In November 2004, Azel Chavez, then 14, was picked up in Clallam County for attempted murder, wrongful firearm possession, boosting a car, and a host

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Civics 101: Kids Don't Have the Right to be Tried as Adults

In November 2004, Azel Chavez, then 14, was picked up in Clallam County for attempted murder, wrongful firearm possession, boosting a car, and a host of accompanying charges. He quit the Sequim High School football team after several altercations, then told a couple of friends he wanted to kill the coaches. According to court documents, Chavez took his father's 12 gauge shotgun, then stole his stepmother's van at gunpoint, and drove to the high school. The team had left for a game in Tacoma. His stepmom called the police.

When state prosecutors decided the crime didn't warrant adult-level felony charges, he was tried as a juvenile, which means less potentially severe sentences, but also no jury. While the phrase: "tried as an adult" sounds rather ominous, Chavez appealed his conviction saying he would prefer a jury of his peers determine his guilt or innocence.

The state high court today ruled in a 6-3 decision that juveniles have no constitutional right to a jury trial. The ruling was based in part on the idea that meting out justice is "focused on rehabilitation," writes majority author Justice Charles Johnson.

Justice Barbara Madsen's disagreed, writing for the dissent: "There is no fundamental incompatibility between a rehabilitative juvenile justice system that nevertheless has many of the hallmarks of the adult system and a juvenile justice system that includes the right to the protection of a jury of one's peers."

 
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