Albemarle Teen Found Not Guilty

August 16, 2006

After more than two days of testimony, and close to four hours of deliberating, the jury found the 8th grader not guilty on both charges. He was originally found guilty of conspiring to commit murder and conspiring to destroy school property.

The main piece of evidence in this case was the teens own recorded statement to police and the testimony of his friends. The Commonwealth said he knew too much about the plot and that he had told many people how he specifically would use a propane bomb and guns to carry out the plan. His attorney says he believes it was the tape that actually led to the not guilty verdict citing that the boy never admitted any wrongdoing to police even when he didn't know he was being filmed. The attorney also says he believes that the fact that the boy was being tried on his own helped significantly he feels the teen was unfairly lumped in with the others involved and therefore initially found guilty.

The driving force behind the defense was the boys age, saying this was all just an elaborate fantasy by kids and that no actions would ever be carried out.

His family says their next focal point will be getting the boy back in school.

"We've been sent things in the mail saying that even if we did get a not guilty verdict, they would keep him out. I don't think that's right to deny him an education. That was really the driving force behind this whole thing," his father, Howard Barnett said.

Halfway through deliberations, the jury asked to view the tape again of the boy's interview with police and while his attorney says there's no one thing he thinks won the case, he believes that played a significant role.

A judge originally convicted the 13-year old and three other teenagers in a juvenile court during a closed trial in March of this year.

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