Oklahoma Defenders Expect To Handle More Juvenile Crimes

Friday, April 4th 2014, 10:49 pm
By: News On 6

Earlier this year a judge denied 16-year-old Joshua Mooney's appeal to be tried as a juvenile, raising questions about how someone as young as Mooney could be tried as an adult.

Attorneys say teens could fall into several categories; it all depends on the type of crime they commit. There's no gray area if a teenager pulls the trigger and kills someone.

Prosecutor Steve Kunzweiler, said,,"I can't really look at this person and say, 'gee, I feel sorry for you because you're young,' I'm going to look at the facts of what the case were, do I have a public safety risk or threat and what's the most appropriate outcome? We balance all those types of issues,"

Prosecutors have to follow state law when it comes to charging people under the age of 18 with an adult crime.

Kunzweiler said when they look at cases involving teens, they fall into three categories: being charged as an adult, being charged as a youthful offender or pushing the case through the juvenile court system.

If a juvenile gets charged as a youthful offender, the juvenile will face the same public courtroom an adult would, but the youthful offender designation requires a judge to consider a teen's age.

To be charged as an adult, the teen must be charged with a felony, and a judge must certify them as an adult.

"We do have those safeguards in place, but ultimately, when you make an adult decision there's going to be adult consequences, especially when you're pointing a gun at somebody and pulling the trigger and killing them," Kunzweiler said.

Attorneys with the Tulsa County Public Defenders Office said they expect to handle more crimes involving teens.

Chief Defender, Jack Zanerhaft, said, "The idea of younger people becoming more mature and society having to deal with people committing serious crimes at a young age is going to be an ongoing confrontation within the legal system."

A judge decided Mooney should be tried as an adult after a jailhouse video surfaced, showing Mooney making light of the crimes he committed.

Mooney received two life sentences, which in Oklahoma is 45 years. Mooney must serve 85 percent of that [38 years] before he is eligible for parole.