Court: Green to be tried as adult
Teen one of four charged in shooting death of 15-year-old Pfirsching
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A state court ruling has returned a Blair County juvenile’s second-degree murder and related criminal charges to adult court.
In a ruling posted Monday, the state Superior Court found that the petition to transfer Damien A. Green’s case to juvenile court was denied as of Feb. 8 when President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle failed to announce a ruling on the transfer request.
Green, now 17, is one of four teenagers that Altoona police charged in the Feb. 20, 2020, fatal shooting death of 15-year-old Devon Pfirsching of Altoona on the 100 block of Fourth Avenue Alley.
While Doyle filed a March 10 ruling transferring Green’s case to juvenile court based on her conclusions from a Jan. 19 decertification hearing, the state Superior Court deemed that her filing date was too late.
“If the court does not make its findings within 20 days of the hearing on the petition to transfer the case, the defendant’s petition to transfer the case shall be denied by operation of law,” the court panel of judges Alice B. Dubrow, Megan McCarthy King and Correale F. Stevens concluded.
Defense attorney Dan Kiss said Monday that he will appeal Monday’s ruling that focused only on the timing issue.
“It would be a miscarriage of justice for a child, found appropriate for juvenile court proceedings, to be directed into adult court over a technicality,” Kiss said Monday night.
District Attorney Pete Weeks and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith took the opposite view in appealing to the state court to keep the case in adult court. They pointed out that the judge failed to rule within 20 days of Green’s hearing.
In her March 10, 2021, order, Doyle referenced making a Feb. 2 ruling, but the state court said it had no filings to support that.
The court panel also recognized that in the judge’s March 10 order, Doyle mentioned asking the attorneys to waive the 20-day deadline for a ruling on Green’s petition, because it could otherwise influence ongoing testimony in a co-defendant’s case.
Prosecutors indicated that when that proposal was presented to them by phone on March 8, they declined, noting that the statutory time limit could not be waived, the state court ruling explained.
The state court panel opted against addressing the question of whether Doyle had sufficient reason to rule in favor of transferring Green’s petition to juvenile court. While Weeks and Smith argued that she didn’t, Kiss praised the judge’s ruling in his client’s favor.
Based on testimony at Green’s Jan. 19 hearing, Doyle concluded that the juvenile system could provide enough supervision and rehabilitation, over a period of up to five years, that would position him to become “a productive member of society.”
Kiss said Monday that he expects Green’s criminal charges will remain on hold while he pursues an appeal of Monday’s state court ruling. Since Doyle’s ruling in March, Green has been in a secure juvenile detention facility.
Meanwhile, his three co-defendants — Owen Southerland, Logan Persing and Omedro T. Davis Jr. — were in court on Monday with their attorneys to address pretrial matters, including a review of potential photos that could be shown during trial. Southerland and Persing are on the court’s schedule for a jury trial in late November.