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Miguel Ita stabbing: DA frustrated by new rules for charging fifteen year olds as adults

miguel.angel.ita.crime.scene.205x205.jpg
Photos, video below.
Last week, we told you about the decision of the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office to name Miguel Angel Ita, fifteen, as the prosecutorial target in a fatal Lakewood stabbing and begin the procedure to try him as an adult.

That process has changed, and not for the better in the view of Jeffco DA Pete Weir. He laments the inability to use a method called "direct file" to simply move Ita's case directly to adult court. Get details and see photos and a video below.

The homicide victim was Jose Barrera-Mendoza, 22, and as we've reported, he narrowly evaded death once before -- in December 2009, when he was eighteen. According to KOAA-TV, Andrea Hernandez-Almanza was behind the wheel of a Ford pickup when the vehicle crashed on Interstate 25 south of Fountain. Hernandez-Almanza is said to have veered onto the right shoulder of the roadway, then over-corrected, causing the vehicle to flip. Abelardo Mendoza-Garcia, 46, was killed in the crash, while the other occupants survived, but barely; Barrera-Mendoza, along with Mendoza-Garcia and an unnamed twelve year old, were ejected. No one was wearing seat belts.

Jose Barrera Mendoza 2009 accident.jpg
The 2009 accident scene, courtesy of KOAA-TV.
Barrera-Mendoza would not cheat the odds during the wee hours of April 21. At approximately 1:50 a.m., the Lakewood Police Department received a disturbance report that brought officers to the parking lot of an apartment complex at 285 South Jay Street.

Upon their arrival, they discovered three stabbing victims. One of the trio is said to have suffered relatively minor injuries, but the other pair were transported to a local hospital, where a man later identified as Barrera-Mendoza was pronounced dead.

Before long, a juvenile male was taken into custody -- and Weir's office has identified him as Ita. "The statute specifically provides that we are authorized to release the name of a juvenile charged with a Class 1 through Class 4 felony," Weir says. "Sometimes we do it because of the magnitude of the crime. We believe in protecting the rights of all defendants, particularly juveniles, but we also believe in the transparency of the system and the right of the public to know."

miguel.angel.ita.crime.scene.3.jpg
The apartment complex near where the fatal stabbing took place.
During a hearing last week, Ita was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault, plus five violent-crime-related offenses and eight aggravated-juvenile-offender beefs. The total: eighteen.

This matter took place in juvenile court. But Weir has filed a motion requesting a transfer hearing, so that Ita can be charged as an adult.

Such a hearing wouldn't have been necessary under the previous version of a law known as "direct file." As our Alan Prendergast has reported, Colorado was one of just four states where prosecutors had discretion to prosecute offenders in the fourteen-to-seventeen age range in adult court without a judicial hearing on the issue. But those laws have changed, with the Ita case one of the first examples of how. Weir explains.

"There was quite a lot of debate during the last legislative session about a juvenile file bill called 12-1271," he says; we've included the document below. "It was a frankly philosophical separation-of-powers debate that restricted the ability of district attorneys to make decisions with respect to when a juvenile should be treated as an adult -- and one of the most significant aspects of it was a component that raised the age with which we could direct file to sixteen."

For those under age sixteen, like Ita, "the statute provides for a transfer hearing," Weir goes on. "If we choose to charge a juvenile as an adult, we have to justify it before a judge, who may say, 'The district attorney may proceed,' or 'No, I'm remanding this to juvenile court.'"

Critics of direct file feel this extra step is necessary because some DAs are too eager to charge juveniles as adults.

Continue for more about the Miguel Ita case and direct file, including photos and documents.



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15 comments
tearflowerashley
tearflowerashley

This DA has no clue what he's doing. I know Miguel personally, and as a member of his family I can testify he is not a threat the way he is being made to look. He should by all meand be held accountable for his decisions but taking all factors into consideration, trying him as an adult is really pushing it. He came from an extremely difficult background with little guidance. Maybe a few years in prison will turn him around. But releasing him at age 50 or when he's older is a terribly high price to pay. Is this DA even taking into consideration why he did what he did? Self defense? I don't know all the details of the case but I do know trying him as an adult was a rushed and rash decision. Why doesn't anyone report all the details? This all points to carelessness in the case, where rather than seek to help him and serve justice the DA is seeking punishment.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

If some juveniles are to be charged and held accountable as "adults" ... then an equal number of adults should be charged and prosecuted at juveniles.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Do you recall the old man w/ the bird in 'Shaw Shank Redemption' & how it ended for him ?

Previously the  law 'protecting' the rights of the child were 'Life WITH Parole' .

I believe 15yrs IS pushing the envelope . He'll get out when he's 55, unless the 'Rapture' comes first .

Released at 25, the alternative, is far more appropriate .

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

All this comes AFTER 'Satan', ( i.e. Carole Chambers ), is no longer in office !.....

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

It's about damn time ! It SHOULD be up to a JUDGE and NOT a D.A. to determine the waiver of jurisdiction from juvenile to the adult courts, following a hearing . The D.A.'s ALREADY don't play fair & a decision of this magnitude NEEDS to be presented before the court .

It's kinda like going to war w/o the permission of the Congress ....

Steve At Work
Steve At Work

Think about it. Do you really trust the DAs to always exercise good judgement. It's hard to do that when you're collecting notches in your belt from convictions, the only thing that really matters to most of today's prosecutors. Justice be damned, let's get a conviction.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Minors are NOT Adults ... ipso facto.

Tracy Daigle Tabone
Tracy Daigle Tabone

Depending on the situation - Yes! "During a hearing last week, Ita was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault, plus five violent-crime-related offenses and eight aggravated-juvenile-offender beefs. The total: eighteen." Eighteen offenses!? Aww hell yeah! If a judge decides to not try him as an adult he'll be free in a few years! I sure as hell wouldn't take the chance!

Matt Jurcin
Matt Jurcin

No. A minor is a minor. If we treat them as minors with Alcohol, the Military, etc...how is this any different? Locking children with mental health issues doesn't help anyone, esp the child.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Juan_Leg ... it should be up to NO ONE. 

If a given age is too immature to have LEGAL STATUS as an Adult for Rights and Privileges  then they are -- ipso facto -- too immature to be held to Adult standards of conduct and responsibility regarding their criminal transgressions.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Tracy Daigle Tabone  ... perhaps you'd be happier living in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Tracy Daigle Tabone Thanks for weighing in, Tracy. Much appreciated.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Matt Jurcin Appreciate the post, Matt. Thanks.

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