Commonwealth v. PadillaAnnotate this Case
In this case, a Superior Court judge in Massachusetts sought guidance from the Supreme Judicial Court on three questions involving the pretrial confinement of a juvenile charged with murder. The juvenile, who was sixteen years old when he was charged with second-degree murder, was initially held without bail at a Department of Youth Services (DYS) facility due to a "courtesy" arrangement with the county sheriff. As the juvenile neared his eighteenth birthday, he was informed that he would be moved to an adult facility. In response, a Superior Court judge released him on personal recognizance on the murder charge and set bail on a related non-murder charge, ordering that he stay at the DYS facility.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was asked to determine: 1) whether a Superior Court judge can commit a person under age eighteen charged with murder to DYS's care as a pre-trial detainee; 2) if not, can a Superior Court judge set bail on a charge related to, but other than murder, so that the person under eighteen is not held on bail on the murder charge and is committed to DYS's care; and 3) if the answers to questions 1 and 2 are "No," is the last paragraph of G. L. c. 119, § 68 (which mandates that juveniles charged with murder be committed to the custody of the sheriff) unconstitutional?
The Supreme Judicial Court declined to answer the third question due to mootness, as the defendant had since turned eighteen and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Regarding the first two questions, the court referred to its previous ruling in Nicholas-Taylor v. Commonwealth and affirmed that a Superior Court judge does not have the authority to commit a juvenile defendant charged with murder to the custody of DYS, nor can they sidestep this requirement by committing the juvenile to DYS on a related non-murder offense. Therefore, the answers to the first and second questions were "No."