The purpose of the Arizona juvenile law is not to attempt to establish an arbitrary age below which the child is presumed to be ignorant of the consequences of his acts, but rather to provide a special method of treatment for minors under the age of eighteen who have violated the law, and, even with such children, leaving the application of the juvenile or criminal code to the discretion of the trial court.
Defendant appealed his conviction for murder of an individual who had picked him up while defendant was hitchhiking. At issue was the question of the age of defendant at the time the killing occurred, and whether the prosecutor was guilty of misconduct in his argument to the jury, when he made reference to a sensational murder case.
Does juvenile law affect the treatment, and not the capacity, of the offender?
The court held that the juvenile law affected the treatment and not the capacity of the offender. The information on which defendant was tried was admittedly filed after he had reached the age of eighteen, and the issue of his age was not suggested until after the filing of such information. Thus, the admitted facts showed the Juvenile Code did not apply. Additionally, a defendant is entitled to be tried only for the offense for which he is charged, and on the law and evidence legally germane to that offense, and that only. References, therefore, to anything not legally admissible against the defendant in the particular case and which would tend to call the attention of the jury to other crimes in a manner which might prejudice them against defendant are always improper, generally erroneous, and sometimes of a gravity sufficient to reverse the case. The court found that because of the necessarily prejudicial remarks of the prosecutor, the judgment should be reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial.