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Ax killing suspect’s case moved from juvenile to adult court

March 5, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota teenager accused in a fatal ax attack and other violent assaults will be tried in adult court, where he could face a significantly longer sentence.

Emery Arapahoe III, now 18 years old, was initially charged as a juvenile with second-degree murder and other charges, the Rapid City Journal reported.

His case was moved to adult court during a hearing Monday.

Arapahoe, of Pine Ridge, is accused of attacking two people and killing a third during three separate incidents in 2017.

His attorney noted Monday that Arapahoe was 16 and 17 at the time. But Megan Poppen, assistant U.S. attorney, said the “nature of the charges” warranted moving the cases to adult court.

If convicted as an adult, Arapahoe could be sentenced to life in prison.

Neil Fulton, federal public defender for South Dakota, said throughout the 8th Circuit — which includes South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas — murder sentences average from 20-25 years in prison. Juvenile court allows defendants to be imprisoned until ages 21 or 26, depending on their age at the time they committed the crime, Fulton noted.

Prior to Arapahoe pleading not guilty to all counts, Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollman read him his rights, which have one crucial difference compared to juvenile court. Arapahoe’s guilt or innocence in juvenile court would have been decided by a judge, not a jury, Poppen said.

Since he’s in adult court, Arapahoe has the right to be tried by a 12-person jury that can only convict him on a unanimous vote. He could also be asked to be tried by a judge, but the judge and U.S. attorney’s office would have to consent to that.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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