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Kansas teens among defendants charged with murder

The word "adult" carries a lot of weight in a Kansas criminal court. Juveniles may be charged or penalized differently for the same offense than defendants 18 or older, but legal breaks for minors aren't automatic. Depending upon circumstances, even being a juvenile cannot shield you from being tried as an adult.

Three of four adult men facing murder charges in Saline County are teens. The men, ages 18 to 22, are accused of killing a female teen and trying to murder her boyfriend. Prosecutors claim the oldest defendant shot into a pickup truck the boyfriend was driving on May 6 and killed his 17-year-old girlfriend, a passenger.

Authorities said the shooter believed the truck belonged to someone else. The victim apparently was supposed to be a person the defendant fought with earlier the same day.

A fifth male, just one year younger than two of his adult co-defendants, appeared in juvenile court charged with the same felonies and obstruction of official duty. No decisions have been made about whether the juvenile's case should be bumped up to an adult court.

Prosecutors say the defendants are guilty of first-degree murder or, alternately, felony murder. Additional charges include attempted murder of the pickup truck driver, shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated battery conspiracy. First-degree murder is punishable by life imprisonment with at least 50 years served; penalties for felony murder include life with 25 years served.

The adult defendants are jailed on $1 million bond. A follow-up story in the Saline Journal stated the men's preliminary hearing is set for July. The girlfriend of the alleged shooter, a 21-year-old woman who reportedly hid the murder weapon, faces obstruction charges.

No defendant is without rights, whatever the allegations are in the case. The skills of a criminal defense attorney are best put to use when a defendant makes contact as quickly as possible following an arrest.

Source: Salina Journal, "Men accused of Saum murder make first court appearance," Erin Mathews, May. 12, 2015

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