severe punishment for what was a very minor discovery violation.  As a criminal defense attorney, I’m excited about the Court’s decision; however, as an appellate attorney, I’m quite leery of the majority’s free-wheeling style.


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