A Tulsa County Special Judge has ruled that a teen accused of first-degree murder when he was only 14 should be prosecuted as a youthful offender rather than an adult. Joshua Scott Mooney, now 15, was an eighth grader when he allegedly shot and killed a woman who interrupted his burglary of her parents' home. He is charged with first degree murder and second degree burglary. Prosecutors believe Mooney should be tried as an adult and say they will appeal the judge's decision to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
Oklahoma Teen Facing Murder Charges
When a teen is accused of a crime there are three possible ways he or she may be prosecuted:
- as a juvenile
- as a youthful offender
- as an adult
If the minor is treated as a juvenile, he or she is not subject to a criminal trial; rather, the case is handled in juvenile court. For many families, one critical benefit of a case being handled by the juvenile justice system is that the records remain sealed. Being adjudicated delinquent is similar to being "found guilty," but it is not a criminal conviction. Juvenile records typically remain sealed, although they may be used in future court proceedings.
Older juveniles, those accused of serious offenses, and habitual offenders may be prosecuted as youthful offenders. According to the state Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Youthful Offender Act was created "to provide swift justice for serious and habitual juvenile offenders 15 through 17 years of age." According to the act, minors between the ages of 15-17 charged with specific crimes are youthful offenders:
- Second degree murder or first degree manslaughter
- First degree rape (or attempted), rape by instrumentation (or attempted), forcible sodomy, lewd molestation
- Armed robbery, first degree robbery, or attempted robbery
- Shooting with intent to kill or shooting from a vehicle
- Assault and battery with a deadly weapon
- First degree burglary (or attempted)
- Assault of a police officer or assault of a state employee while in the custody of the Office of Juvenile Affairs
- Drug trafficking or drug manufacturing
- Assault and battery with a deadly weapon or maiming
- Second degree burglary if a third burglary offense
- Second degree rape
- Use of a firearm in the commission of a felony
Defending Minors on Murder Charges
In first degree murder cases, 13 and 14 year olds may be tried as adults; however, they can be certified as youthful offenders and prosecuted as such under certain conditions. Teens aged 15, 16, and 17 are tried as adults in first degree murder cases, and they may not be certified as youthful offenders under the Youthful Offender Act or adjudicated delinquent under the Juvenile Code.
If your teen is facing criminal prosecution for murder, find a murder defense lawyer in Oklahoma that can help explain the laws as they relate to your child's case.