High Court Upholds NM Juvenile Sentencing

New Mexico – The state Supreme Court has ruled it's constitutional for a judge to determine whether juvenile offenders can be sentenced as adults for certain violent crimes.

The justices issued a 4-1 ruling on Tuesday overturning a 2009 decision by the state Court of Appeals, which held that a jury rather than a judge should make the sentencing decision.

Justice Edward Chavez dissented, saying juvenile offenders are entitled to the same constitutional jury protections given to adults.

At issue is a sentencing procedure for "youthful offenders" those 14 to 18 years old found guilty of violent felonies, including second-degree murder and robbery.

Judges can impose adult sentences only if they determine an offender is not amenable to treatment in the juvenile justice system.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.