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Judge rejects defense motion to return 17-year-old to juvenile court for murder charges

One of the alleged teenaged murderers of two Graham teenagers will have his murder trial conducted in adult (i.e., superior) court, rather than having the case dismissed or sent back to juvenile court, a judge ruled on Thursday afternoon.

Tyshawn Wiley was indicted by a grand jury in October in the first degree murders of Malik Martin and Melvin Wiley on about August 25.  Family members had previously told The Alamance News that one of the victims, Melvin Wiley, was Tyshawn Wiley’s cousin.  Martin was killed on the night of his 16th birthday in August.

The double homicide of the 16-year-old black teenagers took place near Graham Village Apartments at 901 East  Hanover Road on the edge of Graham (near Burlington and the town of Haw River) on August 25.

After less than 20 minutes of discussion and arguments in an upstairs courtroom of the Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. Court House, superior court judge Andrew “Andy” Hanford denied defense attorney John Cox’s motion Thursday afternoon.

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Cox had attempted to argue that that state statute that had been used as the justification for “automatically” transferring the juvenile’s case to superior court was unconstitutional, precisely because of the automatic nature of the statute’s provisions.

State law allows the transfer for serious crimes, such as murders, for 16- and 17-year-old defendants whose crimes might otherwise be considered in juvenile court.

In a written explanation of his motion, Cox had argued to judge Hanford: “By mandating automatic transfer of juveniles based solely on their age and the offense charged, without any consideration of the juvenile’s diminished culpability, other characteristics of youth, and circumstances of the offense, [North Carolina’s law] violates both substantive due process and procedural due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. . .; the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. . .; and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. . .; and the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Cox said the statute is “therefore unconstitutional on its face and as applied to [Wiley].”  Cox also cited similar protections in North Carolina’s state constitution to make the same arguments.

But district attorney Sean Boone argued that all of the cases cited by Cox dealt with “punishments” meted out in adult court, not with the adult court as the venue for a trial.

Boone stressed that all the proceedings in Wiley’s case had been “done by the book” and insisted that there was “no inherent right to remain in juvenile court,” as Cox sought for his client.

To see the court filings and written arguments by both Cox and Boone, click HERE

Cox had been appointed as Wiley’s counsel on October 11, when chief district court Bradley Reid Allen ordered the teen’s murder cases to be transferred to superior court.  In the juvenile proceedings up to that point, he had been represented by attorney Janice Brooks.

Noting that the case’s transfer to adult court had been “triggered by his indictment” [by the grand jury], Hanford denied Cox’s motion.

The judge was more sympathetic to Cox’s subsequent request to have the teen transferred from the detention center at Buckner, where he is currently being held, to a juvenile detention facility in Guilford County, which would be closer for Cox’s commutes to visit his client.

Cox said it was the difference between “a little bit of time to accomplish the task versus half a day” [to make the trips to Buckner].

The judge granted Cox’s motion and instructed a guard from Buckner, present in the courtroom, to ensure that authorities complied with it.

Cox did not object to a “housekeeping” item of correcting Wiley’s birth date in the court records and the indictment.  The grand jury had inadvertently used the birth date of the other juvenile defendant in the case, 14-year-old Kymoni Melendez Poteat (April 11, 2008), instead of Wiley’s actual birth date, August 5, 2005.

Tyshawn Esamuel Wiley was born in Alamance County on August 5, 2005, according to records on file with the Register of Deeds.

Melendez Poteat is next scheduled to be in juvenile court on November 8, when his case will also be considered for the prosecution’s motion to transfer it to superior court. Because he is 14, however, the transfer is not necessarily automatic.

See earlier coverage on the Graham murders:

17-year-old’s murder charges to be transferred to superior court (Oct. 11, 2022):

“Hanging out turns deadly” (Sept. 27, 2022):

Durham man arrested in connection with Graham double-homicides (Sept. 23, 2022):

Two teens arrested in murder of two other teens (Sept. 21, 2022):

Two teens found shot dead near Graham Village Apartment complex (Aug. 27, 2022):

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