Attorney General Janet Reno confirmed Thursday that the Justice Department is trying to find a way around an Arkansas law that prohibits the two young suspects in the Jonesboro school slayings from being tried as adults.
If tried as juveniles, the suspects - one 13, the other 11 - could be held until they are 21, at which time they would be set free. Juveniles convicted under state law commonly are released at 18.
Five people, including four students, were killed and 10 others were wounded in Tuesday’s shootings in Jonesboro.
Reno said the issues being reviewed include whether the boys could be tried as adults under federal law and whether they could be held longer if convicted of federal charges.
“At this point, with respect to both, they could be charged under certain federal crimes as juveniles,” Reno said. “The question remains about how long the jurisdiction might be continued and whether they could be charged as adults.”
A Reno aide said later that the 13-year-old could likely be charged as an adult under federal law, but it would depend “on a number of circumstances involved in the case.” He said it was unlikely, though, that any federal laws would allow the 11-year-old to be charged as an adult.
Reno said the fatal shootings - along with similar recent incidents in Paducah, Ky., and Pearl, Miss. - will become part of a working group from the departments of Justice and Education that plans to “craft appropriate legislation or appropriate initiatives.”
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