Two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson in the recent wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. According to District Attorney Jimmy Dunn, "Everything is on the table." What does that mean for the two juveniles?
The first issue is whether to try them as juvenile offenders or as adults. There are major differences in the final outcome of the case depending on the venue of the prosecution. The district attorney's office will make the decision whether to pursue the charges in juvenile court or adult court. If the district attorney elects to pursue the case in adult court, the district attorney must request a transfer hearing to criminal court. A hearing is conducted and the juvenile court judge will decide whether the case will remain juvenile court or proceed to adult court. Here is a list of the factors the court must consider in making it's ruling at the transfer hearing. it makes a major difference in the range of punishment.
The second big issue is whether they are charged with murder. Under Tennessee's first-degree murder statute, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if a killing is committed during the commission of a felony such as arson. it is conceivable that the state could bring additional charges. Remember the district attorney was quoted that everything was on the table. Are murder charges on the horizon for these juvenile offenders?