State v. Rodriguez

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Christopher Rodriguez was charged as a Serious Youthful Offender for a crime that occurred when he was 16. He entered a plea of not guilty to lesser charges, which entitled him to an amenability hearing under the New Mexico Children’s Code. The trial judge found Christopher not amenable to treatment and he was sentenced as an adult. Although the amenability hearing was inconsistent with the statute and implicated Christopher’s rights under the Children’s Code, the Court of Appeals found his guilty plea barred review of the amenability determination, and subsequently, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied certiorari.

Juvenile Law Center submitted an amicus letter in the New Mexico Supreme Court in support of Christopher Rodriguez’s Motion for Reconsideration on Denial of Certiorari. Our letter urged the court to allow the appeal because, despite a plea of guilty, children retain the right to appeal amenability proceedings for three reasons: (1) a child is not an adult criminal defendant, (2) an amenability proceeding is uniquely important and cannot be “bargained away,” and (3) a sentencing judge lacks jurisdiction to sentence a child as an adult barring a legal amenability hearing.