Prosecutor explains court process for juveniles charged in Highlands murder

Updated: Nov. 13, 2017 at 6:36 PM EST
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Jason Spencer (Source: Facebook)
Jason Spencer (Source: Facebook)
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Cooke (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Cooke (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Four teenagers are now charged in the November 5 murder of a man walking in the Highlands neighborhood. The youngest suspect - just 13 years old - turned himself in on Saturday, according to Louisville Metro police. 
Because all four suspects are juveniles, their court proceedings are confidential. But things are going to be quite a bit different for the 13-year-old.

"It's the firearm that increases the degree of seriousness," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Cooke said. "With a firearm, you aren't acting like a child because the consequences are very, very serious."

And they were. Jason Spencer, 30, was shot to death during a robbery attempt on Everett Avenue. The newlywed was killed in front of his wife.

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The suspects are all underage boys. Teens facing such serious charges happens more often than you think.

Cooke says all juveniles who are arrested have a case that starts in juvenile court. In order for cases to come to circuit court, the juvenile judge holds what is called a transfer hearing. At that hearing, the judge will decide three things.

"Whether a felony was committed by the person charged, whether a firearm was involved and the felony, and whether the person charged is 14 years or older," Cooke said.

If a judge finds probable cause on all those three things, a grand jury would hear it like an adult case and it would be prosecuted like an adult case.

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The case involving the 13-year-old will be handled differently. He can't be transferred to adult court, regardless of the charges, because of his age.

"Some kids grow up faster than others and it's a sad way to grow up fast," Cooke said. "It's tragic for all involved."

Cooke says even if a juvenile was convicted as an adult, they would go to a youth detention facility. When they turn 18, they are re-sentenced as an adult and can be incarcerated in a regular prison.

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