A New York appellate court recently published an opinion discussing the application of youthful offender status. The facts of the case are as follows. The juvenile was 18 years old when he was involved in an incident in which he stabbed a woman repeatedly and cut a bystander. The juvenile was indicted on charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault. He then pled guilty in exchange for a promise that his prison sentence would be capped at 20 years in addition to post-release supervision. In the defense counsel’s sentencing memorandum, counsel requested that the court treat the defendant as a youthful offender. The counselor also asked that any statements provided by the victims or their family members be disclosed with the pre-sentencing investigation report.
During the hearing on sentencing, defense counsel objected that he did not receive any victim impact letters with the report. The court denied counsel’s request to receive the statements. Oral impact statements were presented from the victim, the victim’s parents, and an intervening bystander injured during the incident. After the statements, the court remarked on the horrific nature of the crime and the life-long impact that the incident had on the victims and their families. The court made no mention of youthful offender status and imposed an aggregate sentence of 20 years’ prison time and five years’ supervision following release.
The defendant appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the decision, remitting the matter to the sentencing court to make a determination based on the record regarding whether the defendant should receive youthful offender status. The Appellate Division had determined that the lower court reviewed witness statements that were not released to the defendant or included in the record, so the reviewing court asked for a list of the statements that were reviewed and a statement of reasons regarding why the statements were not released. According to the sentencing court, the Probation Department provided certain documents to the court based on a promise of confidentiality, leading the court to prevent their disclosure.