The Bel Air teenager accused of murdering his father should be moved to a facility better suited to his age and needs or tried as a juvenile, his attorneys argued in Harford County Circuit Court on Friday.
Defense counsel for Robert Richardson, 17, said he is “isolated, absolutely isolated” at the Harford County Detention Center, where he has been incarcerated since allegedly shooting his father to death in January 2011, dumping his body in an Aberdeen pond, and leading police in an early-morning chase.
Richardson’s attorneys argued three motions at a hearing before Judge Stephen Waldron. The first two attempted to move Richardson’s case into the juvenile system, based around the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory penalties of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles was unconstitutional.
Though centered around a decision involving the sentencing phase, Richardson’s attorneys said he would be “irreparably harmed” if, in the event of his conviction, waiting until the sentencing or appeal process to present the argument.
Instead, they looked to extend the protections of Miller and urged Waldron to either declare state statutes requiring Richardson to be tried on first degree murder charges as an adult unconstitutional or, failing that, to strike the first degree charges in favor of a charge of second degree murder.
Assistant State’s Attorney Donald Walter countered that Miller only prohibits the specific mandatory sentence of life without parole for juveniles, and does not strike down other mandatory sentences or statues based on the age of the accused. In Maryland, he said, the court is has the option to sentence a juvenile found guilty of first degree murder to life with the possibility of parole.
Furthermore, he said the state statutes requiring Richardson to be tried as an adult were valid given the nature of his alleged crime, which involved “placing a weapon to the back of his [father’s] head and essentially executing him.”
“We’re not discussing shoplifting, a [drug] case, even a firearms charge,” Walter said. “It’s the most severe crime we have jurisdiction over, the most severe crime one person can commit on another.”
The third motion presented by Richardson’s attorneys sought his removal from the Harford County Detention Center, which Assistant Public Defender Kay Beehler said “does not have the ability to meet the needs of juvenile inmates.”
Beehler said Richardson does not have the sight and sound separation required between juvenile and adult inmates in his current housing in a single-occupancy cell in one of the detention center’s direct supervision units, which also houses adults.
However, Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said that requirement only applies to suspects at the time of their initial arrest, not for juveniles who have been charged as adults.
Beehler urged Waldron to remove Richardson to a facility, either juvenile-oriented or an adult detention center in another county better equipped to meet his educational and counseling needs. In particular, she said she had been in touch with the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County, a detention facility for juveniles which expressed a willingness to house Richardson.
Walter responded that Richardson is currently allowed to have phone calls, letters, and visitors. Walter’s statements were later echoed in an e-mail response by Hopkins to questions posed by The Dagger. Hopkins added that Richardson has the ability to talk to other inmates, has access to the facility commissary, and “can continue his education if he wants to,” but did not specify exactly how he might do so.
Waldron, largely quiet through the proceedings, interjected that moving Richardson to a facility such as Hickey School may actually place him in greater danger than he is in currently.
“I don’t see Mr. Richardson striking fear into the heart of anyone at Hickey,” Waldron said. “Quite the opposite.”
“I’m just trying to share my experience of 25 years on the bench,” he added. “I’ve had defendants begging, ‘don’t send me back [there], I don’t want to be raped in the shower again.’”
Following the hearing, Beehler dismissed Waldron’s concerns.
“There could be a car accident on the way to transporting him to Hickey, too—there’s always hypotheticals,” she said, reiterating that, at the Harford County Detention Center, her client lacked the development and counseling opportunities he needs.
Richardson’s trial has been delayed several times, most recent from next month until Oct. 21. Beehler said an additional, slight postponement beyond that date may be possible due to the unavailability of a state’s witness.
Well if he wouldn’t have murdered his father, he wouldn’t lack the ability to exercise his freedom. Have these attorney’s ever been inside the detention center? Probably not and bet they couldn’t even tell you what color are the walls.
