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Teenagers may be tried as adults in New Jersey murder case

Juvenile law cases often involve different legal strategies from adult criminal cases. It is important for those accused, as well as their families, to fully understand the charges brought against them and all of their legal options.

If the prosecutors involved in one case get their way, two teenage brothers in New Jersey will be tried as adults in the case of a murdered 12-year-old girl from Clayton. That would likely mean harsher long-term consequences normally not allowed under juvenile law for the suspects if they were to be convicted.

The girl's body was discovered in a recycling bin on Oct. 22, having been reported missing on Oct. 20 after she had left home on her bicycle. According to police, she died from strangulation. The investigation turned to the teenagers when their mother reported a questionable Facebook comment that one of them had posted.

The Gloucester County prosecutor's office said the severity of charges against the two boys, aged 17 and 15, merits a move to adult court. Both are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, illegally disposing of a body, evidence tampering and theft. An added charge of luring the victim was filed against the 15 year old. If convicted as adults, the teenagers could face minimum sentences of 30 years in prison.

Whether this case should be kept in the juvenile law system will be debated. Nevertheless, the rights of accused minors need to be protected in a judicial setting that has the potential to assist them as well as penalize them. This is more likely to occur in front of judges who routinely deal with juveniles, and who will be able to discern if the boys understand the charges and possible consequences.

Source: NJ.com, "Autumn Pasquale murder: Prosecutor seeks adult court for teen suspects," Jessica Beym, Nov. 1, 2012

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