Posted at: 01/22/2013 1:12 AM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB Eyewitness News 4
As 15 year-old Nehemiah Griego awaits his first court appearance, KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned that the sentencing he may face could be the difference between six years in the juvenile detention center or life in prison.
Legal experts tell KOB that in almost all murder cases involving minors over the age of 13, prosecutors ask for the suspect to be charged as an adult.
Under the state's children's code, adult charges can be sought for "serious youthful offenders," or offenders from the ages of 15-18 that are accused of 1st degree murder.
Griego is facing five open counts of murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in death, each charge carrying a maximum of life imprisonment.
Legal experts say the main difference between Children's court and the adult court system lies in the children's court's core function of trying to rehabilitate minors as opposed to sentencing them for punishment.
But lawyers say that changes when it comes to minors accused of murder.
"The whole system works to try and help rehabilitate this child and allow them to remain in society," said Lisa Abeyta, a long time attorney for children. "Once you get charged as an adult it's a different story. They are not there for rehabilitation. It's purely punitive."
The decision on whether to sentence a minor as an adult usually rests with the judge.
In 2006, Cody Posey, another minor charged with murder was convicted of killing his father, step-mother and step-sister when he was 14 years old.
The judge in the case sentenced Posey to serve a term in Juvenile Detention until he turned 21.
According to Posey's Facebook page he now lives and works in Albuquerque where he plays for a local football league.