Juvenile Judge Considers Adult Trial in Turner Case

May 1, 2017

Credit Cache County Sheriff

The co-defendant charged with aggravated attempted murder in a case involving the shooting of 14-year-old Deserae Turner was in First District Juvenile Court Monday. 

Judge Angela F. Fonnesbeck heard evidence and details about mental health evaluation findings from two psychologist who interviewed the Smithfield teen. 

The transfer hearing is part of a process to determine if the 16- year-old should be tried as an adult.

Dr. Randal Oster was the first to conduct a clinical interview of the teen after his February arrest. Oster said he did not include questions about the shooting of Deserae Turner in his assessment, but instead focused on what he called clinical evaluations of the mental and cognitive health of the defendant.

Oster said the defendant has a learning disability and there are behavioral tendencies, like the constant bouncing of his right leg, that indicate the young man has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

When asked by Cache County Deputy Attorney Spencer Walsh if he had done a full evaluation to diagnose the defendant with the disorder, Oster said no and explained he only had two weeks to conduct testing. He also told the judge that he did not review the arrest records or any other aspects of the Turner case before or during his assessment.

The second expert witness, Dr. Ronald Houston agrees with Oster’s findings but said he would have performed more extensive testing to help determine why the defendant was involved in a plot to kill Turner.

Defense attorney Shannon Demler asked Houston to explain what he learned after interviewing the defendant. Houston said he spoke with the teen about events on February 16, 2017, when Turner was shot and left in a canal. The defendant changed his story several times, said Houston, who added that the accused seemed anxious, bouncing his leg during that interview as well.

Houston interviewed the teen’s parents and learned that the defendant was born prematurely. He said the defendant had experienced Transfusion Syndrome and Fetal Distress from sharing nutrients with his twin brother. This, Houston said, could explain why the accused has learning disabilities, anxiety, and social challenges.

The prosecution questioned Houston about his support of Oster’s findings and wondered why both psychologists failed to examine the defendant’s potential risk to society or provide plans for treatment. Walsh asked Houston if the ADHD alone could lead someone to plot the murder of another individual. Houston said no and agreed with Walsh that the defendant did lack empathy and was callous when he was questioned about the shooting.

When it came time for the prosecution to call witnesses, they brought in Dr. Stephen Golding, a Forensic Psychology expert. Golding served as the University of Utah’s Director of Clinical Training and is an emeritus professor.

Demler questioned the prosecutions reasons for allowing Golding to testify because he had never met or interviewed the defendant. Judge Fonnesbeck allowed the questioning to continue, giving Golding an opportunity to explain why he believed the clinical evaluations did not meet the standards necessary for a transfer case.

The hearing to determine if the trail should be in an adult or juvenile court continues Tuesday. The prosecution could call a member of the Turner family as a witness.