Teen who set fire that killed mom headed to adult court - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Teen who set fire that killed mom headed to adult court

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In June Special Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael ruled 14-year-old Jonathan Ray, accused of killing his mother in a house fire in April, should stand trial as an adult.

But attorneys for the teen were hoping the judge would kick the case back to juvenile court based on errors made in the first one. Judge Michael threw out the teen's confession because Jonathan was not properly read his Miranda Rights.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Lammey's judicial plate has been pretty full within the past 24 hours. After presiding over an another appearance by the verbose sovereign citizen Tabitha Gentry, mid-week found him listening to arguments over the fate of the 14-year-old alleged murderer.

It should be among the top 10 things to remember in any court proceeding. No judge, least of all Judge Lammey, is anxious nor inclined to second guess another jurist's decision. If pressed it can only lead to the kind of uphill fight attorneys for Ray faced in trying to get Judge Lammey to upend Judge Michael's decision that the teen should be tried as an adult in the alleged murder of his mother Gwendolyn Wallace at their home in April.

So, why not start with some reverse psychology?

"This is not an appeal your honor," said Rob Gowan, capital offense public defender, during Wednesday's transfer hearing. "We're not asking you to 'second guess' decisions made by the juvenile court. We're arguing, we're alleging that Jonathan Ray was essentially denied his day in court."

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Gowan asserted Ray's June transfer hearing before Judge Michael was filled with errors from impermissible evidence, to inadequate time for the defense to mount a case, to refusing to consider Ray's possible rehabilitation in the juvenile system. In support of his argument, he read a statement from the court record made by Judge Michael during the hearing.

"We can't wait six months to a year to determine whether he can be rehabilitated or fix him," Gowan said. "We need to know now."

Gowan echoed the theme Ray was deprived of a meaningful hearing in asking Judge Lammey to kick the case back to juvenile court. Prosecutors rebutted the argument saying Ray's treatment by the Judge Michael was fair.

"He has not shown that the juvenile court judge exceeded his authority, that he acted illegally or that he was denied his day in court," said Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Glen Beattie.

But, from the start Judge Lammey was hesitant to overstep his judicial boundaries.

"The only thing I can do is to either accept a guilty plea," the county criminal court judge said. "Certify the question or allow him to go to trial. Now he has the right to be presented to the grand jury, where they can deny that there's probable cause. Then he has a right to a jury trial, where they would ... he has all these rights. I don't see where his rights have been violated at all."

An expressionless Ray took it all in. Even at a young age, knowing his journey down the long and winding road of the criminal justice system was just beginning for him as an adult.

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