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Lawyer: Martinsville Shooting Suspect Unfairly Portrayed

Accused shooter's attorney says adult prison would have a significantly negative impact in his client.

Outside School

Photo: Noel Brennan

Parents wait to pick up their students from Martinsville West Middle School on March 25th, the day a 15-year old student was shot on campus.

The lawyer for the 15-year-old accused of shooting a Martinsville eighth-grader said his client is “being unfairly portrayed as a monster.” Steve Litz said an adult prison sentence would leave the teenager “vastly worse off” than when he entered.

“The Juvenile system can offer him all sorts of therapy. They can offer his mom therapy. If he goes to DOC he’ll be housed with people that he shouldn’t be housed with so that’s the main factor,” Litz said.

Litz said what his client needs is therapy that the juvenile system can provide and the prison system can‘t. The teenager made a brief return to court Friday. In a six-minute hearing, Morgan Superior Judge Chris Burnham reaffirmed an April 18 hearing date to discuss whether the boy should face attempted murder charges in adult court, or remain in juvenile court. The suspect is accused of critically injuring 15-year-old Chance Jackson at Martinsville West Middle School last week, just before first period. Jackson is now in fair condition after undergoing a pair of surgeries. The accused gunman had been expelled earlier in the week. Litz won‘t discuss why his client was expelled nor any details of the shooting incident. But he said he‘ll have a child psychologist examine his client to bolster his argument that the boy has a long history of anger-management issues arising from various causes, including an unstable home environment. He called the shooting “an isolated incident that would never recur.”

“If you spend 15 minutes with this boy you realize that he’s not the monster that he’s made out to be. People often times do horrible things, but that doesn’t make them horrible people,” Litz said.

Litz noted that state law explicitly recognizes that 15-year-olds are not necessarily held to the same standard as adults, even for serious criminal charges. A 16-year-old charged with attempted murder would automatically be charged as an adult, but at age 15, prosecutors must persuade a judge to transfer the case. Jackson‘s family and the suspect‘s mother and three siblings attended the hearing but did not speak to reporters.

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