Ohio Supreme Court OKs Adult Trial of 16-Year-Old Robber

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) — Over some vigorous dissents, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 16-year-old boy was not denied his constitutional rights when he was tried and convicted of robbery as an adult.

Matthew I. Aalim was charged with the juvenile version of aggravated robbery with a firearm specification in late 2013.

The juvenile court transferred the case to the adult court, which charged Aalim with two counts of aggravated robbery because the crime had two victims.

Aalim, who was 16 at the time of the crime, protested that the mandatory bindover law violated his rights to equal protection, due process and protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

The trial court overruled his motion, accepted his plea of no-contest and sent him to prison for 4 years. Aalim appealed and the Dayton-based Second District Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.

He brought his constitutional challenges, except for cruel and unusual punishment, to the Ohio Supreme Court.

In late 2016, the court ruled in Aalim’s favor, declaring the bindover law unconstitutional because it violated due process.

The state moved for reconsideration in January this year, and the Ohio Supreme Court reversed itself Thursday in a slip opinion by Justice Sharon Kennedy.

She found that Aalim had not been denied due process.

“Aalim had a hearing before a juvenile-division judge to determine Aalim’s age at the time of the alleged offense and whether there was probable cause to believe that he had committed the conduct alleged in the complaint,” Kennedy wrote. “At this hearing, Aalim was represented by counsel and he had a parent present.”

Nor was Aalim denied equal protection because of his juvenile status.

“Prosecuting older juveniles who commit serious crimes in the general division of a common pleas court is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of fighting rising juvenile crime because it allows the most serious juvenile offenders to be prosecuted in the general division, where harsher punishments are available,” Kennedy wrote.

She found that in its original decision, the state Supreme Court failed “to consider the General Assembly’s exclusive constitutional authority to define the jurisdiction of the courts of common pleas.”

So the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s denial of Aalim’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

Justice R. Patrick DeWine wrote a concurring opinion.

“It may well be a good idea to end all mandatory bindovers,” he said. “But it is not our call to make. Nothing in our Constitution ordains that we, rather than the people’s elected representatives, get to make that decision.”

Justice Patrick Fischer partially concurred and partially dissented.

“For the reasons stated in my separate opinion in State v. Gonzalez, I respectfully vote to deny the motion for reconsideration, but I join the majority’s opinion on the merits,” he said.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor dissented.

“The majority’s holding does not bring justice for Ohio’s children, who are among our weakest citizens, nor does it honor the sacrifices of our founders by ‘securing the blessings of liberty’ to future generations,” she wrote.

“Instead, the majority bows to the basest instincts of an outspoken faction of our society – fear and anger – to reach a result that violates all notions of separation of powers by advancing the interests of the executive and legislative branches at the expense of the judiciary.”

Justice William O’Neill also wrote in dissent, noting that the Ohio Supreme Court declared the bindover laws unconstitutional on Dec. 22, 2016.

“Nothing has changed since that date other than the makeup of this court,” O’Neill wrote.

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