Marc Eaton says
The Detention Center is a resort compared to where he is going! Stop blaming everyone else for what this person did. The system did not fail and this person, society did not fail him. He had free will to do what he is accused of. He needs to accept responsibility for his actions.
marc's tenth cousin on his neighbors side says
I am sure the supporters will be out in front of the courthouse protesting his treatment at the Harford Hilton. I am sure DOC is not going to be as nice as the HCDC. Where is the justice for his father. Do ya think these people even think about it.
Gloria Crowell says
It’s so amazing how people are so quick to judge this kid! Honestly is is very disturbing when people don’t know the facts but are quick to put their two cents in. So many people have been effected from this tragedy including Bob! My heart goes out to him and his family and friends. Bob is so loved and supported by many who know the truth. I pray for him everyday to be at peace and for people to have compassion and knowing that things will work out for him and he gets the proper help that is needed for him. Also for him to have a chance at life obviously something that was taken from him when he endured what he did.
The Money Tree says
What’s more disturbing to me is the number of people that seem to have fallen into the mistaken belief that shooting anyone and dumping them in a pond is acceptable. I also don’t for one second believe the ever evolving and exaggerated claims against the dead man who at this point has no ability to defend himself. May this kid rot in the hell he created.
Thy Humble Servant says
Well said! Why should anyone feel sorry for an admitted murderer?
Stop drinking the kook-aid, people! If you cared that much, and know as much as you say you do, then how did it get this far? Where were your caring thoughts and actions then?
marc's tenth cousin on his neighbors side says
So you know Bob real well? I am sure Robbie thought about the same thing when he murdered his father. Gee I am going to spend the rest of my life behind bars and people are going to say I was abused and need to speak up for me. People are so quick to judge because he killed another human being. They have the evidence and the motive. So I am sure you know all the facts. I think about the father that he murdered and how his life was snuffed out. Yes, I do have compassion for abused children, but that is not a license to kill. His life is going to be tough because he did an adult crime and should do the adult time. Not like he stole some candy and that was it. BTW I didn’t live the best of lives and know what it is like to live in a broken home where your parents could careless if I ate or where I hung out. Im sure you haven’t missed a meal or have known what it is like to not eat a meal and not know where your next meal is coming from. Thank God for government handouts and DSS! That is what got me through a lot of a bad childhood.
Tried and Frustrated says
He committed and adult crime he deserve to do the time, shot his father excution style. He should be glad that Maryland don’t have the death penalty.
not a fan says
we can thank future president of the united states…The honorable Martin O’Malley from the Great State of Taxation for that one too.
Trucker Mark says
If an adult woman was being raped, would she have the right to reach for a weapon and shoot to kill her attacker? If a liquor store owner was being robbed would he have the right to reach for a weapon and shoot to kill their attacker? If you were asleep in your own house when somebody broke-in are you within your rights to reach for a weapon and shoot to kill, to protect yourself? Funny how so many of us want the right to shoot to kill over a single incident but we don’t want to give equal protection to youthful victims that have been assaulted or raped their entire lives until they finally stand-up for themselves.
So why is it first-degree murder when a kid who has been violently abused his whole upbringing, after reading dozens if not hundreds of accounts of other people lawfully protecting themselves by shooting their attackers, finally decides to try to protect themselves with a gun? We can’t have it both ways people. Is it first-degree murder only because the kid put-up with the abuse until he became too mature and finally decided to take a stand to protect himself?
I would argue that this kid does not belong in an adult courtroom and that after probably no more than a couple of years of abuse recovery treatment that he could live a responsible adult life. We are not talking some hardened gang member with a dozen felonies already, we are talking a kid that society failed.
People noticed that there was something wrong many times but nobody did anything about it. Nobody asked the right questions, nobody saw to it that their concerns found responsible authority. This kid lived an absolutely hellish existence. We have shelters for battered women and we have rape crisis centers. How come places like Harford County don’t have child abuse experts with the power to intervene on behalf of abused kids in-crisis, and would rather that such victims continue to suffer until they can’t take any more?
