Phelps Found Guilty in School Shooting Trial

by Staff on July 12, 2011 · 1 comment

in Schools,State

Michael PhelpsMichael Phelps, the 16-year-old accused of shooting classmate Chance Jackson at West Middle School in Martinsville, was found guilty of attempted murder yesterday in a trial that lasted less than a typical lunch break.

Jackson was called to testify first and stated that Phelps met him at the doors adjacent to the cafeteria and wanted to talk to him about a girlfriend. Instead, Phelps shot Jackson twice in the abdomen.

Prosecutor Steve Sonnega stopped the testimony and the state rested its case.

Steven Litz, Phelps’ counsel, called Phelps to testify and asked him if he shot Jackson. “Yes,” he replied. Next, Litz asked Phelps if he meant to kill Jackson. “Yes, I did,” Phelps answered.

The defense then rested its case and Judge G. Thomas Gray found Phelps guilty of attempted murder, a Class A felony punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison.

The other charges against Phelps, all felonies, were dropped and sentencing was set for August 12 at 10 a.m.

After the trial, defense attorney Litz said that “an event” last Thursday caused the unusual scenario that occurred in the courtroom. Both sides apparently decided to proceed the way they did — a potentially risky legal move that permits Phelps to appeal Superior Court II Judge Christopher Burnham’s decision to waive Phelps into adult court.

“Had we pleaded guilty, we would have waived the right to appeal that decision,” said Litz.

In the meantime, Phelps will likely be sent to prison while the appeals process plays out. If Phelps appeal of his waiver into adult court is successful, the legal process will effectively start over with a “clean slate”.

If Phelps is unsuccessful, he will spend, at minimum, the next 20 years of his life in prison.

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