Kansas Supreme Court rules juveniles have right to jury trial

Friday, June 20, 2008 | 12:21 p.m. CDT; updated 2:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court says juvenile offenders have a constitutional right to a jury trial.

Court spokesman Ron Keefover says the decision could force prosecutors to retry hundreds of juvenile cases.

The ruling applies to juvenile cases still pending as well as future cases.

The court had ruled in 1984 that the juvenile justice system was different enough from the adult system that juvenile offenders didn’t have a constitutional right to a jury trial.

But in its 6-1 ruling Friday, the court said legislators have changed the juvenile system to make it more like the adult system.

The dissenter was Chief Justice Kay McFarland, a former juvenile court judge. She said the decision is out of step with rulings in other states.

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