MADISON (WKOW) -- A court ruling in Rock County puts juvenile court in the spotlight, and raises several questions about its role in the justice system.
14-year-old Ashlee Brown was originally charged with first-degree murder as an adult. She admitted to providing prescription drugs to an Edgerton student who died following an overdose last month.
In this case, the district attorney and public defender both agreed Brown should be treated as a minor and waived the matter to juvenile court.
In court, Thursday, Judge Alan Bates focused on what he referred to as Brown's troubled past. She's appeared in court nine times in her short life. Bates sited a lengthy list of drug abuse and called her attitude "terrible."
Given all of that, some would say Brown got off easy. Instead of confinement her punishment focuses on rehabilitation.
"If she could do things differently she would," says Rock County Public Defender Kelly Mattingly.
Mattingly and Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary looked at the protocol for moving a case out of adult court. State law requires at least one of the following: adequate treatment is not available in the criminal justice system; a transfer does not depreciate the seriousness of the offense; and/or is not necessary to keep other children from committing the same offense.
"The message this sends is that when they (young people) engage in this type of activity there is serious consequences." adds Mattingly.
Brown will spend up to three years at a girls correctional site in Racine County. She will be on supervision for two additional years. It's part of Wisconsin's Serious Juvenile Offender Program or SJOP.
"Thankfully it's fairly rare for people to go into this program," says O'Leary. "It's only for the most serious offenses."
Crimes like armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, murder and sexual assault.
O'Leary says it's up to corrections officials to decide when a serious juvenile offender is released.
"Of those who have gone through (it), just like in the adult system there's no guarantees that someone will turn their life around," O'Leary concludes.
In adult court, Brown faced a maximum 40-year prison sentence if convicted.
Last year, 44 young people were sentenced to the Serious Juvenile Offender Program.
For more statistics about Wisconsin's juvenile court system click here.
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