SPOKANE, Wash. - Judge Michael Price will decide Tuesday afternoon whether admitted Freeman school shooter Caleb Sharpe will be tried as an adult.
Closing arguments in Sharpe's declination hearing took place Monday. If Sharpe is tried as a juvenile, he could spend a few years in jail until he turns 21. Otherwise, if he is tried as an adult, he faces life in prison.
The declination hearing has been pushed back multiple times since shortly after the shooting in 2017, when Sharpe was 15, then admitted to shooting and killing sophomore Sam Strahan and injuring three freshman girls. Now 17, Sharpe will soon learn his fate in court.
Judge Price is considering eight Kent Factors as he makes his decision. Those are standards for determining whether to try someone as an adult. They include:
- Seriousness of the charged offense
- Whether the offense was committed in an aggressive, violent or willful manner
- Whether the offense was against persons or property
- The prosecutive merit of the case
- If there were any adult accomplices
- The defendant's sophistication and maturity
- The defendant's prior record
- The defendant's prospect for rehabilitation
On Monday, Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell ran through the Kent Factors as part of his closing statement.
"His intent was mass casualties. The lethality of an AR-15 with 30 rounds in it, as the testimony by Det. Drapo indicated, would've cut through people. Even a single bullet can go through more than one person," Haskell said. "The hallway had 50 or so people in it. With 30 rounds from that weapon, it could've downed every one of them."
"It was a miracle that the gun jammed and he didn't feel he either had the time or the expertise to know how to clear that jam and he resorted to the backup weapon," Haskell said.
Even so, Haskell said countless lives were shattered that morning.
"Few crimes would be planned by adults any better than Caleb Sharpe planned this one," he said. "It took a part of their innocence, their sense of safety and security and ripped at the souls of all."
Over the last week, Sharpe’s defense argued he suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen at birth. The defense questioned both a neuropsychologist and neuropsychiatrist, who said they tested Sharpe and found he has a low risk for “future dangerousness.” The defense also argued Sharpe was immature and could not understand what his thoughts were telling him.
Haskell said, despite the argument he was immature at the time of the shooting, Sharpe knew right from wrong.
Sharpe's defense attorney Bevan Maxey argued the juvenile brain is not fully developed, meaning maturity and personality are not completely formed yet. Maxey said Sharpe's brain was developing at an even slower pace than normal.
"It is appropriate in making your decision to consider the lack of brain development -- to consider any limitations on the brain functioning, the damage to the brain, that this individual, Caleb Sharpe, may have had," Maxey argued. "He was significantly less sophisticated and mature than the average 15 year old."
Maxey did not argue Haskell's stance on several of the Kent Factors.
"I do not even have standing to even stand here and speak about the pain that Ms. Strahan or the other parents whose children have been impacted, have had in this particular case," Maxey said. "I think it's been abundantly clear throughout these proceedings, this week-long proceeding, that this room is full of sadness -- and that includes the Sharpe's, Mr. and Mrs. Sharpe. And whether anyone wants to accept it or not, it includes Caleb Sharpe."
He also touched on what defense experts said, arguing there is a chance for rehabilitation since Sharpe has responded well to treatment in the form of medication and therapy. He mentioned the school administration never had any issues with Sharpe.
Maxey told the judge the facility Sharpe has been held in for the last two years is designed to rehabilitate juveniles. He believes if Sharpe were placed in an adult facility, the strides he has made would come undone.
"Juvenile court is designed for juveniles to provide rehabilitation, to assist, to help them, instead of simply putting them in a situation where they are housed in adult prisons, exposed to the influences that, most likely, will create the type of people that are exactly what we are hoping to avoid," Maxey said.
Haskell argued releasing Sharpe from jail in a few years would do both the community and Sharpe a disservice.
"The prospect of the respondent being released into the community in three more years, without treatment, structure, supervision or monitoring is rife with risk to everyone," Haskell said. "Including the respondent himself."
Judge Price announced he would make his ruling Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
"I intend to give this a great deal of consideration," Price said. "That said, it's all I've been doing for the last week -- all day and most of my evenings."
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