Family of slain SF boy wants juvenile suspect charged as adult 

click to enlarge The family of Rashawn Williams, who was stabbed to death in September, wants the suspect in the case to be tried as an adult. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike koozmin/The S.f. Examiner
  • The family of Rashawn Williams, who was stabbed to death in September, wants the suspect in the case to be tried as an adult.

The family of Rashawn Williams, a 14-year-old who was allegedly stabbed to death in the Mission in September by a former classmate, met with the District Attorney's Office Monday to try and persuade the office that the assailant should be tried as an adult.

Eight members of the family brought with them a pile of signatures -- 3,325 in all -- showing wide support for their cause, and what they say is a raft of evidence that should convince the District Attorney's Office to charge the juvenile as an adult. The suspect has been charged with murder in connection with the Sept. 2 incident.

"We can't really get into it," Dona Ryan, Williams' godmother, said about what exactly they planned to show the district attorney.

The 14-year-old suspect, who was reportedly a middle school classmate of Williams, is scheduled to appear in juvenile court this morning. Williams' family plans to protest outside of the Juvenile Justice Center before the hearing to push their case for adult prosecution.

Williams was stabbed by a male suspect at about 6:50 p.m. Sept. 2 at a market near 25th and Folsom streets, police said. The homicide does not appear to be random, according to police, but no details about a possible motive have been released.

The District Attorney's Office would not comment directly on the case.

Only juveniles who were at least 14 years old when the crime was committed and took part in especially heinous acts can be tried as adults. In such cases, the district attorney has the discretion to try the juveniles as adults. If such an option is declined, juvenile court can then decide if the juvenile can be tried as an adult.

If convicted of murder charges as a minor, the juvenile defendant in the Williams case faces jail time in a state juvenile facility until his 23rd birthday.

"I think it's important to treat children as children," said Patricia Lee, co-director of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center.

Lee, who works for the Public Defender's Office, which is defending the juvenile charged in Williams' death, said she could not comment directly on the case.

However, she noted that courts have increasingly been accepting the "brain science" argument that juveniles' minds don't work in the same way as adult minds. Therefore, their actions should be treated with much more care by the justice system, she said of the argument.

"It's a pretty huge difference between being in juvenile court and adult court," said Sue Burrell, a staff attorney at the Youth Law Center.

Correction: This story was updated Oct. 21 to remove misinformation about the suspect's age.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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