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Harford teen's lawyers want him tried as juvenile in murder

Lawyers for a Harford County teen accused of killing his father last year attempted to convince a judge Friday that it would be unconstitutional to try the 17-year-old as an adult.

Robert C. Richardson III's attorneys also said the boy is suffering from the effects of isolation at the county jail, asking at a motions hearing for their client to be transferred to a facility for juveniles. They said he is being held in solitary confinement at the Harford County Detention Center.

"The jail in Harford County does not have the capability to address the needs of juvenile offenders and juvenile inmates," lawyer Kay Beehler said at a hearing Friday in Harford County Circuit Court. "Robert is isolated, absolutely isolated."

Circuit Judge Stephen Waldron did not rule on the motions Friday but said he would issue an order on the request.

Richardson is charged as an adult with first- and second-degree murder, as well as a gun violation, in the death of 58-year-old Robert C. Richardson Jr. in January 2012. Police say the teen shot his father, left the body in a pond near his grandmother's Aberdeen home and confessed to the killing.

His trial had been scheduled for May but has been postponed until October.

At the hearing Friday, Richardson attorney Stefanie McArdle pointed to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case, Miller v. Alabama, that struck down mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders. The high court said in the ruling that such sentences violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

McArdle said the Maryland law strips the courts of discretion to consider certain factors — such as the age of a juvenile and the child's mental and physical condition — when deciding whether to charge a person as a juvenile or adult.

McArdle said Richardson had been "seriously traumatized" during his life and asked the judge to strike the charge of first-degree murder if he did not declare the law unconstitutional.

The defense also challenged the constitutionality of state laws requiring mandatory sentences for juveniles charged with first-degree murder and gun violations.

Prosecutor Donald Walter argued that the Supreme Court ruling was limited to the issue of sentencing and does not affect charging decisions. Maryland does not have life without parole for juveniles charged as adults, but critics of the existing system argue that it is very difficult to secure release.

Walter also noted that Richardson is allowed to talk on the phone, see visitors and write letters.

"He does have communication with the outside world," he said.

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