Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 & Probate Court
Brazoria County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. JV21372
consists of Justices Boyce, Donovan, and Jewell.
William J. Boyce, Justice
W.D.H. is a juvenile charged with aggravated robbery,
robbery, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
See Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 29.02, 29.03,
31.07 (West 2011, 2016). Appellant was sixteen years old at
the time of the alleged offenses. Appellant challenges the
order granting the State's petition for the juvenile
court to waive jurisdiction and transfer the case to criminal
district court. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§
54.02, 56.01 (West Supp. 2017). In a single issue, appellant
contends the juvenile court's findings of fact in its
transfer order are legally and factually insufficient to
support each of the juvenile court's reasons to waive
jurisdiction; and in light of the evidence and testimony
presented at the transfer hearing, the juvenile court abused
its discretion in waiving jurisdiction and acted without
reference to guiding rules or principles and failed to
represent a reasonably principled application of the
legislative criteria necessary to transfer this case to adult
court. Because we find the evidence sufficient to support the
trial court's order, and we find no abuse of discretion
in the juvenile court's decision to waive jurisdiction
and transfer appellant to district court, we affirm.
Factual and Procedural Background
State instituted this case in December 2016 by filing a
petition for discretionary transfer to adult criminal court
seeking to certify appellant to stand trial as an adult. The
State sought certification as an adult due to the serious and
severe nature of the alleged offenses, the prospects of
adequate protection of the public and the doubtful likelihood
of reasonable rehabilitation of appellant by the use of the
procedures, services, and facilities currently available to
the juvenile court.
juvenile court conducted a hearing on the State's
petition. The State presented testimony from Michael Fuller,
a psychiatrist employed by the University of Texas Medical
Branch at Galveston; Eric Morton and Tyson Harvey, Pearland
Police detectives; and Patrick Okafor, a juvenile probation
officer with the Brazoria County Juvenile Justice Department.
Appellant presented testimony from his mother. The State
admitted six exhibits into evidence including Dr.
Fuller's psychiatric examination report, Detective
Morton's investigation report, two Houston Police
Department investigation reports, a witness statement from
the Pearland Police Department, and a predisposition report
from the Brazoria County Juvenile Justice Department.
conclusion of the hearing, the juvenile court orally
announced the following findings:
• Probable cause exists on the four allegations
contained in the petition for discretionary transfer;
• Appellant was over the age of sixteen at the time the
offenses were committed;
• The juvenile system does not provide appellant a
chance for rehabilitation;
• The offenses are against persons and property;
• Neither the juvenile nor the public can be adequately
protected if he remains in the juvenile justice system; and
• The maturity of appellant is appropriate for the
transfer and the evidence testified to by Dr. Fuller would
support that transfer.
juvenile court later signed an order specifically stating the
reasons for waiver. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
54.02(h). This appeal timely followed. Id. §
Morton, a Pearland Police Department detective, was assigned
to investigate the aggravated robbery of a female complainant
that occurred on September 29, 2016. Morton testified that
Codi Shackelford was walking home from her job as a waitress
at 1:30 a.m. Shackelford was walking through a grocery store
parking lot when she saw a car pull up next to her. Three men
got out of the car, displayed a weapon, and took her personal
belongings. Shackelford described the car as a maroon
passenger car. The assailants took Shackelford's work
apron, food she was bringing home from work, a jacket, a
credit card, approximately $100.00 in cash, and a BLU smart
phone. Morton testified that BLU is the brand name of the
described what the three men were wearing. She said the
driver was wearing a black long-sleeve shirt carrying a
black, thin handgun. She reported that the driver
"racked the slide" of the gun, but Morton's
report reflects no bullet ejected. The other two men were
wearing jackets. After the men took Shackelford's
belongings, she walked home and called the police.
Shackelford did not know any of the assailants.
his investigation Morton obtained video from a surveillance
camera at the grocery store. In the video Morton saw the
maroon passenger car, but was unable to determine the make
and model. Morton also saw Shackelford walking in the video,
but was unable to see the alleged robbery.
investigation led him to two reports of robberies from the
Houston Police Department. The first report was of a stolen
car, which was stolen September 24, 2016. Morton linked that
stolen car to the robbery of Shackelford in Pearland through
another robbery in Houston. The Houston robbery took place
the day after the Pearland robbery on September 30, 2016. In
the Houston robbery, the victim was struck in the head with
an unknown weapon and her belongings were stolen from her.
The Houston victim remembered two digits of the
assailants' license plate number. Houston police officers
found the car, and were involved in a pursuit. After stopping
the car, Houston police found four suspects and a BLU brand
smart phone. The BLU phone matched the description of
Shackelford's phone. Houston police arrested the four men
in the car, including appellant.
photographic lineup was prepared for Shackelford to view.
Detective Tyson Harvey submitted the lineup to Shackelford.
The Pearland police report, the two Houston police reports,
and the photo array were admitted into evidence without
objection. When the photo array was shown to Shackelford, she
identified appellant as one of her assailants. She did not
know whether appellant was the driver of the car or one of
its passengers, but reported that appellant was the one with
recovered the phone that was found in the car in Houston.
Shackelford described her phone as having a crack in the
screen, which matched the phone found in the car. Morton has
been unable to obtain the phone since the arrest because
"[i]t's lost somewhere in Houston property[.]"
The car found in Houston was a maroon Ford Focus, which
matched Shackelford's description. Morton interviewed the
owner of the stolen car who told him it was valued at between
$7, 000.00 and $8, 000.00. A BB gun was found in the stolen
Houston complainant also identified appellant, but stated
that he stayed in the car while two other men robbed her.
