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How juvenile court differs from adult court

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) -- People in Fort Wayne and beyond are outraged that the name of a 16-year-old boy has not been released after he was arrested in the December homicide of an 18-year-old young woman.

We take a look at why the boy's name hasn't been released yet, and why he will likely be automatically charged as an adult.

"There's been a continuing movement over the last 100-plus years to treat kids differently than adults. Kids are much more impulsive, they don't have the same grounding in understanding of the laws and behavior," Mike McAlexander says.

Allen County's chief deputy prosecutor McAlexander explains that the juvenile justice system works much differently than the one for adults.

"They get pretty involved into the examination of that child's history, both criminal, educationally, psychologically. So we're looking at a lot of different things before the decision is made to send them into the adult court," he says.

Under the law, the names of minors can't be released until they're formally charged, and the goal is to rehabilitate rather than punish.

"The overall concerns, both at the state anmd national level, have to do with not wanting to make a decision on a kid who is in the middle of their teenage years and put them in a position where they may be going to prison for the rest of their lives," McAlexander says.

The juvenile court system works much differently than the adult court system.

In the December homicide of 18-year-old Dominique Taylor, police say a 16-year-old boy is set to be charged with murder.

Under state law, that age paired with that level of crime automatically waives that defendant to adult court.

"I err on the side of protecting the community because they have shown bad acts. Let them prove later that maybe they deserve something better. But I think that the state has to take the approach that we are going to fully prosecute those few kids that meet these criteria to the fullest extent that we can," McAlexander says.

"A 16-year-old is not fully equipped to handle the adult system," Don Swanson says.

Criminal defense attorney Swanson is not connected to this case, but does represent minors in court and says a common defense strategy is to argue that minors' brains have not matured enough to fully understand what they've done as well as the consequences of the crime.

"I would emphasize the non-development of the child as opposed to an adult, and the inability to assimilate the seriousness of their actions," he says.

Fort Wayne police say they expect to make more arrests of juveniles and adults in the Taylor homicide as well as other recent crimes in the city.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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