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One of the teens charged with killing the Spanish language teacher at Fairfield High School last month is asking a judge to move his case to juvenile court, where he would face a lesser sentence if convicted.
Christine Branstad, the defense attorney for Willard Chaiden Miller, who is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, is asking the court for a reverse waiver — moving Miller’s case from adult court to juvenile court. She said because Miller is 16 years old, a transfer to juvenile court is appropriate according to Iowa law.
Branstad, in a request filed Wednesday, also cites Miller’s lack of criminal history as a reason for the court to consider the waiver. She also requests a report from Juvenile Court Services.
Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding, in his resistance to the waiver, said first-degree murder is a forcible felony and juveniles 16 years of age or older are excluded from the jurisdiction of juvenile court, unless good cause is shown.
Moulding said that because of the nature of the allegations, there are no “reasonable prospects for rehabilitating the child in the juvenile court system” before he turns 18 and ages out of it.
If a juvenile is found guilty of a serious offense in juvenile court, he or she typically is sent to a training school or another residential facility, and then released at age 18.
Moulding said the process and outcome of Miller going through juvenile court would be outside the interests of the system and the community. If Miller is processed under the juvenile system, the district court would lose jurisdiction over him at 18.
“The state believes there is no reasonable prospect of rehabilitating a premeditated murderer in less than 24 months,” Moulding stated.
The prosecution didn’t resist a report being ordered from a juvenile court officer on whether Miller should be transferred to juvenile court. A motion hearing hadn’t been set as of Thursday morning.
Jeremy Goodale, another 16-year-old also charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony in the teacher’s killing, hasn’t filed a similar document.
Eighth Judicial District Judge Joel Yates last week denied requests from both teens to lower their $1 million cash-only bail.
Goodale and Miller have each pleaded not guilty and their trials are set for April 19 in Jefferson County District Court. They may not be tried together, but neither of their attorneys have filed anything yet regarding severing their cases.
They are accused of scheming to kill Nohema Graber, 66, who had taught at Fairfield High since 2012. Authorities found her body Nov. 3 in Chautauqua City Park, just blocks east of the school, where she was known to go for walks.
According to court documents, the teens devised plans over social media exchanges to kill Graber, and then conceal her body in the park. Authorities wrote in court affidavits that the social media exchanges provide a motive for the killing, but they have not released that information to the public.
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