District Judge David Stutzman ruled Thursday that Cole Drake, 15, will be tried as an adult for the April 2011 shooting death of Tyler Dowling, a 14-year-old Manhattan High School freshman.
In his 14-page decision, Stutzman wrote that the seriousness and nature of the alleged crimes and the manner of commission are the dominant factors in the case.
“The evidence described a calculated killing of a friend, to demonstrate toughness and to impress another whom the Juvenile considered a closer friend,” Stutzman wrote. His reference was to video evidence, shown by the state during Drake’s two-day hearing, of Drake confessing to RCPD detectives that he shot Dowling in the back of his head and his back in a field near Eisenhower Middle School on Apr. 13, 2011.
In the video, Drake told detectives that he shot Dowling to impress a friend, referred to as “DD,” who had allegedly been in a fight with Dowling.
In the two-day hearing to determine whether Drake would be tried as an adult, Brenda Jordan, Drake’s attorney, argued that Drake should be kept under juvenile jurisdiction so that he could receive structure, which she said he never had in his home life, and a chance at rehabilitation.
Stephen Peterson, a psychiatrist who evaluated Drake, testified that the defendant was not psychologically sophisticated and would be amenable to treatment since, among other things, he showed remorse for his alleged crimes.
However, in his decision, Stutzman wrote that Drake “pursued activities and made choices that were inconsistent with most age peers.” He wrote that few adolescents who engage in the same activities as Drake, which included alleged underage drinking, drug use and sexual activity, and few adolescents who come from imperfect homes make the same decisions and act on the thought processes that led to Drake’s charges.
Stutzman wrote that the court is not persuaded rehabilitation would necessarily, or even likely, be accomplished by the time juvenile jurisdiction would expire. As noted in the hearing, Drake could only be under juvenile jurisdiction until age 23.
In the state’s motion to authorize prosecution as an adult, County Attorney Barry Wilkerson wrote that Drake is charged with committing premeditated, first-degree murder and that prosecution as an adult would better serve the interest of the community. First degree murder committed by an adult carries a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years before parole eligibility.
Under Kansas law, juveniles between 14 and 17 years of age can be prosecuted as adults if the court finds that eight factors are satisfactorily met.
The eight factors are: the seriousness of the offense and regard to the protection of the community; whether the offense was aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful; whether the offense was against a person or property; the number of offenses unadjudicated or pending against the juvenile; their history; their sophistication or maturity; whether treatment programs are likely to rehabilitate before juvenile jurisdiction would expire; and, whether interests of the juvenile or of the community are better served by criminal prosecution or extended juvenile jurisdiction.
Wilkerson, who did not comment specifically on the Drake case, said there are times when prosecuting a juvenile as an adult is warranted. He said it is a public safety issue, not a rehabilitation issue, and that you are not going to put someone in the adult prison system versus the juvenile system because you think they’ll be more likely to be rehabilitated in the adult system.
He said some juveniles have lengthy criminal histories and it is clear they will not be rehabilitated under the juvenile system, especially if they have a history of violent crimes. He also said it is an issue when the alleged crime is committed only a short time, be it a couple years or only several months, before the juvenile turns 18, which means the juvenile, under the juvenile justice authority, would have a much shorter sentence than if they committed the crime at 14.
But, he said, there are limitations to prosecuting a juvenile as an adult. The juvenile must be at least 14 years old and cannot be given the death sentence. They will also not go to the Department of Corrections until they are at least 16.
In his ruling, Stutzman also determined that there was no need for further preliminary examination, as there is probable cause to believe crimes were committed by Drake, who is also accused of aggravated robbery for allegedly taking items from Dowling, including his cell phone, after shooting him.
Drake is being held at the North Central Kansas Regional Detention Facility in Junction City.