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Stamford, CT 06905
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A new bill now allows teens aged 15 to 17 to be tried in secrecy for serious crimes, prevent the public from accessing court information.
The Public Act 19-187 bill was passed by the House and Senate during the last day of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2019 session. Effectively, the bill, which came into effect on October 1st, 2019, requires the trials and court appearances for juveniles to be held in secrecy.
Judicial Branch members are now required to seal the files of juveniles under the bill until the individual pleads guilty or the jury has vote decide they are guilty. However, many press sites such as the Stamford Advocate have questioned how the media will be informed of the outcome of the trial.
Following its implementation, the new bill applies over 100 cases that are currently pending in state courts around the country. The records of these cases and trials will now need to be sealed off from the public.
Some of the cases to be sealed include 17-year-old Adonis Smith who faces weapons and narcotics charges, 15-year-old Miguel Negron who has been accused of stabbing three people, and Raymond Clifford who reportedly sexually assaulted a 6-year-old.
The Public Act 19-187 is the latest law to come as part of a recommendation from the Juvenile Justice and Oversight Committee, a group of campaigners and child advocates. The group have argued that juvenile brains are not fully developed, that children should be treated and rehabilitated rather than be put into prison, and that black male juveniles are disproportionately incarcerated.
Before the bill was implemented, children under the age of 14 remained in juvenile court while other teens charged with more serious crimes were tried in adult courts and were granted “Youthful Offender” in which some proceedings are kept secret.
While many prosecutors have praised the new reforms, the media has so far criticized it for imposing issues regarding the First Amendment. Many journalists and people who oppose the bill have argued that all courts should remain open.
State Senator Heather Somers, R-Groton, who was one of the legislators to have sponsored the bill, stated that the original draft of the bill would have kept all cases sealed entirely and that partially opening cases was “the best compromise”.
The introduction of the bill, those who support it and the wave of reforms coming over to change how juveniles are tried in court show that many believe that teenagers should not be charged openly and as adults. The new bill will now help to protect minors between the ages of 15 and 17 no matter the offence.
Reach Out To An Attorney
Regardless of the new bill, juveniles or families of those being tried should seek out an attorney. You can contact a lawyer for help and support, as well as a respected opinion. There is no harm in doing so and could in fact help you or the individual being tried.