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J.D.M. v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

February 15, 2017

J.D.M., Appellant (Respondent below),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Petitioner below).

         Appeal from the Fayette Circuit Court, No. 21C01-1209-JD-257 The Honorable Beth A. Butsch, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 21A01-1510-JV-1804

          Attorney for Appellant Kimberly A. Jackson Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Christina D. Pace Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          MASSA, JUSTICE.

         J.D.M. was adjudicated a delinquent for committing acts which, if committed by an adult, would constitute Class C felony child molestation, and was subsequently ordered to register as a sex offender. J.D.M. appeals, claiming that the statutory prerequisites for placing a juvenile on the sex offender registry were not met. We agree, and reverse.

         Facts and Procedural History

         J.D.M. was born in 1996, and "has experience[d] a lot of trauma in his life." Appellant's App. at 214. During his early childhood, at the age of five or six, J.D.M. stated that he was "sexually abused by two adult strangers." Appellant's App. at 69. His younger brother also died around this time. This coincided with J.D.M. becoming defiant with authority, attempting to run away from home, and even attempting suicide. J.D.M.'s mother and father divorced shortly thereafter, and J.D.M. moved with his mother to live near his cousin, whom he identifies as his aunt. During this period J.D.M. also received intermittent treatment for his behavioral issues, with some success. His mother was obese, causing her numerous health problems requiring hospitalization, during which times J.D.M.'s cousin or father would care for him, and he would have to move to their homes. J.D.M.'s mother passed away when he was thirteen due to heart complications. J.D.M. was on probation at the time, [1] and violated it shortly after he got the news, resulting in a six-month hospital stay. After his release, J.D.M. went to live with his cousin in Texas, before moving back to live with his father in May 2011.

         Over the course of the next year, J.D.M.'s condition rapidly deteriorated. He gained approximately 200 pounds, with the goal of obtaining the same weight as his mother before she died. He continued to engage in aggressive and defiant behaviors such as theft and arson, though he was not adjudicated for these offenses. He also developed enuretic and encopretic conditions[2]with no discernible cause, resulting in his being expelled from high school and being taught privately at the local library. During this time he continued in therapy, and was "diagnosed with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Bipolar II disorder." Appellant's App. at 21.

         On September 19, 2012, J.D.M., now age fifteen, was in his bedroom with a nine-year-old boy, who was the son of J.D.M.'s older brother's girlfriend. J.D.M. instructed the boy to remove his pants, and J.D.M. did the same. J.D.M. had the boy lie on top of him, and stated that both boys had erections. J.D.M.'s older brother found them, called for his father, and they called the police.

         J.D.M. was charged with being a delinquent child for committing child molestation which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a Class C felony. At the detention hearing, J.D.M.'s father told the juvenile court that he did not want J.D.M. to come home because he was "more or less disgusted with him the way he's been." Tr. at 13. The juvenile court ordered placement of J.D.M. at the Wernle Youth and Family Treatment Center, and for Wernle to perform a comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation of J.D.M. On October 11, 2012, Wernle reported that J.D.M. "appear[ed] to be suffering from traumatic grief, " and determined that he "present[ed] a high risk to sexually re-offend, without proper treatment interventions." Appellant's App. at 68, 73. On November 2, 2012, Lisa Day of the Fayette Probation Department filed her Pre-Disposition Report ("PDR"), which reviewed Wernle's Diagnostic Evaluation, and "request[ed] that youth be placed into the Sexually Maladaptive Program at the Wernle Youth and Family Treatment Center." Appellant's App. at 92. The PDR did not contain a recommendation that J.D.M. be placed on probation.

         J.D.M. subsequently admitted to the allegations, and was adjudicated a delinquent. The juvenile court continued his placement at Wernle pending a formal dispositional hearing, which took place on January 16, 2013. At that hearing, both sides agreed that his continued treatment at Wernle was the best course, and then moved on to the issue of probation. The trial court initially suggested that he be formally placed on probation at that time; Officer Day suggested otherwise: "My thoughts are um, as far as placing J. I guess on formal probation my thoughts are that we order him into Wernle to complete his treatment once he has completed treatment we come back and at that time place him on formal probation using the sex offender guidelines." Tr. at 26 (emphasis added). Both the State and J.D.M.'s counsel agreed with this approach, and the juvenile court consented, stating "we'll continue the placement at Wernle and we will address um, the conditions of probation and all that when you're ready to be released from Wernle." Tr. at 28. The accompanying dispositional order "approve[d] of the probation officer's recommendation in the PDR" and continued placement at Wernle, without a formal entry that J.D.M. was on probation. Appellant's App. at 109. The order did state, however, that the Fayette County Probation Department would have "responsibility for the placement and care of the child, " and would be required to "file a report every three months after the date of this order on the progress made on implementing the decree." Appellant's App. at 110. The court also notified J.D.M.'s school of the adjudication, and left blank the portion describing his "sentence or juvenile law disposition." Appellant's App. at 112.

         While at Wernle, J.D.M. began his treatment for sexually maladaptive behavior. During this period J.D.M.'s father died, resulting in guardianship passing to his cousin. At subsequent review hearings on June 19, 2013, October 16, 2013, and January 15, 2014, Officer Day and Wernle both reported J.D.M. continued to make "minimal to moderate progress" in his treatment areas, and recommended his placement at Wernle continue. Appellant's App. at 120-24, 130, 133, 142. The trial court agreed each time, noting that "no change is made in the dispositional decree" originally entered January of 2013. Appellant's App. at 128, 144. The juvenile court ordered a permanency plan which found that J.D.M. was "progressing well in said placement, " with the goal that J.D.M. return to his cousin's home upon completion of treatment. Appellant's App. at 136- 37.

         On May 14, 2014, Officer Day again reported that J.D.M, now age seventeen, was making "minimal to moderate progress" in treatment. Appellant's App. at 145. However, this report also revealed that J.D.M. had suffered even more personal setbacks. First, his cousin had moved back to Texas, resulting in "limited contact." Appellant's App. at 145; Tr. at 43. Second, J.D.M. revealed in therapy that he had been sexually abused by his father and his older brother; this report eventually led to his brother's ...


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