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Tried as a child or an adult? virginia decides


The topic of murder is never a light case, especially when that case involves an individual who is not yet considered an adult. Situations in which a juvenile is charged for murder inevitably muddy legal waters, especially since the verdict is ultimately up to each individual state. In Virginia, specific laws protect juveniles in these situations, yet simultaneously deal with murder fairly and meticulously.

Just weeks ago, Delmarva Now released details on the 2016 tragic Atlantic murder of a local, Nathanial Ayres, who was only nineteen; the jury convicted another teenager for the murder. Virginia courts found Zachary Townsend guilty of murder after the two had been arguing over drugs in the small town, after which Townsend shot the victim. Yet Townsend was still considered a juvenile when the murder occurred, so the court will ultimately decided his sentence. Although experts on the case have expressed doubt as to who, exactly, shot Ayres, Townsend currently awaits his sentence in jail. 

Cases such as the one shown in Delmarva Now news often raise more questions than answers. The Virginia Department of Education provides details from the Office of the Attorney General on laws regarding juvenile crimes, revealing that the state of Virginia considers a juvenile as a person less than 18 years of age. However, juveniles 14 years of age and older could be prosecuted as adults, depending on the type and severity of the crime. There are circumstances that Virginia considers when transferring juveniles for trial as adult; one of those transfers includes capital murder, first or second degree murder, lynching or aggravated malicious wounding. Another major facet of Virginia’s juveniles is that, if one charge is transferred, juveniles could face the transfer of all other charges related to the act. 

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