Attorney: Ruling could affect how courts certify juvenile offenders as adults

We recently caught up with Houston lawyer Jack Carnegie about his work in the case of Cameron Moon, whose 2010 murder conviction was recently reversed after an appeals court ruled Moon should not have been tried as an adult.

Carnegie, an attorney with Strasburger & Price, L.L.P, who argued Moon’s case pro bono, said the decision is noteworthy because child certification rulings rarely get reversed on appeal. The July 30 decision by the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston was the first of its kind in more than two decades, he said.

“We think it’s an important ruling,” said Carnegie, who along with attorneys Christene Wood, John Hagan, and David Adler spent hundreds of pro bono hours challenging the conviction of Moon, who was 16 when the crime occurred in 2008. “Hopefully it will make juvenile courts take more cognizance of the statutory factors that are supposed to be considered before a child is certified.”

Under the Texas Family Code, juvenile courts are required to consider factors such as a defendant’s background and likelihood of rehabilitation along with the seriousness of the crime when deciding whether to certify him or her as an adult for trial. In Cameron Moon v. the State of Texas, the appeals court vacated the district court’s judgment and dismissed the case after finding insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court’s findings related to Moon’s maturity, sophistication, and potential rehabilitation.

The case remains pending in juvenile court.

“I do think it’s an important decision because it talks about those statutory factors [in child certifications], and it says the state actually has to prove those things,” Carnegie said. “Hopefully the juvenile courts will start looking at those factors and look beyond just the nature of the crime involved. That’s the important part. These [certifications] aren’t supposed to be routine.”

The Houston Chronicle’s Brian Rogers has more on the case here

You can read the appeals court ruling here

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