A probable cause hearing in Butler County Juvenile Court for a Middletown teen charged with murder and a gang charge has been continued until August. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Judge continues hearing of Middletown teen charged with murder, but won’t let him out of detention

A 16-year-old boy is charged with murder and participating in a criminal gang in the shooting death of Joseph Davis, 17, near the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Garfield Street during the late night hours of May 29.

MORE: Suspect in Middletown fatal shooting has criminal past that includes gun charges

A probable cause hearing was scheduled for today before Butler County Juvenile Judge Kathleen Romans. But Romans granted a defense attorney’s request for a continuance and rescheduled the hearing for Aug. 10.

Because of the age of the suspect and the level of crime, the case is a mandatory bind over to adult court if probable cause is found, Romans said.

Defense attorney Dawn Garrett also filed a motion asking for the teen to be evaluated before the hearing occurs.

MORE: Consequences of teen’s split-second actions leave pain, questions

A probable cause hearing in Butler County Juvenile Court for a Middletown teen charged with murder and a gang charge has been continued until August. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

In the motion obtained by the Journal-News, Garrett said the evaluation is needed for two purposes.

“First, it is necessary to determine if the child is competent to aid in his defense and to participate in a probable cause hearing. If not, then per his constitutional rights, such hearing cannot proceed unless and until such time as the child is rendered competent,” Garrett said in the motion. “Second, it is necessary to determine if the child was competent to waive his Miranda rights when he was questioned without counsel, without (a) parent present and without parental consent.”

The attorney said the teen is “low functioning specifically with regard to reading, writing, comprehension and expression.” Thus, the teen did not comprehend he had the right to refuse questioning by police and he was not capable of giving an informed and voluntary waiver of Miranda rights, she said in the motion.

Romans pointed to the teen’s record in juvenile court, including charges of assault and carrying a concealed weapon when denying the request for an evaluation.

“I have never seen any indication he was incompetent,” Romans said, noting she had personally questioned the defendant in past cases when pleas were entered. “Everyone knows I won’t accept a plea from a child if I remotely suspect is unable to make that decision on his own. Based on what I have before me, my history with this young man and there has never been a request for competency in the past … I am without jurisdiction to order a competency evaluation.”

Garrett also requested her young client be released from the county Juvenile Detention Center, but Romans denied her request.

MORE: Teen arrested in gang-related fatal shooting

“I am going to deny the request for release. There are very serious charges pending before this court and I have an obligation to assure that you will be present for those proceedings, and my other concern is there is a high risk of flight in this case. I am very concerned about his dad and where he may be, if he is involved at all, I don’t know that, so I am going to deny that,” Roman said.

The teen’s mother was in the courtroom, but the whereabouts of his father is unknown after his release from prison.

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