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Jury pool asked if they'd consider maximum 40 years for convicted Texas high school shooter

James Hartley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in News & Features

She also asked members of the jury pool if and why they think the law should be different for minors than it is for adults, noting that a juvenile charged with capital murder cannot face more than 40 years in prison and cannot be sentenced to death. She also asked if they think their age should matter when it comes to the law.

Most in the jury pool told Herrick they think it is fair for minors to be held to different standards than adults, some adding that minors haven’t had all the same opportunities for education or that their brains have not finished developing and they may not completely comprehend the consequences of their actions. Others said more minors should be charged as adults.

Herrick also asked the jury pool about their familiarity with the juvenile justice system in Tarrant County and put an emphasis on questions about being unbiased and fair as a juror for the trial. She also questioned those in the pool on whether they could consider no time in jail or probation, as the minimum sentence for a juvenile convicted of capital murder.

She questioned possible jurors on their views about rehabilitation of minors and what could be done to prevent children from committing crimes or repeating offenses, getting answers about more parental involvement, after-school programs and stricter gun control laws. Several of the people in the jury pool said that parental figures should be held responsible for the crimes of their children.

Prior to the voir dire process, the 97 people who showed up for jury duty filled out questionnaires that included a question about whether they’ve read or heard news about the case. Most of them said they had, leading to about an hour of individual questions about whether news coverage they had seen or heard would impact their ability to be fair.

At least nine of the jurors told the court they could not be fair and impartial based on information they’d heard about the trial outside of court.

In June, Judge Alex Kim denied a request from the prosecutors to try the accused shooter in adult criminal court.

After he was taken into custody, the accused shooter told a juvenile services employee that he fired upon the victims when he saw a person who appeared to look like a boy who raped him in October inside a bathroom at the school, Whelchel said at a hearing in June.


Whelchel told Kim the sexual assault accusation was false and concocted by the suspect in an attempt to justify what the prosecutor said is the most heinous of offenses.

Earlier in the June hearing, Whelchel asked Arlington police homicide unit Detective Krystallyne Robinson whether Poirier, who died when buckshot severed the 16-year-old’s brain stem, had sexually assaulted the suspect in his killing.

“No, sir,” the detective testified. Indeed, Robinson said, there is no indication the respondent, as the accused is known in juvenile legal matters, knew Poirier, who moved to Arlington from Michigan at the beginning of the school year.

The father of the 15-year-old was sentenced earlier this month to more than six years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas. The 50-year-old man, who the Star-Telegram is not naming so as not to identify the juvenile, pleaded guilty to the charge in May. Court documents say the father was charged with illegal possession of the Mossberg 500 shotgun his son used in the fatal shooting.

In a psychiatric evaluation, the teen was found competent to stand trial.


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