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Direction of 13-Year Old’s Trial Rests With Brown County Judge

A Brown County judge is set to decide whether a 13-year-old boy from Nashville facing allegations of murder will be tried as an adult or as a juvenile.

Judge Judith Stewart heard arguments on whether the community and the boy’s best interest would better served in adult or juvenile court.  The law presumes any child at least ten years old who is charged with murder should be waived into adult court unless the defense can prove it’s in the child’s and the community’s best interest for him to stay in the juvenile system.

Blade Reed has been charged with murder after accompanying his brother, Bennie, to the home of Richard and Mary Voland on November 15th, when Bennie admits he shot the couple, killing Richard.  Blade cut Mary’s throat, but not deep enough to kill her, as Bennie had ordered him.  The 13-year old later told police he didn’t want to take the woman’s life.

Blade Reed sat through the hearing with his eyes anchored beneath Defense Attorney James Roberts’ table.  The sixth-grader never made eye contact with anyone through the nearly two-hour hearing, which dissected his troubled childhood, a psychiatric analysis and the future confinement he faces.

Reed has been in detention since January and  Juvenile Detention Director Dr. James Higdon says despite aggressive behavior, Reed has acted no worse than other detainees.

Dr. Tonya Foreman, the psychiatrist hired by the court to evaluate Reed’s mental and emotional state, took the stand, saying she concluded the boy has a mental maturity of a child about 10 or 11 years old.  Foreman says tests she conducted conclude 97 percent of children Reed’s age are more socially adept than the Brown County teen.

Foreman says Reed was treated for Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder and was temporarily on medication to control the condition, with treatment ending in 2000.  Foreman says the boy has had behavioral problems ever since.

That led Foreman to a clear warning.  “If he goes and develops in an adult model center, he will be influenced by the other inmates,” she said.

But Brown County Prosecutor Jim Oliver argues Foreman only made contact with Reed’s attorney in making her evaluation.  Foreman responded by saying Roberts had contacted her, whereas Oliver made no attempt to do the same.  Oliver turned to judge Stewart. “This psychiatric examination is biased,” he said.  “This started with the idea that no 13-year-old should go to prison and went from there.”

Oliver called upon Indiana Legislature’s presumption that Reed be tried as an adult unless the defense offers an exception to the law.  Oliver argues Reed was not an innocent bystander.  “Even a 13-year-old knows that you don’t kill and that you don’t saw on people’s necks,” the prosecutor said.

As a last word, Oliver questioned what he called the “prison” that Mary Voland must be living in, asking the judge to consider her feelings.

Roberts countered by arguing state penal codes are founded on reformation and not on vindictiveness, saying Blade Reed was a child who fell through the cracks in social service programs.

Roberts says the bigger risk for the community would be to put Reed in an adult prison with no education and criminals as his role models .  “I can’t think of a better formula to release a monster on society,” Roberts said.

If Reed were tried as an adult, the minimum sentence would be 45 years with 22 1/2 served for good behavior.  He could, however, be sentenced for as long as 65 years.

After the hearing, both Roberts and Oliver refused to speculate on Judge Stewart’s decision.  Roberts said he feels the reformative nature of juvenile law supports his argument.

“The legislature’s made a lot of decisions and one of those is that our entire juvenile system should be focused on the best interest of the child under all circumstances,” Roberts said. “And I think that is certainly at war with the presumption in the statute that Mr. Oliver is preceding under.”

But Oliver said the community’s interest is at stake.

“It’s our position that it’s not in the community’s best interest.  Any juvenile can make the argument that it’s in his best interest to stay in juvenile court.”

Judge Stewart says she will make a decision in the next few days.

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