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Admitted Freeman school shooter has 'low risk for future dangerousness,' says defense expert

SPOKANE, Wash. - A judge will soon decide whether admitted Freeman High School shooter Caleb Sharpe will be charged as an adult. 

Sharpe’s declination hearing began Monday and continued Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and 51 counts of second-degree assault. If he is tried as a juvenile, he could spend a few years in jail. Otherwise, if he’s tried as an adult, he faces life in prison. 

The hearing has been pushed back multiple times since shortly after the shooting in 2017. Sharpe was 15 when he admitted to firing gunshots inside Freeman High School. 

RELATED: Defense: Issues at birth may have led to brain damage in Freeman school shooter

READ: Hearing to decide if Freeman HS shooting suspect will be tried as adult begins Monday

On Monday, Sharpe’s defense attorney Bevan Maxey argued a lack of oxygen at birth led to brain damage in his client, which played into the shooting. On Wednesday, the defense called Dr. Richard Adler, to testify on Sharpe’s neurodevelopment over the years. 

Adler is a board-certified psychiatrist who interviewed and tested Sharpe. In court, he said Sharpe has an extremely “low risk for future dangerousness” to the community. 

 

 

Throughout the declination hearing, the judge will consider eight Kent Factors, which are standards for determining whether to try someone as an adult. According to the Washington State Legislature, those factors are: 

  1. Seriousness – the seriousness of the alleged offense to the community and whether the protection of the community requires declination;
  2. Manner Committed – whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner;
  3. Persons or Property – whether the alleged offense was against persons or property, greater weight being given to offenses against persons, especially if personal injury results;
  4. Merits – the merit of the complaint (probable cause) 
  5. Adult Co-suspect – the desirability of trial and disposition of the entire offense in one court when the juvenile’s associates in the alleged offense are adults;
  6. Sophistication and Maturity – the sophistication and maturity of the juvenile as determined by consideration of his home, environmental situation, emotion attitude and pattern of living; 
  7. Offense History and Contacts – the record and previous history of the juvenile, including previous contacts with law enforcement agencies, juvenile courts, prior periods of probation, or prior commitments to juvenile institutions
  8. Prospect for Rehabilitation v. Protection – the prospects for adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the juvenile by the use of procedures, services and facilities currently available to the juvenile court (assuming he is found to have committed the alleged offense) 

Adler said the most important are sophistication and maturity, and rehabilitative potential. In court, Adler said Sharpe was unsophisticated and immature at the time of shooting, and his rehabilitative potential has improved. 

Adler showed Sharpe's brain scans in court and said the tests show his neurodevelopment is not normal compared to other people his age.

Adler recommended a juvenile justice facility would best serve Sharpe and the "strides he's made in treatment so far." After about five hours of questioning from the defense, Adler partially blamed the school counselors at Freeman for not responding well to the warning signs in Sharpe leading up to the shooting. 

At the end of the day, prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald introduced an email Adler sent to a colleague, saying Sharpe's brain scans were actually not abnormal. Adler said it was a typo. 

Adler has about an hour left on the stand with the defense Thursday. The third day of Sharpe's declination hearing will get under way at 9 a.m. Stay tuned to 4 News Now's Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.

 



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