The prosecutor in Murrysville, Pa., had no choice but to charge high school stabbing suspect Alex Hribal as an adult, but his defense attorney can ask a judge to transfer the 16-year-old high school sophomore to the juvenile system.
Pennsylvania law says a child 15 or older who commits aggravated assault or attempted murder must be tried in adult court.
“It’s not a discretionary matter,” says Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City prosecutor and a law professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “The legislature has considered the equities, and they’ve decided what the right thing is for the prosecutors.”
Hribal is charged with four counts of attempted murder, 21 counts of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon at school in the early-morning knife attack Wednesday at his high school, which injured a security guard and more than a dozen children, including four gravely.
Hribal’s lawyer, Patrick Thomassey, has said he will seek to have the case moved to juvenile court, which would offer rehabilitation and a shorter sentence. In interviews, Thomassey has emphasized Hribal’s small stature and mental confusion.
“He’s scared,” Thomassey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s a young kid. He’s 16, looking like he’s 12. This is all still new to him.”
Thomassey can ask the court for a hearing to determine whether Hribal should be tried in juvenile court, says Emily Keller, staff attorney at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. At such a hearing, a judge would consider the suspect’s culpability, the danger he poses to the public and whether he could be helped by treatment, supervision and rehabilitation.
Source: USA Today | Donna Leinwand Leger