JUVENILE JUSTICE A look at how one case changed the certification process.

JUVENILE JUSTICE A look at how one case changed the certification process.

Imagine if your child were arrested and interrogated without your knowledge, without being read his or her rights, or without being taken before a magistrate. Then imagine if your child were certified for trial as an adult and sentenced to 30 years in prison. You’re probably thinking, Not my child; only the worst of the worst—violent gang members, repeat offenders, or hardened criminals—are certified as adults. That’s what I thought. Then I got a call from a former colleague, Christene Wood, that began six years of pro bono work culminating in a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and significant legislative reforms to the juvenile certification system. The call concerned a 16-year-old boy named Cameron Moon, a friend of Wood’s daughter. Wood had known Moon for a number of years and described him as “a really nice kid.” Unfortunately, he had gotten in “some trouble,” and a few days earlier the juvenile court had certified him to be tried as an adult. The “trouble” turned out to be an alleged shooting during a drug deal. Moon, however, was not known as the type of child one would expect to be involved in that kind of incident. He was in school, passing his classes, and had no history of gang activity, violence, or disciplinary problems at school. Moon was unable to afford bail. Like other children deemed “adults,” he was now in jail, being kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day until he turned 17 to “protect” him from the other prisoners. He had no right to appeal the certification order until after his criminal trial.

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