Stabbing case spotlights youth charged as adults - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Stabbing case spotlights youth charged as adults

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La Crosse, WI -

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – The 12-year old Waukesha girl who was stabbed by her friends, is recovering. The attack, inspired by a fictional online character called “Slenderman”, has put the two attackers in adult court.

In Wisconsin, if a person is at least ten years old and is charged with attempted homicide, they are automatically waived into adult court.

“If there is a homicide type of case, there’s no waiver, they just start in adult court,” criminal defense attorney Keith Belzer said.

Belzer, one of the state's top criminal defense lawyers, said just because a case starts in adult court though doesn’t mean it stays in adult court.

“The judge could decide, based on defense motion, to reverse the waiver, so actually take them from adult court and into juvenile court,” Belzer said.

A judge bases their decision whether to transfer defendants from adult court to juvenile court off of three questions:

(1) That, if convicted, the juvenile could not receive adequate treatment in the criminal justice system.

(2) That transferring jurisdiction to the court assigned to exercise jurisdiction would not depreciate the seriousness of the offense.

(3) That retaining jurisdiction is not necessary to deter the juvenile or other juveniles from committing the violation of which the juvenile is accused.

La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said these three points are crucial, because there are differences between being convicted as an adult or as a juvenile.

“In the adult system, there’s always a certain number of years that your sentence is. In the juvenile system, all crimes have the same amount of possible ramifications,” Gruenke said.

Adults typically see prison time, local jail time, fines, or probation, while juveniles have more services available to them, such as juvenile corrections or foster homes.

“Even though they are charged in adult court, the burden is on the defense to move them back into the juvenile court,” Gruenke said.

Belzer said the Waukesha stabbing case defendants could be transferred into juvenile court, but nonetheless, a difficult decision will arise in the near future.

If the 12-year-olds are convicted in adult court, they’d be put in juvenile detention until they are 17-years-old, when they would then be transferred into an adult prison.

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