Caleb Sharpe turns 18 in October. But in July – 22 months after the then 15-year-old sophomore allegedly opened fire at Freeman High School – a court will decide whether he should be tried for murder as a juvenile or adult.
The final delay in the prolonged court proceeding was granted in December after prosecutors asked for more time as they await one last evaluation by Dr. Richard Adler, a defense-hired forensic psychiatrist. Superior Court Judge Michael Price allowed the request, but according to a Dec. 12 filing, ordered that “this will be the last continuance granted by the court.”
The holdup was just one of many. In the months since the Sept. 13, 2017, shooting that killed fellow classmate Sam Strahan and left three girls injured, the declination hearing has been pushed back several times, most recently in October of last year. Sharpe, 17, faces one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and 51 counts of second-degree assault relating to the other students in the hallway in danger of being shot.
Prosecutors originally argued that private defense attorney Bevan Maxey had not been timely in providing discovery reports by Adler after an evaluation was completed in April. However, after the defense provided the reports to the state in September to meet a court-ordered deadline, deputy prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald filed a motion requesting more time to review the reports and decide whether the state would need to hire an expert witness of its own.
Then in November, the state and defense agreed to allow Adler another opportunity to conduct a final evaluation, according to court records. In a motion filed Nov. 28, attorney Morgan Maxey, Bevan Maxey’s son, argued that Sharpe had begun taking new medication after the initial evaluation.
“It is a routine practice for medical professionals to re-evaluate clients/patients, especially when the issue is centered around mental health,” Maxey wrote. “An evaluation done in April of 2018 prior to Mr. Sharpe being prescribed medication by the Juvenile Detention Center would be different than an evaluation at (a) later date, wherein Mr. Sharpe is being prescribed medication.”
An expense report filed on Dec. 14 indicates Adler completed the final evaluation on Dec. 4.
A recent schedule of upcoming court dates ordered by Judge Price includes a Feb. 15 deadline for all defense discovery items to be provided to the state. By Feb. 28, the state is ordered to estimate the amount of time needed to prepare and provide the defense with discovery.
On May 1, the defense is ordered to provide all exhibits to the court, including information they intend to use from Adler. Then, on May 21, a final status hearing will be held in advance of the July 15 hearing, which is expected to last a week.
After the hearing, Sharpe’s case will either be moved to adult court or stay in juvenile court, depending on the outcome. If the latter proves true, prosecutors won’t have an option to push for a sentence of life without parole.
In a split Washington Supreme Court decision in October, judges ruled that such a sentence for someone tried as a juvenile automatically violates a provision in the state Constitution that bans cruel punishment.
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