Kent v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Juvenile Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 383 US 541 (1966)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1966
DECIDED: Mar 21, 1966

Facts of the case

Morris A. Kent Jr., a 16-year-old boy, was detained and interrogated by the police in connection with several incidents involving robbery and rape. After Kent admitted some involvement, the juvenile court waived its jurisdiction. This allowed Kent to be tried as an adult. Kent was indicted in district court. Kent moved to dismiss the indictment because the juvenile court did not conduct a "full investigation" before waiving jurisdiction, as required by the Juvenile Court Act. A jury found Kent guilty and sentenced him to serve 30-90 years in prison. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed, although it noted that the juvenile court judge provided no reason for the waiver.


Was the juvenile court's waiver of jurisdiction valid?

Media for Kent v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1966 in Kent v. United States

Earl Warren:

Morris A. Kent, Jr. versus United States.

Mr. Ehrlich.

Myron G. Ehrlich:

Yes sir, may it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit.

I was assigned by the United States Court of Appeals to prefect the petitioner's appeal from the District Court to that Court.

Mr. Arens represented the petitioner in the Juvenile Court.

I am here just as a public service representing an indigent without compensation and so is Mr. Arens who joined me in this petition for writ of certiorari.

The facts in this case if the Court pleases are that on -- on or about September 5, 1961, the accused in this case was arrested by officers of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia and he at that time have been a ward of the Juvenile Court for some two years.

It appears from the record that he was arrested because two years prior to that time, the police department had taken him without authority of the Juvenile Court to the police department and there had him fingerprinted at the time when he was 14 years of age and they discovered some fingerprints in the areas of these houses in which the accused allegedly broke in when he was 16 years old and they finally discovered that this 16-year-old boy was the boy whose his fingerprints were in the vicinity of two or three of these areas together with other fingerprints.

After they arrested him in this case, they questioned him for some four or five days, as I read the record, and on the second day of his arrest, his mother retained or asked Mr. Arens to come into Court and to represent the indigent accused who was then 16 years old.

Did he -- did he make a confession?

Myron G. Ehrlich:

Yes sir.

He apparently made a confession which is not used in evidence against him.

Without warrant.

Myron G. Ehrlich:

No sir.

And on that confession, let me say that there was a search warrant issued and the discoveries is on to the search warrant would not be used in evidence against him.

However, his fingerprints taken when he was 14 years old compared to his fingerprints taken when he was 16 years old at a time prior to the time of waiver of jurisdiction or probably the principal -- was the principal evidence against him upon which the conviction was based.

And of course it is our contention that they taking of the fingerprints when he was 14 and the taking of the fingerprints of him when he was 16 was in violation of the law of the District of Columbia and those fingerprints were inadmissible in evidence, and for that reason, we believe that there's reversible error in this case for that reason alone.

Nevertheless, if I may go on, about a day or so after the accused was being questioned by the police almost continually.

Mr. Arens filed the first of his number of motions.

And the first motion asked the Juvenile Court to not to turn the accused or do something about the accused being in the hands of the police not to commit them to continually interrogate him.

Then in this -- that motion was never heard, never answered and Mr. Arens filed another motion in the case and this was quite lengthy.

The second motion in this case, will the Juvenile Court to transfer immediately to the District of Columbia General Hospital Psychiatric Division for appropriate psychiatric observation to disclose his Social Service record to counsel and to hold a hearing immediately after the termination of the period of hospitalization if waiver of jurisdiction of this case was conflict as the condition preceding to any valid label.

Now the Court must remember that the -- this Juvenile Court here, as well as all -- every Juvenile Court of United States that I know and I think about, has the authority to waive jurisdiction under certain conditions.

Now, they also by act of Congress have the authority to provide Social Service records that I referred to for inspection under certain conditions and the conditions set forth in the statute states that such records or parts thereof shall be made available by rule of court or special order of court to such persons governmental and private agencies and institutions has -- had a legitimate interest in the protection, welfare, treatment and rehabilitation of a child.

Nevertheless, neither one of Mr. Arens' motions were ever answered nor was he -- were they ever heard but about seven days after they arrested the accused he was -- jurisdiction was waived to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Ehrlich, may I interrupt to ask, where were these motions made, were they made in the Juvenile Court?

Myron G. Ehrlich:

In the Juvenile Court, yes sir.

Earl Warren:

Yes, they were.

Myron G. Ehrlich:

And they were in writing.