Illinois Supreme Court Reverses Finding That Minor Is Constitutionally Entitled to a Jury Trial

In this case, the minor is charged with first degree murder along with other offenses. She made a motion for a jury trial based on the idea that the Illinois statute denying her such a right violated both her U.S. and Illinois Constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

The trial court denied her request based on a due process violation, but agreed with her equal protection arguments because minors charged with being Habitual Juvenile Offenders or Violent Juvenile Offenders are given the statutory right to a jury trial because they will be committed until their 21st birthday to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. The trial court found the minor in this case to be similarly situated because she also faced mandatory commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice should she be found delinquent.

Both sides appealed the judge’s order.

The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the judge’s finding that there was no due process violation based on established U.S. Supreme Court precedent, but reversed the trial court’s finding that the minor was similarly situated to Habitual or Violent Juvenile Offenders. The Illinois Supreme Court relied on the fact that the legislature recognized a need to treat recidivist offenders a certain way for the statute to survive constitutional scrutiny.

The case is In re Destiny P., 2017 IL 120796

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