Tried as an adult? Controversy in Staunton over slaying charges

policecar3Staunton Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Robertson said Monday that he plans to try the as-yet unnamed 16-year-old suspect in the murder of a 26-year-old Staunton man last week as an adult.

Robertson told The News Leader in an interview that the decision to try the teen as an adult “is our call, and it’s certainly going to happen,” and an assistant in his office called the transfer to adult court “automatic.”

That hasn’t stopped local residents from taking to social media to debate the merits of trying the teen, a student at R.E. Lee High School in Staunton, in adult court. The bulk of comments have come down, not surprisingly, on the side of, basically, try him and fry him, but there have been points made that there is a juvenile-justice system for a reason, and it has to do with the capacity of children and teens to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

The story also has its bits of the salacious, with media reports that the teen has told investigators that he had been paid by the victim to perform sex acts, without an explanation as to any nexus between that claim and a possible motive to the murder.

Ultimately, the wisdom of trying the teen as an adult will not be determined by a prosecutor, but rather a jury. Don’t be surprised to see some dialing back on the charges as more details emerge in the case, not necessarily from adult back to juvenile court, since Robertson is nothing if not dogged once he has made his mind up, but based on the scant bit of knowledge that we have about the case now, it’s hard to say that we have an open-and-shut first-degree or capital murder case on our hands just yet.

Robertson, dogged as he is, will also want to make sure that he gets a conviction.

– Column by Chris Graham


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