This case belongs in juvenile court, and the young man in-question belongs in a juvenile facility awaiting trial, period. Remember that in America we are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I would argue that just the severity of the charges that have been brought do not deprive a young person of his lawful rights as a juvenile otherwise. I would be willing to give juvenile judges increased sentencing latitude but this whole trying kids as adults thing is putting the cart before the horse obviously in regard to the presumption of innocence.
Moreover the US is considered the worst human rights violator in the world when it comes to our juvenile justice practices. We are only one of four nations worldwide that has refused to sign the UN Rights of the Child convention on juvenile justice, which bans trying or jailing kids as adults. The other nations that have refused to sign are Iran, Israel, and Somalia. It certainly does not make me proud to be a citizen of the worst human rights violator that the world has ever seen either.
There is no such thing as an “adult crime” and the age of the perpetrator is the only criteria anyone needs to be concerned with. This young man should have had every right to seek to protect himself from violent victimization, just as the rest of us have. This case is not first-degree murder it is self-protection, which in the case of children may take some years before they are ready to seek to protect themselves, which doesn’t make what happened first-degree murder.
Like I said, this case belongs in juvenile court and the kid belongs in a juvenile facility pretrial, as there is no excuse for taking a kid’s legal rights away on the mere accusation of crime.
The Money Tree says
Most people that are being raped and shoot the attacker don’t drag the attacker to a pond and dump the body in it and then run from the police. Most people that are being robbed and pull a gun shooting the intruder dead don’t drag the intruder to a pond and drump the body in it and then run from the police. Innocent people call the police and report the incident – guilty people run.
The problem is that the juvenile justice system wipes the slate clean when the perpetrator becomes an adult and is released. A new identity is even provided for those that committed heinous crimes, and they get back all of their rights someone who was 18 and a day when they committed the same crime would lose for life.
What makes that 18th birthday so special that some feel it is all fun and games before that, but serious adult business afterwards? Instead, our society recognizes that some criminals are monsters who commit adult crimes and require adult punishments while they are under 18. Murder is definitely an adult crime.
If somebody is being attacked, they have the right to use deadly force to stop the attack at that time. However, they don’t have the legal right to kill their attacker in cold blood several weeks after the incident.
Pavel314 I see you have never been abused by someone you loved and depended on to protect you from evil, but some children life with abuse everyday of their life. When they are 5 or even 10 years old they think all kids are beat and sexually abused by their parents and they wonder if they will be killed during the next beating, but when they become old enough to see their friends are not living in that hell they start to think about how to get out of it. They were taught all their life that violence is the answer, so one day they decide they rather be dead than constantly live with the dread of the next beating or rape, so they decide to fight back. If the parent beats the child to death they will get sentenced to maybe 20 years, but if the child wins and kills the parent he will be sentenced to life without parole. You said a person does not go back after two weeks and kill their intruder, but they would if the same intruder came back night after night.
perfectly said. Thanks for stating the facts so clearly. A juvenile is not just a small adult.
EATING CHICKEN says
DAMB SON, EVERY COUNTRY IN THE AFRICA CONTINENT SIGNED THE UN CHILD GENEVA CONVENTION? LOLOL HOW ABOUT SOUTH AMERICA? WHAT ABOUT TATOOINE? OH WAIT, THAT’S STAR WARS LOL
Falcon Halk says
Everyone should feel so sorry for this kid who planned and excuted a plan to kill his father. This kid was just an innocent victim and the police were a failure. WAKE UP there were issues in this house but it was probably dad and son. Does this warrant son killing dad? Are there any past documented incidents? For the people in his school and heighborhood who have complained why did you wait till after to make allegations. In the future do you plan on reporting abuse or just turn your head until something bad happens? Keep up the excuses!