Clayton Matheson Speaks with Media About Case of Teen Tried and Convicted as an Adult

Akin Gump litigation counsel Clayton Matheson was quoted in the Texas Standard article “Adult Crime, Adult Time: How Texas Fast-Tracked Kids to Life in Prison,” regarding a pro bono case in which he is representing a Texas man who was tried as an adult for murder, convicted and sentenced to 99 years in a maximum security prison—all when he was 17 years old. Miguel Navarro, who is now in his 20s, is pursuing a writ of habeas corpus to overturn his conviction, in part on the grounds that the process by which he was transferred from juvenile court to adult criminal court was unconstitutional.

Navarro’s writ application centers on a 2014 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that juvenile judges cannot transfer children to criminal court “merely for the sake of judicial economy.”  Lower courts have disagreed about the true scope and meaning of that ruling. Matheson said that if the Court of Criminal Appeals decides to review Navarro’s writ application, which would require the court to clarify its 2014 ruling, there could be huge ramifications for the Texas criminal justice system. “If the Court of Criminal Appeals finds [for Navarro], as we think it should…,” Matheson said, “there would be, I suspect, hundreds, if not thousands, of people currently incarcerated, individuals in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, that would have an immediate right to challenge or appeal their convictions on the exact same grounds.”

Matheson also discussed the case and the larger issue of juveniles being tried in adult criminal court, with Texas Public Radio’s “The Source.” He argued that Navarro’s certification hearing process, in which both sides present evidence before a case is moved, used “what essentially are boilerplate forms” that contained “the most rudimentary facts about the crimes” with which Navarro was charged. There was not, he added, “a single fact about who he is as a person, nothing about his background, nothing about the incident that led to his arrest.”

Matheson and Navarro are now waiting to hear if the Court of Criminal Appeals will decide to review Navarro’s writ application.