- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The state’s high court could decide whether teens charged alongside 18-year-old Alex Rios with beating two homeless men to death will be tried as adults.

Second Judicial District Judge Briana Zamora is letting defense lawyers for the two minors challenge the state’s serious youthful offender law before the New Mexico Supreme Court ahead of the October trial, the Albuquerque Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1KITs0g ).

Prosecutors say the three teens killed 44-year-old Allison Gorman and 46-year-old Kee Thompson in July 2014. One boy was 15 and the other was 16 years old at the time.

The youthful offender law makes it possible for teens between 15 and 18 years old to be tried for first-degree murder and sentenced as adults if convicted. More protections are given to 14-year-olds, like a hearing to determine if the child would benefit from being treated.

Zamora issued an opinion disagreeing with defense lawyers’ arguments that the statute violates a guarantee for equal protection under New Mexico’s constitution.

“Removing the older and most violent offenders from the protection of the Delinquency Act and drawing the line for protection of the act at age 14 is rationally related to the purpose of protecting children from the harshness of adult consequences while also protecting the public interest from violent offenders,” she wrote in her decision.

Jeff Buckets of the Law Office of the Public Defender says the high court will get the application to review Zamora’s ruling by July 13.

The defendants are not being named because of their ages.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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