Prosecutors seek adult trial for teen accused of killing pastor

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 11:08 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office wants the teen accused of killing a pastor to be tried as an adult.

The murder is renewing the debate over how young offenders should be handled in the Shelby County court system.

Miguel Andrade, 15, is accused of killing Rev. Dr. Autura Eason-Williams in her driveway. Andrade appeared in juvenile court Wednesday. Court records show Andrade was already on parole.

Current District Attorney Amy Weirich and her challenger have very different views on how to handle the youngest offenders in our community.

“Due to the facts of this case and this offender’s criminal history, I am seeking transfer of this case to adult court,” Weirich said.

“We look to the entire case. We look to the facts. We look to the charge. We look to the age of the offender,” Weirich said. “And we look to whether or not this offender has ever been in the system before.”

Andrade is facing charges of first-degree murder, murder in the perpetration of a robbery, aggravated robbery, carjacking, and employment of a firearm during a dangerous felony.

University of Memphis law professor and former Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, Weirich’s opponent in the August 4 election, said that too many kids, especially those of color, are moved out of the juvenile system.

“There are some times when you’ve got no choice but to transfer somebody to adult court,” Mulroy said. “But that should be a last resort, not a first instinct. And in Shelby County, regrettably, it’s a first instinct.”

Weirich said 40 juvenile cases were transferred to adult court in Shelby County in 2021. The crimes included first-degree murder, second-degree murder, aggravated rape, carjacking and aggravated robbery.

Pastor Eason-Williams’ daughter, though, said her mother wouldn’t want that to happen to her accused killer.

“My mommy was a tireless advocate and strategist for restorative justice practices,” Ayanna E. Hampton posted to social media, “She even served on an MPD task force that sought to connect system-involved young people to opportunities to be restored to their communities after committing crimes against them.

“Please do not use her death as an opportunity to go all ‘tough on crime,’ ‘throw them under the jail,’ ‘charge them as adults so they won’t get a chance to do this again’ on us. I’m personally not tryna hear it, I disagree, and it would not make me feel better. That is not what she would say, or what she would consider to be justice.”

Weirich said they reserve the option to move offenders to the adult system for the most serious crimes.

Low-level offenses committed by first-time juvenile offenders are handled in the police precincts by juvenile court probation officers who are assigned to the precincts to work side-by-side with prosecutors. The goal is to handle the cases in the community and get those kids back on the right track. Another program handles crimes committed on school property without ever calling the police or dealing with the case in the court system.

But it’s the question of what to do with the young people who commit the most heinous crimes that often divides those tasked with keeping the community safe.

“You’re basically sending them off to crime college. They learn to be hardened criminals,” Mulroy said. “They’re more likely to re-offend when they come out, which does not make us safer and it does not help the victims.”

“The question really should be: Why are so many young people committing violent crime?” Weirich said. “The answers to that question happen far upstream from this office and the responsibility we have to the victims and the community.”

If a youth offender is moved to adult court, they’re housed with other juveniles, not adults. It will be up to the juvenile court judge to decide Andrade’s fate.

Andrade’s next hearing on August 1 will determine whether he will be tried as an adult and transferred to criminal court.

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