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Request to transfer Hudson suspect to juvenile court takes full day in courtroom

Aug 16, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

A request from the youngest defendant in the Hudson double homicide prosecution to transfer the case to juvenile court has been taken under advisement after a full day of court proceedings.

In an e-mail Thursday morning, Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn said District Court Judge Marvin Tyler authorized further closing arguments and briefs from the defense and prosecution following Wednesday's all-day court proceedings.

Varn said a decision to transfer the charges against Riverton teen Jude Blackburn will likely be made in two weeks.

Wednesday's transfer request by Blackburn's attorneys was heard in Lander's 9th District Court behind closed doors. Although it was expected to conclude at 3:30 p.m., court personnel said proceedings did not wrap up until after 5 p.m.

About a half-dozen of Blackburn's family waited outside the courtroom Wednesday morning before a sheriff's deputy advised them the judge had closed proceedings to the public, with the exception of a few immediate relatives.

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker said additional security was on hand at the court given the nature of the case.

"We felt it was needed because of the complexity of the case and relationships between the victims and suspects," he said Thursday morning. "Any time we have a case with possible security issues, we try to be pretty proactive."

Some of the security personnel were from Natrona County Regional Detention Center, which is where Blackburn is being housed because the local detention center does not hold juvenile offenders.

In April, Blackburn's attorneys, Jamie M. Woolsey of Casper and Robert L. Stepans of Jackson, filed two motions on behalf of Blackburn asking a judge to transfer proceedings to juvenile court and to hold a private hearing to review the request.

Blackburn is charged as an adult for the Nov. 15 killings of Eric Clinton Likes, 42, and his girlfriend, Elva Charlotte Quiver, 20. He was 15 years old when he was arrested in March for the crimes.

Varn, in an e-mail on Wednesday, said he believed the transfer request is being treated as if it were a juvenile matter. Varn said juvenile records will be part of the record, so the decision to close the hearing prevents disclosure of documents that should not be public.

"Once the decision is rendered, that is, whether it will remain in adult court, then the court will have protected the juvenile records, and the remainder of the murder case information will be available to the public record," Varn said.

"Can't say that I agree, but our focus was on keeping him in adult court, and chasing the forum was secondary," he added.

Blackburn is one of five co-defendants in the alleged double murder and subsequent robbery and arson at the couple's home in Hudson last November.

Specifically, Blackburn faces a count of first-degree arson and two counts each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

Charges against Blackburn were bound over to Lander District Court during a preliminary hearing in March. During the hearing, prosecutors alleged that Blackburn smashed Likes in the head twice with a dresser drawer, as the Hudson man, already stabbed multiple times, lay in his hallway making gurgling sounds.

In their motion, Woolsey and Stepans cite Blackburn's age as one of the reasons for the requested transfer.

They also assert there to be a "reasonable likelihood" Blackburn could be rehabilitated by use of procedures, services and facilities that are only available to juvenile court.

According to the motion to exclude the public from witnessing the hearing on transferring the case to juvenile court, Woolsey and Stepans also requested an order sealing any pleadings, orders, records, transcripts or other evidence present at the hearing.

"The general public is to be excluded from hearings under the Juvenile Justice Act," the motion stated. "To this end, this statute limits the attendance at hearings under the Act to the parties, counsel for the parties, witnesses, jurors, victims and members of their immediate families, and other persons the court finds having a proper interest in the proceedings."

Woolsey and Stepans believe the exclusion would be in "recognition of the sensitive nature of issues" brought before the court and would protect their client's best interests.

The two are asking the court to consider their client's maturity, home life, environmental situation, emotional attitude, education and juvenile records.

District Court Judge Norman E. Young granted a continuance for Blackburn's arraignment, which was scheduled for May 10, until a decision is rendered on the motion to transfer the case to juvenile court.

Young also ordered Judge Tyler to preside over and determine the motion to transfer.

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