Appeals court affirms decision to try Riverton teenager as an adult in murder charge
A Minnesota Court of Appeals judge recently affirmed the decision to try a Riverton teenager as an adult for the murder of his father.
The teenager’s attorney sought to have that decision reconsidered, saying the district court abused its discretion by certifying the boy as an adult. Karsen Bryce King was 15 when he was charged with second-degree intentional murder of his father about a year ago. According to court documents, six days after the district court’s decision to try him as an adult, Karsen King told his defense team he was sexually abused by his father. That sexual abuse was not brought up during sessions with the teenager in the aftermath of the shooting that killed his 57-year-old father.
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan filed the motion for Karsen King to be certified as an adult and for his detention to be maintained in an adult facility. In January, the district court certified Karsen King to stand trial as an adult and later that same month the district court denied Karsen King’s attorney’s motion to reconsider that decision. Now the court of appeals has backed the district court’s decision to try the juvenile as an adult.
According to the court documents, on the night of Sept. 15, 2011, Karsen King picked up a shotgun and walked into his father’s bedroom at their Riverton home and twice shot his father, Stanley King, killing him. When Karsen King turned the gun on his mother, she pleaded with him not to shoot her and eventually talked the teenager into putting the shotgun in the trunk of her car. She then drove the teenager to a gas station and left him. He was arrested a short time later.
The appeals court noted the shooting followed a series of arguments between the teenager and his father and, on the night of the murder, the argument included whether Karsen King could visit his girlfriend, whose responsibility it was to feed the family dogs and whether the teenager could use his father’s tools.
The court noted they also argued about an incident where the father slapped the teenager in the face.
During the certification hearing to determine if Karsen King should be tried as an adult, the state called Brain Loch, a Crow Wing County Community Corrections probation officer; and Frank Weber, a licensed psychologist. Loch testified that prior to the shooting the teenager was charged for third-degree burglary and disorderly conduct and was showing an escalating pattern in his delinquent behavior. Karsen King was attending alternative school and Loch said he was making insufficient progress on three out of four goals in his education plan. Weber stated the teenager was “physically abuses multiple times per month over several years” but “denied ever being the victim of sexual abuse.”
Weber determined Karsen King is “likely to have difficulty taking responsibility for his behaviors ... is likely to view therapy as a threat” and “lacks appropriate remorse for his behavior.” Weber stated Karsen King lacked an “understanding of the severity of his actions” believing an appropriate consequence would be house arrest or a 90-day detention program. Weber reported he believed the teenager poses a high risk for future violence the juvenile justice system couldn’t adequately address.
James Gilbertson, a licensed psychologist who interviewed Karsen King, said the teenager told him he had been “pushed around” by his father and that he believed this constituted physical abuse and that his father hit him in the face on two occasions and called him names. The face slapping and name calling was confirmed by a grandmother, Gilbertson reported, but any history of sexual abuse was denied. Gilbertson described Karsen King as having a “reactive,” “knee-jerk” and “explosive” form of anger and said he believed the teenager posed a moderate to high risk of violent reoffense. Gilbertson said he thought an extended juvenile program treating Karsen King until his 21st birthday could adequately protect the public, and punish and rehabilitate the teenager. An adult prison could be imposed, Gilbertson said, if the teenager was still a threat at age 21. As an adult, Karsen King could face 306 months in prison.
Karsen King’s attorney asserted his client would testify that the sexual abuse began prior to his 8th birthday and included rape by his father, which occurred every week in the year before the shooting. His attorney said an expert could testify that the information wasn’t disclosed earlier because of shame and a “twisted” sense of devotion to his father.
The district court found the defense’s claim of sexual abuse did not constitute new evidence as it was known to the teenager before the certification hearing and even if it was proven true it was not sufficient to warrant a modification in the previous court order.
In its decision, the court of appeals stated a child 14 and older may be prosecuted as an adult if the district court finds there is a clear and convincing evidence retaining the proceeding in juvenile court doesn’t serve public safety. To certify a juvenile for adult prosecution, the district court considers six factors: the seriousness of the offense, including use of a firearm and victim impact; the culpability of the child in planning and carrying out of the offense as well as mitigating factors; the child’s prior record of delinquency; the child’s programming history and willingness to participate meaningfully in that programming; the adequacy of punishment and programming in the juvenile justice system; and placement options for the child.
The appeals court ruled there few offenses more serious than that which the teenager is charged with — shooting and killing his father while his father was lying in bed. Sentencing guidelines do not recognize physical or emotional abuse as mitigating factors, the court reported. The court ruled the record found no evidence Karsen King killed his father because of the ongoing abuse or his own history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
According to the court record, all parties recognized Karsen King suffered emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of his father and there were some physical altercations between father and son, but the appeals court found the district court didn’t err in finding for adult prosecution. The district court did not find the prior delinquent record was extensive and noted previous offenses were not violent in nature.
“The district court did not err in ruling that (King’s) recollections of sexual abuse are not newly discovered evidence because they were known to him prior to his certification hearing,” the appeals court ruled. Evidence of sexual abuse as claimed by King, the appeals court found, would not have changed the district court’s analysis.