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December 4, 2013

Chism pleads not guilty in slaying

Prosecutor: DNA among evidence in Colleen Ritzer murder case

(Continued)

Instead, much of yesterday’s hearing was given over to a procedural debate over the proper way to handle the two “youthful offender” indictments.

Youthful offender cases are typically handled in Juvenile Court. But Judge Howard Whitehead was designated by court administrators to handle all three charges yesterday, acting temporarily as a juvenile court judge.

While state law requires that a defendant who is 14 or older be tried for murder in the Superior Court, the statute does not address the lesser charges.

MacDougall argued that the three charges should be tried together, as the robbery and rape were “part and parcel” of the slaying.

MacDougall said she plans to file a motion to “join” the charges in Superior Court and try them before a jury together.

But Chism’s attorney, Denise Regan, said she will object to that. “They’re youthful offender indictments, and he’s 14 years old, and he’s entitled to all of the rights and benefits that go to a juvenile,” Regan argued.

Whitehead suggested that he may ask the state Appeals Court to issue an opinion on the issue.

The courtroom was packed for the proceeding.

In one back corner of the courtroom sat members of Chism’s family.

Family and friends of Ritzer filled two rows in the front of the courtroom gallery. Law enforcement officers were also seated around the courtroom and in the jury box.

Initially, the seat between defense lawyers Regan and Susan Oker was empty, while Chism waited in a holding cell next to the courtroom.

Regan, who had filed a motion seeking to move the arraignment on the rape and robbery counts back to Juvenile Court, asked Whitehead to address him at sidebar, which ended with the judge telling court officers, “Bring him out.”

Chism was dressed in a pullover sweater, shirt and tie with khaki pants, a contrast to the white plastic coverall he wore at his District Court arraignment in October, after police had taken his clothing as evidence in the case.

Neither family commented to reporters as they left.

A status hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30.

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