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Kent v. United States: Summary

Kent v. United States: Summary
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  • 0:00 Facts of the Case
  • 1:31 The Holding & Analysis…
  • 2:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brittany McKenna

Brittany is a licensed attorney who specializes in criminal law, legal writing, and appellate practice and procedure.

In Kent v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled on the due process rights of juvenile offenders. In this lesson, you will be introduced to the facts of Kent v. United States as well as the holding and analysis of the Supreme Court.

Facts of the Case

Much like rules of the game in professional sports, the criminal justice system is composed of rules and regulations that apply to each case in order to ensure fairness and proper results. For example, a court must have jurisdiction, which is the authority to make legal decisions, over the defendant and subject matter of a given case, much like a referee must be authorized to uphold the rules of a game. Without the proper jurisdiction, a court can't make valid rulings.

In Kent v. United States, 16-year-old Morris Kent was detained and interrogated by Washington, D.C. police officers regarding a slew of robberies and other crimes. Over the course of the interrogation, Kent admitted to committing some of the crimes.

Afterward, Kent's mother hired an attorney and was prepared to help her son through his trial. Since Kent was only 16 years of age at the time, he was brought before a juvenile court judge for a series of pretrial issues. But instead of ruling on the pretrial matters, the judge waived the juvenile court's jurisdiction. In other words, the judge gave up the court's authority to make legal decisions in Kent's case.

With the juvenile court waiving its jurisdiction, Kent was set to be tried as an adult in district court. Kent was ultimately convicted and sentenced. He challenged his conviction, taking his case to the Supreme Court. The question that would be presented the Supreme Court: was the juvenile court's waiver of jurisdiction in Morris Kent's case valid?

The Holding and Analysis of SCOTUS

The Supreme Court held that the juvenile court's waiver of its jurisdiction in Kent's case was invalid. In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court determined that the juvenile court failed to properly investigate whether Kent should be tried in juvenile court or tried as an adult.

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