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Ogden • A judge on Thursday rejected a request by a lawyer for Marilee Patricia Gardner a 16-year-old accused of deliberately crashing into a car and killing its two occupants to send the murder case to juvenile court.
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson argued a state law that automatically charges minors who are 16 or older with murder as adults violates both the Utah Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
But 2nd District Judge W. Brent West sided with a prosecutor, who argued that the Utah Supreme Court has previously decided the law is constitutional.
Gardner is accused of driving about 100 mph in a 45-mph zone just after midnight on June 30 when she rear-ended a sedan with her SUV, sending the car into a traffic signal pole near 6000 South and 3500 West in Roy.
Maddison Haan, 20, of West Point, who was driving the car, died at the scene, according to charging documents. Tyler Christianson, 19, of Ogden, was taken to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries.
After she was arrested, Gardner allegedly told officers the crash was an attempt to kill herself.
She is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder and one count each of failure to stop at the command of police and leaving the scene of a fatal accident, both third-degree felonies.
Defense attorneys have pointed to three U.S. Supreme Court cases handed down in the past 11 years that, they argue, say juveniles are "constitutionally different" from adults under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
"These cases recognize what scientific research has confirmed, and what common sense already led us to believe; biological differences between juveniles and adults diminish the culpability of juvenile defendants," according to a defense motion filed with the district court.
Isaacson said Thursday that while the cases are primarily about mandatory punishments, their reasoning also applies to statutes that require a juvenile be charged as an adult under certain circumstances.
Prosecutors have countered that the three cases cited by the defense do not prohibit juveniles from being subject to generally applicable sentencing laws unless they involve the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole for non-homicide cases, or mandatory life without the possibility of parole for any juvenile offender.
Prosecutor Branden Miles argued that sentencing is an appropriate time to raise age as a factor but that the Eighth Amendment does not apply to charging decisions.
And, he said, previous challenges to the law mandating automatic transfer to adult court in some cases have been rejected by the Utah Supreme Court.
Miles singled out an opinion in the case of Ricky Angilau who was 16 when he shot and killed a classmate at Kearns High School in 2009 which ruled that the law automatically giving jurisdiction of the cases to the district court, rather than the juvenile court, is constitutional.
If convicted of either murder charge, Gardner faces a mandatory 15-years-to-life prison term. If the case were sent to the juvenile court, she could only be kept in a secure facility until she reaches the age of 21.
Isaacson said outside court she has not decided yet whether to appeal West's decision.
A scheduling conference is set for Oct. 19.