AP NEWS

Teen can withdraw plea in retired police sergeant’s killing

December 24, 2019 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge has ruled that a St. Louis teenager can withdraw his guilty plea in the shooting death of a retired St. Louis police sergeant.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Monday’s decision means that 17-year-old Jalynn Garner can change his plea to not guilty and move forward with a trial. He faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder in the October 2018 robbery and shooting of Sgt. Ralph Harper.

His attorneys said the teen, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, was under pressure to meet a deadline to be eligible for a juvenile rehabilitation program when he entered the guilty plea. But Garner later was told he wasn’t eligible for the program. That meant he faced a sentence of life with parole, or 30 to 40 years.

Harper was getting ready to babysit for relatives when Garner and his then-15-year-old friend, Justin Mathews, encountered him as he was parking. During a robbery attempt, Garner and Harper shot at and hit each other, with Garner sustaining a wrist wound, authorities said. Harper, who retired from the police department in 2007, was killed.

Officials said Mathews was the driver and gave Garner a gun. Both teens were certified to stand trial as adults.