Tyson Harvey of the Pearland Police Department testified that
Morton contacted him to administer the photo lineup. Harvey
was not told the identities of any of the photos in the
array. Shackelford identified the photo in position number
three, which was appellant. Harvey asked Shackelford to
describe how certain she was in her identification.
Shackelford responded that she was "one hundred percent
sure" that the person she identified was the person with
the gun. No video recording was made of Shackelford's
identification because Harvey took the photo array to
Shackelford's apartment rather than administer it at the
police station. Another detective was also present at the
time of the identification.
State called psychiatrist Dr. Michael Fuller as its expert
witness. Dr. Fuller frequently performs evaluations on
juveniles whom the State is seeking to transfer to adult
court. Dr. Fuller conducted a psychiatric examination of
appellant prior to the transfer hearing, and his report was
admitted into evidence. Dr. Fuller's findings were based
on obtaining a psychiatric and psychological social history,
a mental status examination, as well as probing various areas
of psychological function such as depression and psychosis.
Dr. Fuller found that appellant was cooperative and
participated fully with the examination. He learned that
appellant was in the ninth grade, had not been previously
subjected to any forms of abuse or neglect, had repeated
eighth grade, did not have a history of significant or
apparent cognitive difficulties in school, and enjoys reading
and playing basketball.
denied any previous history of psychiatric or psychological
issues that were diagnosed and/or treated. Appellant told Dr.
Fuller that he had tried marijuana in the past, but denied
tobacco, alcohol, or other drug use. Appellant's speech
was normal and reflected an individual of at least average
intelligence. Appellant's mood and affect were good.
Appellant's cognitive functioning was in the average to
above average range. He was able to perform all aspects of
memory and processing. Dr. Fuller found that appellant was a
reasonably well-informed young man who was aware of his
circumstances in a thoughtful way, aware of the consequences
he was facing, and appeared to be able to relate effectively
with his attorney if he chose to do so. Dr. Fuller concluded
that appellant is a reasonably thoughtful, intelligent, and
mature young man and that he saw no red flags that would
suggest that it would be inappropriate for him to be
considered for transfer.
Okafor, a juvenile probation officer with the Brazoria County
Juvenile Justice Department, testified that he was familiar
with appellant. Okafor, as an intake officer, works with
newly referred juveniles, monitors them while they are on
conditions of release, or, if they are detained, checks on
their behavior while they are in detention. Okafor did not
have any direct involvement in the investigation of the
preparing a social history report known as a predisposition
report, Okafor spoke with appellant about his family history
and hobbies, interviewed his mother, made contacts with
school officials, and gathered school records. Okafor
described appellant as straightforward in his interview with
the disposition of a normal teenager. Okafor learned that
appellant went to Yates High School and was close with his
mother growing up. Appellant's school records reflected
ten absences for full or partial days for a period between
August 22 and October 3. Appellant was failing "quite a
few of his classes." Okafor's predisposition report
was admitted into evidence without objection.
the preparation of the predisposition report appellant
self-reported marijuana usage. To Okafor's knowledge
appellant was not tested when he was brought into detention.
Appellant does not have much contact with his father because
his father is incarcerated. Appellant lives with his mother,
stepfather, and siblings, and has a close relationship with
his mother. Okafor was unable to conduct an evaluation of
appellant's home environment because his attempts to
contact family members other than appellant's mother were
unsuccessful. As to emotional responses, appellant reported
getting angry or upset when he learned one of his friends had
died. Okafor reviewed Dr. Fuller's report and agreed with
Dr. Fuller that appellant is a reasonably intelligent and
mature young man.
in detention, appellant has been disruptive. During four
months of detention, he had 26 disciplinary referrals for
various offenses such as cursing the staff and refusing to
follow instructions. One of the referrals noted that he had
threatened the staff. Specifically, appellant was reported to
have said, "[I]f this was Harris County, I would
'F' you up[.]" Two altercations with other
juveniles were resolved before anyone was hurt.
Appellant's behavior has been consistent throughout his
detention, but escalating, becoming more defiant after a
while. Most of appellant's phone calls are to his mother.
Appellant expressed to Okafor that he wants to go home.
Appellant is receiving education while in detention, but some
of his discipline referrals have been at school, cursing
teachers. Appellant's grades have improved; he was
failing two classes at the time of the hearing.
regard to options for appellant Okafor noted that appellant
would turn seventeen March 19, 2017. At the time of the
alleged offense appellant was sixteen. Okafor testified that
due to the severity of the alleged offenses and
appellant's age, the juvenile department is recommending
certification to be tried as an adult. Okafor testified that
the juvenile department is not equipped to deal with
juveniles who commit numerous violent felonies at an older
age. A determinant sentence probation would not be
appropriate in this case due to the severity of the alleged
offenses, appellant's age, and appellant's behavior
while in detention.
options available for appellant in juvenile detention allow
for residential treatment until appellant turns eighteen. The
treatment is a nine-month treatment plan with follow-up
treatment. Okafor testified that with appellant's age
there would not be sufficient time to treat him before he
turned eighteen. Although appellant could be sentenced to
confinement in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department until he
turned nineteen, the department does not recommend that
option due to the severity of the alleged offenses.
was not aware of any prior criminal history of appellant. He
was also not aware of any good behavior while appellant was
in detention. The facility will report good ...