DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Juvenile judges in Ohio will now decide whether a case should be heard in adult court or remain in juvenile court.
This, after the state supreme court ruled mandatory transfer of juveniles to adult court is unconstitutional.
The new ruling could change the fate of three high profile cases in the Miami Valley involving juveniles including the Champaign County School shooting that left two injured, a Springfield teen accused of killing his younger brother and a shooting after alter-fest that killed a Kettering teen.
“My 16 year old was murdered. How are you supposed to heal and recover from that when this new law could delay and complicate things,” Ronnie Bowers’ mother Jessica Combs said. A judge will soon decide if her son’s alleged killer will be tried as an adult. “Violent crimes using weapons, it should be automatic switch over to adult court. They made that conscious decision to commit a violent act against someone else and they should be held accountable to the highest extent of the law as adults.”
Previously, offenders between the ages 16 and 18 were automatically transferred into adult court, if they used a firearm while committing a violent felony.
“So what this decision really does is it gives the juvenile judges authority to look at each case separately and I can still decide to try that child as an adult. This just gives me more flexibility and not make it automatic,” Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi. He goes on to say, “We have a lot of young people in juvenile court that we can help. Not just in Montgomery County, but also the state and also the country. We can help children, but it’s difficult. It’s tough when you have a victim in front of you.”
Capizzi was the presiding judge on the 2013 case that prompted the new ruling. Montgomery County Assistant Public Defender Michael Pentecost was also the trial and appellate attorney on the case. Pentecost believes the new ruling is just.
“Given the fact that there was a class of children, the 16 or over, that were being deprived of that opportunity to have their personal individual considerations taken into account as to whether or not they should be responsible as adults, we felt that was unfair and unconstitutional,” Pentecost said.
The new ruling has already impacted one local case. In Springfield, the teen accused of killing his 14-year old brother, had his case transferred back to juvenile court [from the adult system] following the ruling.
Capizzi said the change could put a strain on the court system, as judges will now need to have evaluations done on the teens before making a decision on which court system would be best for the individual, potentially delaying some cases.
We reached out to the Champaign, Clark and Montgomery Prosecutors about their high profile juvenile cases and they would not discuss active cases. They emphasized the new ruling doesn’t mean cases won’t go to adult court, it just means there’s a new burden of proof to have cases transferred.