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Teen accused in crime spree faces second competency review

Teen accused in crime spree faces second competency review


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SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has ordered another competency evaluation for one of two teenage boys charged in a violent May crime spree.

Third District Juvenile Court Judge Susan Eisenman said the review will help determine if the 16-year-old could engage in a legal strategy with his attorneys. When she looked over evaluations of the boy three months ago, the judge said she believed he was close to competent.

"But I didn't think you were quite there," she told the teen at a hearing last week.

"I feel like I know the inside of your brain very well," the judge continued.

The boy's lawyers had asked for felony charges against him to be thrown out and argued there's no evidence to suggest a change in his status since the last review. But the judge declined to dismiss the case and instead ordered another assessment of his mental health and intellectual ability.

He and the other teen are suspected of having gang affiliations. They are accused in a May 31 armed robbery of a Shell gas station in Magna, plus an attempted carjacking that police say left a bullet hole in the car door. KSL is not naming the teens at this time.

The pair was charged as juveniles in June with felony offenses, including aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and felony discharge of a firearm, in addition to several misdemeanor crimes.

The case against the other teen, a 17-year-old boy, still is pending. He is due in court Sept. 6.

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Prosecutors argued that in interviews with police, the teen described to officers how he carried out the robbery, instructing the clerk to destroy her own cellphone and having the foresight to dispose of the clothes he had worn during the spree. The interview demonstrated he is capable of making reasonable and strategic decisions, prosecutors said.

The boy is due back in court Sept. 27.

Opposing closure

As KSL has followed the case it has opposed efforts by defense attorneys to seal filings related to the 16-year-old.

In a hearing earlier this month, attorney David Reymann, representing the Deseret News and KSL, argued that while juvenile court records detailing competency findings do contain private information, not everything in those filings is confidential and so they could be dealt with in "a more tailored way" than sealing the record in its entirety.

After taking the matter under advisement, Eisenman said records detailing the court's competency findings in a previous case contained extensive private details about the teen's "social, emotional, psychological and mental health history" that warranted sealing it.

However, Eisenman concluded that as a "reasonable alternative," the outcome of the competency proceeding could be made available through a public minute entry in the case file.

"The court concludes that in cases such as this one, where the minor is over 14 and is charged with a felony, the public's interest in the outcome of a competency hearing outweighs the juvenile's privacy interest — but only insofar as the public has the right to know the outcome and the court's reasoning regarding competency," Eisenman wrote in her Aug. 20 decision.

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