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In re B.T.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 29, 2017

In re B.T.

          Assigned on Briefs December 13, 2016 [1]

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Jefferson County No. 13078 O. Duane Slone, Judge

         On October 3, 2015, the Jefferson County Sheriff filed a petition in the Jefferson County Juvenile Court requesting the court to "make inquiry into" an alleged violation of the adult crime of first degree murder by B.T., an eleven-year-old boy. The juvenile court initially set an adjudicatory hearing for October 28, 2015, but the court later granted two continuances at the request of the State. B.T. filed a petition for writ of certiorari and motion to dismiss in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County seeking dismissal of the petition against him on the basis that the juvenile court erred in granting the continuances. On January 6, 2016, the circuit court held a hearing on the respondent's filings. The court took the matter under advisement pending the juvenile court's adjudicatory hearing scheduled for January 22, 2016. B.T. appeals. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Edward C. Miller, Public Defender, 4th Judicial District, and Rebecca V. Lee, Assistant Public Defender, Dandridge, Tennessee, for the appellant, B.T.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter, and James E. Gaylord, Senior Counsel, Criminal Appeals Division, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         On October 3, 2015, B.T. asked an eight year-old female neighbor who was playing outside his home to see puppies she had in her home. When the girl refused, B.T. got a shotgun from his parents' closet and shot the girl in the chest from a window inside his home. The girl died from her wounds.

         An adjudicatory hearing was scheduled in the juvenile court for October 28, 2015. On October 20, 2015, the State filed a motion to continue that hearing on the basis that it was awaiting the results of firearm testing and fingerprint analysis. The State also asserted that it was seeking to obtain a psychological evaluation and B.T.'s school records.

         B.T. opposed the motion on the grounds that (1) he was willing to stipulate that his fingerprints and another child's fingerprints would be on the firearm, (2) he was also willing to stipulate that the firearm was the firearm used in the shooting, (3) the State is not entitled to a psychological evaluation unless he intends to use the report in his casein-chief or intends to call the psychologist as a witness, (4) the State is not entitled to his school records unless he intends to use the evidence in his case-in-chief or call the author of the records as a witness at trial, and (5) the evidence the State is seeking to obtain would not constitute an extraordinary reason to grant the continuance, such as is required by the rules of juvenile procedure. The juvenile court granted the State's motion and continued the hearing to December 16, 2015.

         Prior to the December hearing, the State filed a motion to continue that hearing. The State asserted that the firearm testing and fingerprint analysis had not yet been completed. Additionally, the State had requested a trajectory analysis of which it was awaiting the results.

         B.T. opposed the second motion on many of the same grounds that he opposed the State's first motion. He also asserted that the State did not request a trajectory analysis until recently and that he should not be prejudiced because of the State's delay. On December 14, 2015, the juvenile court held a hearing on the State's motion to continue. The court granted one final continuance and set the adjudicatory hearing for January 22, 2016.

         On December 15, 2015, B.T. filed a petition for a writ of certiorari and a motion to dismiss the juvenile court petition against him with prejudice in the Jefferson County Circuit Court. In his petition for certiorari, B.T. asserted that the juvenile court granted the first continuance without a showing of good cause in violation of Tennessee Rule of Juvenile Procedure 17(b) and granted the second continuance without a showing of extraordinary circumstances warranting the continuance. He also asserted that "the juvenile court exceeded its jurisdiction and acted illegally by setting a date for the adjudicatory hearing beyond the ninety-day window" established by Tennessee Rule of Juvenile Procedure 17(a).

         On January 6, 2016, the circuit court held a hearing on B.T.'s petition for writ of certiorari and motion to dismiss. In making its ruling, the court found the following with respect to the State's requests for continuances:

[T]he matter being set for hearing 111 days after the alleged offense occurred[, ] . . . the Juvenile Court has not acted with regard to granting continuances illegally, arbitrarily or capriciously. The State in ordering some of these tests or asking for them, the State's obligation isn't just to . . . have the accused convicted or adjudicated in this case, but the State's obligation is to make sure that the right person is . . . convicted[.] . . . [T]hey have a higher obligation than defense counsel does in that regard. . . . And the Court - while no evidence was introduced during the trial to support the request for a fingerprint analysis and trajectory analysis and the timing [with] respect . . . to the evidence not being introduced, either it was or it wasn't, and there[] . . . should not be any requirement that you bring in some officer to . . . testify that this is the reason for fingerprint analysis. The courts know why you need fingerprint analysis, trajectory analysis, firearms analysis. And then an officer of the court represents [it] hasn't been done . . . or . . . we've requested it, . . . the Court finds that to be sufficient.
Now, the timing again of the request for certain analysis, if we were months down the road, a year down the road, and the State said no trajectory analysis has been done [and] there wasn't a really good explanation why it hadn't been done yet, then if the Court exercises discretion, [it] could very well not grant the continuance on that basis. The ...

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