14-year-old’s murder case accentuates inconsistent laws
The criminal prosecution of a young murder suspect could be public but, as strange as it sounds, if he was two or three years older those proceedings would be private.
DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The criminal prosecution of a young suspect could be public but, as strange as it sounds, if he was two or three years older those proceedings would be private.
Blame any injustice on a bizarre law that zipped through the Alabama Legislature almost unnoticed and even caught law enforcement off guard.
“There does seem to be a bit of a loophole,” Houston County Circuit Clerk Carla Woodall said.
The recent arrest of a Dothan 14-year-old accentuates the disparity.
Because he is less than 16, Vincent Lamar Oliver Jr. is charged in juvenile court with two counts of Capital Murder, accused of brutally shooting two women on November 20.
Related: Double murder suspect captured
His court proceedings would become public if Houston County Circuit Judge Butch Binford removes the confidentiality that hovers over Oliver’s cases.
“Once a judge certifies that a child be charged as an adult then (the cases would) be transferred to adult court,” Woodall told WTVY News 4.
While it’s not known if prosecutors will request Oliver’s case be public or whether Binford would approve such a request, one thing is for certain. And this is where things get peculiar—if Oliver was older a recently enacted Alabama law would keep his trial concealed without question.
The bill lawmakers passed in 2021 forbids public identities and photographs of 16 and 17-year-old suspects charged as adults. Only after conviction would that information be revealed.
“I don’t think the intent was there for it to be like this,” Woodall theorizes.
Several lawmakers said they barely noticed the measure after COVID ended the previous year’s session with unfinished business jamming the legislative process.
Law enforcement agencies continued to identify young suspects, claiming they had not been told of the new law, to which there are limited exceptions.
As for Woodall, she believes lawmakers could clear up the disparity when they return to Montgomery in March.
“Make (the law) the same for 14 and 15-year-olds as it is for 16 and 17-year-olds,” she said.
Subscribe to our News 4 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning. Get instant notifications on top stories from News 4 by downloading our mobile apps.
Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.