A King County judge found probable cause Wednesday to hold a 14-year-old boy in juvenile detention on suspicion of premeditated first-degree murder in a fatal shooting the day before at Ingraham High School.
The teen, arrested on a Metro bus roughly an hour after gunfire rang out in a hallway at the North Seattle school, was one of two ordered to remain in detention by Chief Juvenile Court Judge Averil Rothrock. The other, a 15-year-old boy, is suspected of rendering criminal assistance to the suspected shooter and unlawfully possessing a gun.
The 14-year-old waived his first appearance at the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center, where Rothrock found probable cause for two additional charges: second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a dangerous weapon on school property.
The boy’s parents attended by phone but did not address the court. A person representing the family of the victim also listened to the hearing by phone, according to Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brent Kling, who told Rothrock that the victim’s mother was admitted to a hospital in the aftermath of the shooting.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet publicly identified the student who was killed. The Seattle Times typically does not name juvenile suspects unless they are charged as adults.
Police responded to reports of shots fired at the North Seattle high school around 10 a.m. Tuesday and arrested the two suspects about an hour later.
Kling told Rothrock a .357-caliber handgun was found in the 15-year-old’s backpack. The gun’s magazine was empty, but there was a round in the slide that appeared to match the caliber of shell casings recovered by police at the shooting scene, Kling said.
Though the 15-year-old’s involvement is still under investigation, witnesses reported seeing him with the 14-year-old before the shooting, Kling said. Prosecutors expect to file charges against both teens Monday.
Defense attorney Mark Bradley argued for the 15-year-old’s release, telling the judge the boy has no criminal history and would be under close supervision by his parents. The boy’s parents said the family recently moved to Seattle from Auburn.
“He’s never been in trouble. He’s a good kid,” the boy’s mother said in court.
“We just moved up here. … This is not like him at all,” his father added.
Rothrock explained that her decision to keep him in detention can be revisited at his second court appearance next week.
“I’m going to let things calm down a little … and maintain the status quo for today,” she said.
Prosecutors are expected to address whether they intend to seek a discretionary decline hearing involving the 14-year-old after a charging decision is made in his case.
Under state law, cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds charged with serious violent offenses — including first- and second-degree murder and first-degree rape, assault and manslaughter — can be “auto-declined,” meaning the juvenile court automatically declines jurisdiction and the criminal case is filed in adult or superior court.
Discretionary decline hearings are limited to the cases of 15-year-olds charged with a serious violent offense or cases involving those 14 or younger charged with first- or second-degree murder. If a case remains in juvenile court instead of being transferred to adult court, the juvenile court loses jurisdiction once the respondent turns 21.
Though fairly rare in King County, it can take about a year for a discretionary decline hearing to be held. A juvenile court judge is required to weigh eight factors — known as the “Kent factors” for a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision — that take into account things like the seriousness of the offense and the youth’s sophistication and maturity before deciding if declining jurisdiction is in the best interest of the youth or the public.
The eight Kent factors a judge must weigh in determining whether a case remains in juvenile court or is transferred to adult court:
• The seriousness of the alleged offense to the community and whether the protection of the community requires waiver;
• Whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner;
• Whether the alleged offense was against persons or property, with greater weight being afforded to offenses against persons, especially if personal injury resulted;
• The prosecutive merit of the complaint, i.e., whether there is evidence upon which a grand jury may be expected to return an indictment;
• The desirability of trial and disposition of the entire offense in one court when the juvenile’s associates in the alleged offense are adults;
• The sophistication and maturity of the juvenile as determined by consideration of the juvenile’s home, environmental situation, emotional attitude and pattern of living;
• The record and previous history of the juvenile, including previous contacts with law enforcement, juvenile courts, probation, and commitment to juvenile institutions;
• The prospects for adequate protection of the public and likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the juvenile (if he is found to have committed the alleged offense) by the use of procedures, services and facilities current available to the Juvenile Court.
Source: Kent v. United States
A judge’s finding to decline juvenile jurisdiction must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence, though it is not required that all eight Kent factors support the decision.
If a case is moved from juvenile to adult court and the defendant is convicted, judges have the discretion to impose a sentence outside the standard ranges for adult defendants.
While 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of first-degree murder must serve the mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison before they can petition the state for release, a judge has the discretion to sentence younger juveniles to less than 20 years.