Even when a teenager is charged as an adult without a hearing first, he still has the burden of proving at a recall hearing that he should have been treated as a juvenile, the Court of Appeals has ruled.
In a unanimous decision, the court upheld a state judge's ruling that the teenager charged with the murder of Utah Highway Patrolman Dennis Lund should stand trial as an adult.Even though George Kennedy had a brief criminal record and was only 16 when he and a friend allegedly killed Lund, the crime was so serious that he should stand trial as an adult, the judge had ruled.
Kennedy claimed that the judge's ruling was not in his best interest or the public's best interests.
The ruling made it clear that under a new law that allows prosecutors to directly charge teens as adults, the juvenile has to prove that he shouldn't be charged as an adult. The state does not carry the burden of proof in a recall hearing to review the appropriateness of the charges, the three judges ruled.
"The juvenile court may recall jurisdiction only when the juvenile demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that neither his or her chronological age, legal record nor seriousness of the charge warrant prosecution in district court," the court ruled.
Even though the court's ruling doesn't affect Kennedy's case, Kennedy's attorney disagreed with the court's belief that the burden of proof is solely on the juvenile to prove that he shouldn't have been charged as an adult.
"In my opinion, that gives the state unfettered discretion to do what they want with juveniles when they are charged with this kind of crime," said attorney Stephen MacCaughey.
That conclusion gives ammunition to defense attorney Ronald Yengich in his challenge to the constitutionality of the new law, McCaughey said.
Yengich has filed an appeal of the state's decision to charge Asi Mohi as an adult in the shooting of Aaron Chapman. Yengich claims that the new law violates teenagers' rights because it does away with the certification hearing.
The ruling won't affect Kennedy's case because he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of criminal homicide in exchange for his testimony against cohort Jason Pearson.
Pearson is scheduled to stand trial next year on capital murder charges.