Wednesday, August 6, 2014

USC STUDENT KILLED - JUVENILES CHARGED AS ADULTS

Four teenagers were charged Tuesday with murder in the fatal beating of a USC graduate student Xinran Ji. Jonathan Del Carmen 19, Andrew Garcia, 18, Alberto Ochoa 17, and Alejandra Guerrero, 16 are facing a murder charge that carries with it a special circumstance allegation that Ji was killed during an attempted  robbery. This special circumstance charge allows the prosecution the option of seeking the death penalty on Del Carmen and Garcia, but not Ochoa and Guerrero because they are minors.  The criminal complaint alleges that Garcia, Ochoa and Guerrero used a bat and wrench, though the extent of Ji's injuries were unclear. The coroner's reports are pending.  Three of the teens were also charged in connection with a second robbery that occurred hours later at Dockweiler State Beach. LAPD officials said there were no indications the suspects had gang ties, or that the attack was racially motivated. 

Ji, a 24-year-old engineering student from China, was walking to his apartment near USC about 12:45 a.m. Thursday when authorities said he was attacked with a baseball bat. Despite sustaining a head injury, authorities said, Ji managed to make it home to his 30th Street apartment. A roommate found his body later that morning.

Can a Juvenile be tried as an Adult?


The answer is yes. Generally speaking, when someone under the age of 18 commits a crime, the case proceeds through the juvenile justice system. However, under certain very serious circumstances a juvenile can be tried in Adult Court. There are 3 different ways that can happen: 1) Mandatory direct filing, 2) Discretionary direct filing, and 3) a Fitness Hearing.

For mandatory direct filing, the prosecutor must file charges in criminal court when the minor is 14 years of age or older, and personally committed either murder with special circumstances or specified sexual offenses. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 602(b).

For discretionary filing, the prosecution can, but does not have to, file a case directly in criminal court in two situations. One is when the minor is 16 years or older and is accused of committing a felony listed in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(b), including robbery and carjacking. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(d)(1). The second is when the minor is 14 years or older and he or she is accused of an offense punishable by death or life in prison or accused of personally using a firearm in the commission or attempted commission of felony; or when the minor is charged with a 707(b) offense and the minor had a prior 602(b) offense, committed the current crime on behalf of a gang, committed a hate crime, or committed a crime against a disabled or elderly victim. Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707(d)(2).

The traditional way for a juvenile to be tried as an adult is after a judicial determination that the child is unfit to be dealt with under juvenile law- a “Fitness Hearing.” Instead of filing directly in criminal court, the prosecution exercises its discretion by filing the case in juvenile court and asking a juvenile court judge to decide whether the minor is fit to remain in the juvenile system. The prosecution is in effect asking the court to make the call.

In this case, both minors are 16 and 17 years old and being charged with murder with special circumstance (during the commission of a Robbery). Therefore the charges appear to meet the Mandatory and Discretionary direct filing standards. Because of their ages, the Minors cannot face the death penalty, but they can possibly be sentenced to life in prison without parole, if convicted of the crimes.

If your child or someone you know is facing criminal charges please call the Law Office of Katie Walsh (714) 619-935.