Alex Scallion and Sha’Ron Fields left District Judge Tom Walker’s courtroom Friday the way they came in –– certified to stand trial as adults for the July beating death of Steven Goddard.
The issue of whether Scallion and Fields should face first-degree manslaughter charges as adults was returned to Walker’s courtroom May 15 by Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals judges. Appeals judges sent the case back after refusing to hear the teen’s defense attorneys appeal challenging Walker’s Jan. 4 adult certification decision. The state judges said another hearing was necessary because Walker had issued only one adult certification ruling encompassing both teens in January, rather than two individual rulings.
And while Walker’s January ruling clearly indicated he considered the seven points of law surrounding certification, appeals judges complained he had not detailed the evidence he had considered. During the January hearing defense attorneys “stipulated” testimony would confirm their clients’ were active participants in Goddard’s death. The defense offered no additional evidence. District Attorney Craig Ladd presented an adult certification study prepared by the Office of Juvenile Affairs and a psychological evaluation prepared by Dr. Terrie Varga PhD.
Friday, District Attorney Craig Ladd called on the testimony of two witnesses in his bid to win a repeat certification ruling from Walker.
Stephanie Hacker, a Department of Human Services social worker assigned to Ardmore Middle School, took the stand. Hacker confirmed both Scallion and Fields had been the aggressors in a 2006 attack on another student at the school. She said the duo was suspended and attended classes away from the regular student body until January 2007. At the same time they received “services” from DHS and Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs.
Describing the pair’s return to regular classes at the school in 2007, Hacker said, “They were suspended frequently ... one problem after another,” and recalled an incident in which she found Fields using his cell phone to photograph Scallion repeatedly slapping the head of another student in the spring of 2007.
Hacker also told Walker she became concerned over Scallion’s repeated comments about “popping a cap” (stealing her pickup).
“You don’t want Alex back in school?” Scallion’s defense attorney Jerry Wade asked during cross examination.
“No sir, I do not,” Hacker said.
Robert Wilkins, OJA, testified he had seen a video tape that captured the attack on the middle school student and confirmed it was similar to the one that claimed Goddard’s life a year later. He said the school attack led to both Scallion and Fields being placed under the direction of his agency. They had been placed on juvenile probation and required to undergo counseling and perform community service.
Wilkins said it was possible if the two faced charges in connection with Goddard’s death as juveniles, they could detained in a juvenile facility until they were 19. But he said it was equally possible they could be released within a year. Wade and Fields’ defense attorney, David Pyle, asked Wilkins if he believed the pair could be rehabilitated in the juvenile system.
“I couldn’t say,” he said.
Walker also questioned Wilkins asking him how long it would take to place Scallion and Fields in a “priority one” juvenile facility if they were not certified as adults.
“It’s hard to say, we have a backlog of kids on the waiting list — it could be months,” Wilkins said.
Walker also asked about the juvenile system’s “priority one” facilities’ rehabilitation success rate.
Wilkens said he did not have specific numbers, “But we see a lot that go through and end up in the (adult) prison system eventually.”
Wade and Pyle did not call witnesses or offer additional evidence during the hearing.
Walker ruled for the second time Scallion and Fields should be tried as adults. He said he considered the “circumstances of each juvenile on their own merit,” entering two separate rulings.
Walker added his decision included consideration of numerous factors including prior hearing transcripts, the OJA and psychological reports, Friday’s testimony and the seven points of law surrounding adult certification.
The judge said preliminary hearing evidence indicated the “actions of the two juveniles” were the most violent and inflicted most of Goddard’s injuries, and added he found it was “very unlikely” juvenile court programs and facilities could rehabilitate the two and “protect the public.”
Defense efforts Friday to have their 15-year-old clients’ $500,000 bonds reduced also failed.
Shackled and wearing inmate uniforms, the pair was escorted by deputies from the courtroom to the county jail to await transport back to the secure juvenile detention facility where they have been detained for more than five months. Neither teen exhibited any sign of concern over the judge’s ruling or their return to confinement.
The case now reverts back to the appeals court for a ruling on Wade’s and Pyle’s appeal to return their clients’ cases back to the juvenile system.
Marsha Miller 221-6529