A boy charged with the August murder of a George Ranch High School student might be tried as an adult.
The Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office hasn’t decided whether to ask a judge to certify a minor as an adult.
In Texas, prosecutors have 30 working days to decide if they want to try a minor as an adult once the minor is charged with a crime. Fort Bend County Assistant District Attorney Tyra McCollum said Wednesday her office has yet to determine whether it will seek to try the boy as an adult. If she does, a hearing will be scheduled before a judge, who will make the decision.
The hearing is open to the public. However, because the boy is a juvenile, information on when and where the hearing will be held is not public.
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office will not disclose the name of the boy or release the offense report because of his age.
The Fort Bend Herald filed a Texas Open Records request for the document on Sept. 6 in order to accurately inform its readers about the fatal shooting and track the case through the justice system. The suspected shooter, a juvenile, was arrested within hours of the Aug. 22 death of Mathias Konrad of Richmond.
The shooting occurred in a community park within the Tara subdivision. The suspected shooter is believed to be a George Ranch High School student.
Citing privacy concerns and an ongoing investigation, the sheriff’s department forwarded the open records request to the county attorney, who forwarded it to the Texas Attorney General for review. In addition, the sheriff’s department and county attorney’s office said they were prohibited from releasing the document because it contained information related to a confidential informant.
“In response to your inquiry concerning the front page of the report, you are correct in that the sheriff’s office will typically release the front page (i.e. basic information) for all offense reports,” Assistant County Attorney LaNetra S. Lary told The Herald via email on Tuesday. “However, in certain circumstances the front page may contain confidential information such as a confidential (informant) or other information protected under common-law privacy. Given that this matter involves a juvenile suspect, the confidential information may be something pertaining to the juvenile.”
He has offered to provide a redacted version of the offense report to The Herald.
It is the Herald’s established editorial policy to not publish the names of juveniles detained and charged with crimes unless authorities certify them as adults.
“The murder of a local high school kid is big news in any community, and even bigger news when another high school student is the suspected shooter,” said Herald Managing Editor Scott Reese Willey. “Our readers want to know what is going to happen to the boy accused of such a heinous act, and whether or not he is punished and if so, how. That all begins with an arrest or offense report.”
Offense reports have long been acknowledged as public information.
Texas Attorney John Hill ruled in 1986 that the front page of an offense report could be released to the media.
The front page includes names, ages, cities of residence, time and date of offense, nature of offense and people involved, among other information. The offense report may help The Herald track the case through the court system, should the juvenile be charged as an adult.
McCollum acknowledged the difficulty the public has in tracking cases involving minors through the juvenile court system, but said laws prevent prosecutors from releasing such information.
Although juvenile courts are open to the public unless closed by a judge for “good cause,” it’s difficult to sit in on juvenile proceedings and hearings without first knowing names, times and dates — all of which are kept from the public.
Most juvenile courts, however, are typically open to the public when a minor is charged with a serious crime, such as murder.
Once a minor is certified as an adult, such information is open to the public and case information, such as hearing times and dates, is posted online.