PIERRE, S.D. – (DRG News) A judge has ruled that the case of a teen accused in the shooting death of a classmate last December will remain in adult court. 17-year-old Braiden McCahren has pleaded not guilty to First Degree Murder, Attempted First Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault counts for the December 18 shooting of 16-year-old Dalton Williams. Authorities say Williams was shot as he stood between McCahren and another teen, identified by the initials T.Y. while the three were at McCahren’s home.
The transfer hearing in McCahren’s case started Thursday and continued today. It was scheduled after McCahren’s defense attorneys asked to have the case moved to juvenile court. Several people filled the courtroom at times, from Williams’ family and friends, to members of McCahren’s family and others. Those testifying this morning included McCahren’s father Kit, a gun expert who examined the 20 gauge shotgun used in the shooting, a Pierre Police Officer and five local teenagers-who commented on incidents they said they had witnessed involving McCahren’s use of weapons in the past.
This afternoon, a few of those called to the witness stand were Troy Ponto, Associate Warden at the South Dakota State Penitentiary who discussed how inmates at the facility are classified, based on several different factors, which determines who they are housed with-and how inmates have options like the ability to pursue a G.E.D., chemical dependency classes, and more. A DCI agent also told the judge that he analyzed some of McCahren’s phone calls from March and April of this year, while McCahren has been in the juvenile facility in Pierre. The agent said in some of the conversations, McCahren spoke negatively with a female teen about T.Y.-the other teen that had been at his home on the day of the shooting and also spoke subtly about the shooting. A clinical psychologist hired by the state that interviewed and performed various tests on McCahren also spoke about the teen at length.
Following closing comments from McCahren’s defense attorneys William Taylor and Brad Schreiber, as well as the special prosecutor in the case, Beadle County State’s Attorney Mike Moore; Judge John Brown ruled that the case would be retained in circuit court. He said the case is a tragedy for everyone-the families of the victim and defendant, both. He said what took place was aggressive, violent and willful. He also indicated that McCahren seemed to understand the operations of firearms based on his history of hunting and visits to a gun range on a regular basis. He said the incident had resulted in the death of a young man who did not deserve to die.
A pre-trial conference is currently scheduled for October 15 and the trial about a week later.
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