- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

OGDEN, Utah (AP) - Lawyers for a 16-year-old Utah girl accused of killing two people in a high-speed crash on her way to carry out a suicide pact have challenged whether it was constitutional to charge her with murder as an adult.

State law ignores new research on the juvenile brain and violates defendants’ right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, defense attorney Tara Isaacson argued in court documents filed Wednesday.

Prosecutors said the case against the teenager is difficult, but evidence that she purposely caused the crash made it a murder case.

If convicted, the girl could face a 15 years-to-life prison sentence on each of two murder charges. The Associated Press is not naming the defendant because she’s a minor.

Authorities said the girl stole her parents’ car and was on the way to a friend’s house so they could take drugs and kill themselves together when a police officer noticed the car dragging a trash can behind it and tried to pull her over.

In an interview after the crash, police said, she told officers that rather than stopping, she decided to go through with the suicide then and hit the gas. Her SUV slammed into another car in Roy at 98 mph.

Driver Maddison Haan, 20, of West Point died at the scene, according to charging documents. Passenger Tyler Christianson, 19, of Ogden died at a hospital.

“Our family has been robbed of a family member and so has the other family,” Haan’s uncle Le Castillo told the Ogden Standard-Examiner (https://bit.ly/2ahnRrF). “She needs to be held accountable to the highest standard and stay in adult court.”

Prosecutor Ben Willoughby said the Utah Supreme Court has previously upheld a state law that says people 16 and older who are accused of murder must face the charges in an adult courtroom where they are subject to longer sentences in state prison.

Lesser charges could have kept the case in juvenile court, but the Weber County Attorney’s Office filed murder counts because of the evidence the girl purposely caused the crash, he said.

“It’s such a hard decision,” he told The Associated Press. “This is a case that is just sad on both ends.”


Information from: Standard-Examiner, https://www.standard.net

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