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In Re Matthew N., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court v. Matthew N

May 16, 2013


(Super. Ct. No. 68976)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Butz , J.

In re Matthew N.



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

In November 2011, the minor Matthew N. (then 14, born Dec. 1996) admitted allegations that he came within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court because he had committed a lewd act in violation of Penal Code section 288, subdivision (a) between October 2010 and March 2011. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602.)*fn1 The San Luis Obispo County juvenile court transferred the case to San Joaquin County (the residence of the minor's mother) for disposition. (§ 750 [juvenile court may transfer case to county of residence after finding jurisdiction over delinquent]; In re Brandon H. (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1153, 1156 (Brandon H.).) In the dispositional order, the court declared the minor its ward, removing him from the custody of his parents and committing him to the care of the probation office, which identified a group home as his proper placement.

On appeal, the minor contends the juvenile court erred in refusing to allow him to withdraw his admission of jurisdiction because he was not competent to stand trial at that point in time. He alternately claims his prior attorney at the time of his admission was incompetent because he did not express a doubt about the minor's competence to the juvenile court despite substantial evidence of incompetence. The minor also faults the juvenile court for failing to hold a hearing on his suitability for deferred entry of judgment (§ 790 et seq.) before accepting his second admission and transferring the case. Finally, the minor maintains he is entitled to additional custody credits for the period between the dispositional hearing and his transfer to the group foster home (a point the People concede). We shall reverse the dispositional order and remand with directions to grant the motion to withdraw the admission if the minor renews it (which moots the rest of the minor's arguments).


The facts establishing the violation of the Penal Code are not material to the issues on appeal for the most part. The parties stipulated to use of the police reports as a factual basis for the admission. In accord with the practice of the parties on appeal, we rely on the summary of these reports in the dispositional report of the probation officer.

In March 2011, the minor was a friend of the older brother of an eight-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. Both children told their parents that the minor engaged in lewd behavior with them. (The juvenile court dismissed the count involving lewd acts with the boy in accepting the minor's second admission, but the minor agreed to allow the court to consider the facts of the dismissed count in connection with the disposition of the case. Conduct with the girl included the minor rubbing his penis on her bare buttocks; asking if she knew how to make a baby; lying atop her while rubbing his penis against her vagina; penetrating her vagina with his penis; and putting his tongue in her mouth. The minor told police he had numerous uncoerced physical contacts with the girl that were not sexually motivated but resulted in him ejaculating; he did not consider this doing anything "nasty" with her. The boy initially reported that the minor had fellated him while the boy had been sleeping, but when police interviewed the boy, he denied any contact with the minor (instead asserting that it was his sister who had touched his penis). The minor denied any contact with the boy.

The procedural background, by contrast, is closely interwoven with the minor's argument. We must provide it with some detail.

In October 2011, a clinical psychologist evaluated the minor in order to perform a risk assessment of his living with his younger sisters (five and 13 years old) in the home of his mother, "in addition to evaluating [his] current mental state and what treatment . . . might . . . reduce his risk for re-offense." (§ 741 [juvenile court may order psychological evaluation to assist in treatment of delinquent].) His mother believed the minor was very immature for his age, and the psychologist confirmed that the behavior and demeanor of the minor was more like a child four or five years younger. The minor had told the psychologist he experienced auditory hallucinations and believed he had ghosts haunting him, which she thought may or may not indicate signs of schizophrenia. He had thought about suicide on three occasions, and said these thoughts were predominating. Nonetheless, the minor appeared fully oriented as to person, place, time, and situation throughout the interview. "When asked about the circumstances of the alleged offense, Matthew [provided] disorganized accounts of incidents in which he was rough-housing or playing with the victims, but denied any deliberate sexual contact or arousal, even though he admitted to having ejaculated after rubbing up against one of the victims. He did not appear agitated or defensive in protesting his innocence, and in fact his facial expression did not change throughout." He otherwise was unwilling to discuss his sexual interests or attitudes, denied being sexually active, and did not recognize any need for treatment as a sex offender or the danger he might present to his own youngest sister; in general, he demonstrated poor insight and judgment. It became increasingly difficult during the interview to obtain coherent answers from him, which was consistent with either intense anxiety, or with a thought disorder. The minor told the psychologist that he had received medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from age nine to age 12, which was stopped to evaluate his performance without medication. The psychologist thought this might be a cause at least in part of his distractibility.

The psychologist withheld any diagnosis of an existing mental disorder, because more investigation was necessary to determine if the minor's irrational thoughts were psychotic or only a function of beliefs that his father instilled in him. The report recommended monitoring and treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts (and to evaluate whether the minor would benefit from resumed medication for ADHD), a determination of whether the minor had himself undergone sexual abuse, and further exploration of the possibility of a developing psychosis. The report also concluded that it would not be appropriate to place the minor with his mother; he needed a secure setting where he could obtain treatment to prevent reoffending, which was a serious risk in light of his denial of committing any offenses.

At a hearing before Judge Ginger Garrett (San Luis Obispo County) in early November 2011, the minor admitted the allegations of both counts on the condition that he could withdraw his admissions if he was found unsuitable for a deferred entry of judgment pursuant to ...

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