HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Limestone County officials said Tuesday the 14-year-old boy charged with the murder of five family members, including three young children, could face murder charges as an adult.
"The first and most obvious thing you look at is the nature of the charge, and really how it came about. something like that," said Tim Gann, chief trial attorney for the Madison County District Attorney's office. "You've got to look at all those factors and you really have to look at the maturity level of the 14-year-old."
The teen, who has not been named publicly by the Limestone County Sheriff's Office, has been charged as a juvenile with five counts of murder. The victims include his father, John Wayne Sisk; his stepmother, Mary Sisk, and three siblings, including a six-month old boy.
For the case to be transferred to state court with related more serious punishments, the Limestone County District Attorney's Office would have to petition a juvenile court judge to approve the transfer. Killing two or more people is a capital offense in Alabama, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty cannot be applied to a defendant under 18 at the time of the offense. A conviction for capital murder carries a death sentence, or life in prison without parole.
"You can charge juveniles directly, but they have to be 16 years old, if they've committed a murder or capital murder," Gann said. "But if they're less than 16, then you have to go through the transfer process, and that is through the juvenile court system."
Gann said the the court considers a number of factors, including the nature of the crime, any prior criminal history and the teen's maturity and mental health. Gann expects the teen's lawyers will push hard on that issue
"Mental health, mental stability, those issues, and I think that's the first place they're going to go," he said.
Gann prosecuted Hammad Memon, who was 14 when he killed a classmate in 2010 at Discovery Middle School in Madison.
"The Hammad Memon case, we had a transfer hearing and that was the main issue that we had to fight out in front of a district court judge," Gann said. "Whether or not he was even sane or not. I think that is typical with any case, but especially one with a 14-year-old. I think mental health is really the number one issue."
The court ultimately agreed to move Memon's case to Madison County district, and ultimately circuit court. He pleaded guilty to murder in 2013, and at 18, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
"Once they are adjudicated as an adult, they're treated as an adult for the rest of their life," Gann said.