Boy, 16, to face murder trial as an adult

Howard judge denies defense's request to send case to juvenile court

October 21, 2007|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

A Columbia teen accused of fatally shooting another teen last year will be tried next month as an adult, a Howard County judge has ruled.

Howard County Circuit Judge Louis A. Becker III denied a request that Monti Mantrice Fleming, 16, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Shawn Edward Powell, 18, be tried in juvenile court.

Defense attorney Joseph Murtha argued at a hearing Thursday that the mental health and educational resources that Fleming needs are not as accessible in the adult justice system as they are in the juvenile system.

If Fleming is convicted as an adult of first-degree murder, he will face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, Murtha said. Defendants whose cases are handled in the juvenile system are usually released from custody when they reach 21.

In Maryland, juveniles are automatically charged as adults in murder cases, according to the state's attorney's office, but defendants can ask to have their cases transferred to juvenile court.

Fleming was 15 years old when Powell was fatally shot during a fight in a Hickory Ridge village apartment complex in August 2006.

"I'm very disappointed that Monti Fleming is not going to have the opportunity to be provided the services that he was denied when he was in great need of those services," Murtha said Friday in a telephone interview.

Becker also ruled Thursday that Fleming will be tried in adult court on first- and second-degree attempted murder charges in the 2006 shooting of Mark F. Golston.

Golston was shot in the leg in Columbia about a week before Powell was shot, according to charging documents.

Assistant State's Attorney James J. Dietrich argued at Thursday's hearing that Fleming would pose a safety risk if he were to be held in a juvenile facility. Fleming has been held in the Howard County Detention Center since his arrest. Dietrich also argued that because the state has no high-security facilities for juveniles, Fleming should be sentenced to an adult prison.

Murtha argued that such juvenile facilities exist in other states and that Fleming needs the clinical services those facilities offer.

But in his ruling, Becker said the violent nature of the alleged offenses, Fleming's prior contacts with the juvenile justice system and concern for public safety make the adult court the appropriate venue.

"I certainly find that the adult system is called for here," Becker said.

Fleming's mother, Katrina Smith of Hyattsville, testified for the defense. She told of the domestic violence and alcohol abuse that Fleming had witnessed during his childhood - reasons why she said her son needs counseling and mental health services instead of being locked away in an adult prison.

Smith wept through much of the hearing, which lasted nearly seven hours.

When the judge announced his ruling in the murder case, one of Fleming's brothers burst into tears and cried out, "I want my little brother back." Fleming, who remained silent for most of the trial, quietly wiped his eyes after his brother was escorted out of the courtroom.

Fleming's murder trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 26, according to the state's attorney's office. The attempted-murder trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.

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