Two Wisconsin teenagers are due back in court on charges of trying to kill a classmate by stabbing her multiple times to satisfy the fictitious Internet character known as the Slender Man.
Attorneys for the girls, both aged 13 at the time of the 2014 attack, are expected to ask a Waukesha County judge Monday to adjourn the case to a later time or place and to suppress some statements. The state Court of Appeals had previously denied defense requests to reverse Waukesha Circuit Judge Michael Bohren's decision last month to try the girls in adult court.
The appeals court decision means the trial for both girls remains set for Oct. 15.
Authorities said the two girls, then 12 years old, stabbed their classmate 19 times and left her for dead in the woods in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. A bicyclist found the victim, who has since recovered. The girls reportedly told police that they had planned to kill their friend in order to please the Slender Man – portrayed online as an unnaturally tall, thin, faceless man in a suit who has tentacles growing out of his back.
The case has made headlines for both its unusual circumstances and the decision to try the two girls as adults, The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time. The girls reportedly planned the killing as early as February 2014; the attack occurred that June.
“Some juvenile justice experts say such a motive points to a confused mental state or stunted emotional development – reasons often cited for not trying minors as adults,” the Monitor’s Mark Guarino wrote.
Some critics argue that it’s important for society to maintain the same standards for juveniles who commit crimes as for other young people, while others maintain that children are not mentally developed enough to be held to the same standards as adults.
“We realize kids under 16 are not allowed to smoke, legally they are not allowed to have consensual sex, they can’t join the Army, they can’t vote – all because, as a society, we have concluded their brains are not sophisticated to handle those functions,” said Richard Kling, a law professor Chicago Kent College of Law, to the Monitor. “But when kids do bad things, we decide all of the sudden we are going to treat kids as adults.”
The consequences of a trial and conviction in adult court could be lifelong. Under Wisconsin law, a person convicted as a juvenile must be released from the system at age 25. But if the girls are convicted as adults, they could face up to 65 years behind bars – and in Wisconsin, juveniles over the age of 10 charged with homicide or attempted homicide are automatically tried as adults.
The cut off used to be 12 years old, but lawmakers lowered the age for an automatic adult trial in 1995 after a 1991 shooting by an 11-year-old boy.
Charging the girls as adults was "the right thing to do,” Bonnie Ladwig, a former Republican representative who authored the new law, told CBS News last year.
"Obviously these girls have been planning this since December so this wasn't just an accident," she said.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.