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Judge Denies Motion to Move Chism Case to Juvenile Court

Philip Chism, now 15, is charged in the October 2013 killing of teacher Colleen Ritzer

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    A Massachusetts teenager charged in the rape and murder of his math teacher appeared in court as his lawyers seek to have him tried as a minor. Judge Howard Whitehead denied the motion to dismiss. (Published Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014)

    A Danvers, Massachusetts, teenager accused of brutally raping and murdering his 24-year-old math teacher will be tried as an adult after the prosecution revealed gruesome new details and a judge denied his defense's motion to move the case to juvenile court Tuesday.

    Fifteen-year-old Philip Chism's defense attorney, Denise Regen, argued her client should be tried as a minor in Collen Ritzer's murder for several reasons, including that the state's youthful offender act, which requires minors 14 and older charged with murder to be automatically tried as adults, violated Chism's equal protection and freedom from "cruel and unusual punishment."

    "The Massachusetts system is wrong and unconstitutional," Regan said.

    Regan also said there is no reason Chism should be tried as an adult, since juvenile courts can hand down life sentences.

    But prosecutors fought back, calling it one of the most "heinous" and "brutal murders" that a person could commit. Prosecutors also say that even if Chism is convicted of murder, he could be eligible for parole and back out on the streets in just years.

    "This defendant could be parole eligible before he is 30 years old. To the extent that that gives rise to outrage, I would respectfully would submit that it's not the harsh treatment that this state gives to juvenile murderers," Kate MacDougall, assistant district attorney in Essex County, said.

    In their bid to try Chism as an adult, the prosecution also released graphic new details of the case in court paperwork, describing step-by-step how Chism allegedly repeatedly asphyxiated Ritzer and used a box cutter in the attack. Prosecutors say Chism wheeled her body after she died out to a wooded area near the school in a recycling bin where he staged her and allegedly raped her again.

    Chism also faces attempted murder and other charges following an alleged assault on a Department of Youth Services worker while in custody this year.

    Ultimately, the judge ruled in the prosecution's favor.

    Randy Chapman, NECN Legal Editor said:

    "The judge had an opportunity to fully review all the cases and felt that is was clearly not an equal protection claim, there is not a claim that he's being treated excessively cruelly, and so he more or less upheld the state statute that allows this defendant to be tried as an adult," Randy Chapman, NECN legal editor, said.

    Ritzer family statement: 

    "We would like to offer our sincere gratitude to the dedicated staff of the Essex County District Attorney's Office for their tireless work on behalf of our daughter, Colleen. Yesterday's ruling was just and fair.  

    While each day is more difficult than the last, we find great strength in the love and goodness of family, friends and the many tributes that continue to be held in honor of Colleen.  We continue to do our very best to 'find the good in every day."

    Chism also faces attempted murder and other charges following an alleged assault on a Department of Youth Services worker while in custody this year.

    He has plead not guilty to all charges in Ritzer's killing.

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