A judge Wednesday agreed to allow the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute an alleged double-murderer in juvenile court for the killings of two sisters in Westchester.
In a court filing, an attorney representing the victims’ family members noted that the defendant — who was a month shy of 18 when Sierra Brown and Uniek Atkins were killed and is now 20 — can “only remain in custody until he is 25 years old” if the case is handled in juvenile court.
He could have faced a potential life prison sentence if he was tried and convicted in adult court for the Nov. 17, 2018, killings of Brown, a 16-year-old girl whom he had been dating, and her 27-year-old sister, according to the filing from Kathleen Cady, a retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who is representing the victims’ family.
The attorney representing the victims’ family noted that the District Attorney’s Office had earlier filed a motion to transfer the case against the defendant to adult court.
However, a directive enacted by new District Attorney George Gascon shortly after he was sworn into office in December — in which he vowed that the office will “immediately end the practice of sending youth to the adult court system” — violates the victims’ constitutional rights and eviscerates the discretion that prosecutors have to evaluate each case individually, Cady wrote in her filing.
“Because of his mandatory policies which govern each deputy district attorney, and ordered them to withdraw each and every motion to transfer without exception, we submit that this is such an extreme case as to merit disqualification, and are hereby moving, under the rights enumerated in the California Constitution, to disqualify and remove the entire District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting this case,” Cady wrote in a filing that sought “a competent and professional review by another prosecutorial agency.”
Judge J. Christopher Smith also rejected a motion to disqualify the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office from handling the case against the defendant, according to Cady.
Cady called the decisions “devastating” for the family.
“They feel very devastated because they feel like justice hasn’t been done,” Cady said after the hearing.
Brown — who was shot once in the left side of her neck — was the mother of an infant who was not fathered by the defendant, while her older sister was the mother of two children and was shot four times, according to the court papers filed by Cady. The three children are now being raised by the victims’ family.
“There is also evidence that the defendant tried to clean up the crime scene with bleach before he set the apartment on fire,” Cady wrote in the court filing, which alleged that the defendant “fabricated an alibi, which was disproved when he was shown a video of him entering the apartment the night before and leaving the next morning.”
The two victims were found dead after firefighters put out the blaze at the apartment in the 8600 block of Belford Avenue, near Manchester Avenue.
Cady is among a group of former prosecutors who have teamed up with former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to represent the families of victims in some cases, who are upset about Gascon’s directives.
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