DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler is considering charging the 16-year-old STEM School shooting suspect as an adult. He said he isn’t taking the decision lightly.
“There’s a bunch of factors. I want to consult with more of the victims,” he told FOX31 the day after the shooting.
Colorado law does allow for 16-year-olds to be charged as adults, but 14 factors have to be considered first, including the severity of the offense, the juvenile’s criminal history and the teenager’s home life.
“The Legislature has made it incredibly clear that it is a decision that can’t be made hastily or made impulsively,” explained Ann Roan, a defense attorney in Boulder.
Roan says she empathizes with the victims and their families and the pain they are now dealing with. However, she believes 16-year-olds should never be charged as adults because she argues the brains of teenagers are not fully developed.
“Juveniles are less blame worthy than adults because they have less capacity to act intentionally. They aren’t physically capable of assessing risk before they take an action. As adults, we’re more easily able to pump the brakes,” Roan said.
Full coverage of STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting
Roan’s claim is backed by science. Several studies show the human brain doesn’t stop maturing until a person is in their early to mid-20s.
Several states have already changed or are in the process of changing laws to reflect that science by raising the age at which teens can be charged as adults.
However, Colorado isn’t one of those states, and many legal experts say they won’t be surprised if the 16-year-old in this case is ultimately charged as an adult.
“Not at all surprised,” said Chris Decker, a Denver defense attorney. “The fact this was a public shooting in a school, apparently there were multiple shots discharged, it’s going to get a hard look from the district attorney.”
The other suspect in the case is 18 years old.
Both of the suspects are expected to be charged with 30 counts, including murder, during their next court appearance on Friday at 1:30 p.m.