Legally speaking, when someone is 18 years old, he is an adult. He can vote, go to war. He can live on his own. He can be tried as an adult in criminal court if he's charged with a crime. But what if the defendant was only 17 when the incident in question took place? Would Colorado's legal system consider him an adult?
Not in the case of one young Colorado Springs man who is charged with violent crimes in Colorado. Now, 18, the defendant charged with the violence against a man and his pregnant wife faces severe charges and severe potential sentencing. This case highlights how timing and changing laws can complicate criminal cases.
The defendant is accused of shooting a husband and then his pregnant wife while he was burglarizing their home. No one, including the fetus, survived the shootings. With surviving family left mourning their loss and the general tragic nature of the incident, this case unsurprisingly inspired great passion and debate not just from family but from the lawyers and judge, too.
Prosecutors, the defense team and the judge debated the proper handling of this murder case. Depending on whether the court would charge the defendant as an adult or a juvenile, the defendant could have faced a maximum sentence of either seven years in prison or at least 40 years. The judge ruled to charge the teen as an adult, meaning that he would be sentenced to life in prison and have a chance at parole in 40 years if convicted of the murders.
Another matter of age and timing in this Colorado violent crime case is that if the defendant had been 18 at the time of the crimes -- only four months older -- he could have faced the death penalty following a conviction.
The severe nature of this kind of case and of how age and timing can impact the consequences show how important the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer is to a person's freedom and survival. We will post an update when there is a development in this Colorado case.
Source: Colorado Springs Gazette, "Colorado Springs teen headed for trial in adult court in slayings of newlyweds," Lance Benzel, Sep. 27, 2013