Mckeiver v. Pennsylvania 403 U.S. 528 (1971)

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MCKEIVER v. PENNSYLVANIA 403 U.S. 528 (1971)

although in re gault (1967) extended some basic procedural rights to juvenile offenders, young people continued to be tried in most states before judges who exercised great discretion, supposedly to protect juveniles. McKeiver, a juvenile defendant, faced possible incarceration for five years and requested trial by jury, which the state denied. By a 6–3 vote, the Supreme Court decided that due process of law does not guarantee trial by jury to juvenile offenders. Justice harry blackmun for a plurality of four wrote an opinion based on the unrealistic premise that the juvenile system is fundamentally sound and enlightened, but he did not explain how it assured fundamental fairness. Justice john marshall harlan found Blackmun's opinion romantic but concurred nevertheless because he still opposed duncan v. louisiana (1968), which extended trial by jury to the states. Justice william j. brennan concurred because he thought, mistakenly, that publicity served as a check on juvenile court judges. Justices william o. douglas, hugo l. black, and thurgood marshall dissented. McKeiver short-circuited expectations that the Court would require essentially all the rights of the criminally accused for juveniles who commit adult crimes and face the prospect of serious punishment.

Leonard W. Levy

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Mckeiver v. Pennsylvania 403 U.S. 528 (1971)

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