Archive for Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Teen to have rare juvenile jury trial

December 21, 2005

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— A judge is allowing a Topeka teenager accused of stabbing his stepfather to have a rare jury trial in juvenile court.

James Raymond Roberts-Watkins, 15, faces a charge of voluntary manslaughter for the death in July of Konard Miller, 50, in a southeast Topeka town home. His trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.

District Judge Frank Yeoman granted a request Monday from Roberts-Watkins' attorney for a jury trial, following a district court policy of allowing such trials when juvenile offenders' cases involve killings.

But such requests are unusual. Yeoman said that he couldn't recall having a single juvenile jury trial in 16 years on the bench. District Judge Daniel Mitchell, who's handled juvenile cases for 20 years, said he could remember only one.

Typically, judges decide whether a juvenile is guilty, and offenders don't have jury trials unless they're tried as adults.

Roberts-Watkins was 14 when his stepfather was killed. During a hearing Monday before Yeoman, two police officers testified that the boy told them he'd stabbed Miller during an argument. Miller later died at a hospital.

A third officer testified that he advised the boy of his rights to remain silent and to speak to police only with an attorney present. But psychiatrist Gilbert Parks, who examined Roberts-Watkins, testified that the boy suffered from acute stress and didn't understand the officer's statements.

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