Beebe Issues Ruling on Westside Case

October 27, 2003 - Posted at 4:19 p.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Juvenile defendants in criminal cases cannot use the insanity defense.  That's the opinion today from state Attorney General Mike Beebe, offered in response to a question from the state Department of Human Services.

Beebe says the only way a juvenile could use the defense was if the juvenile was being prosecuted as an adult.  The request from DHS Director Kurt Knickrehm did not say why the agency was seeking the opinion.

The opinion referenced case law involving Andrew Golden.  He was 11 when he and then 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson were found responsible for the killings of four students and a teacher in the 1998 shootings at Westside Middle School, near Jonesboro.  A defense attorney for Golden unsuccessfully argued for the insanity defense in juvenile court.

The opinion said juveniles and adult defendants are treated differently because adults could face death or life imprisonment, while juvenile sentences are designed to rehabilitate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.