Emotions Fly Over Utah Teen’s Being Charged with Aggravated Murder in Sergeant’s Death

Photo: Paul Sullivan

A Utah teen is being charged with multiple crimes, aggravated murder in particular, for her alleged role in the shooting death of a Utah County Sheriff’s sergeant.

Driver of Car Charged with Aggravated Murder

Sergeant Cory Wride died recently after being allegedly shot by Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui. His suspected teenage accomplice was Meagan Grunwald, who is just 17. Grunwald is being accused of driving the getaway vehicle for Garcia-Juaregui.

Under Utah law, aiding and abetting and being an accessory to a crime may make it possible for the alleged accessory to be charged with the same crime as the person (in this case) who actually shot the fatal bullet.

Utah Teen Not Eligible for Death Penalty

Prosecutors have noted that because of Grunwald’s age, she is not eligible for the death penalty, but they have charged her with aggravated murder in adult court–which would make her eligible for a life sentence without the possibility of parole if she’s found guilty.

What Do You Think?

Opinions are flying as to what is the best way to handle this young girl’s situation. Opponents of her being tried in adult court seem to feel that dealing with her that way is, in fact, overkill (no pun intended). After all, isn’t that why juveniles are usually dealt with in juvenile court, to attempt to rehabilitate them and assist them in becoming valuable members of society?

There’s no doubt that Grunwald drove the getaway vehicle, but there also doesn’t seem to be any doubt that she played no part in shooting the police officer. Is driving a car for a man 10 years her senior who had who knows what type of control over her enough to send her to prison for the rest of her life? You’ll find people on both sides of this particular issue.

One Tragedy Doesn’t Mean There Needs to be Another Tragedy

Our point in bringing up this case is: should one tragedy be compounded by another tragedy–sending a 17-year-girl to prison for a crime she didn’t actually commit? What justice is to be served under these circumstances?

All kids need and deserve legal help, regardless of the offenses or crimes they’ve been charged with. Talk to a Utah juvenile defense attorney today and get your kid’s case on the right track.

Teens Sentenced to Life in Prison

The answer to whether teenagers who commit capital felony offenses should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole is different, depending on who you talk to. In 2007, a Utah jury sentenced Robert Cameron Houston to life in prison for the rape and murder of a Utah woman. At the time of the crime in 2006, Houston was a juvenile—only 17 years old. His counsel is currently appealing that sentence, calling the sentence cruel and unusual punishment for a then 17-year-old minor. Houston is the only juvenile in Utah to receive a life in prison sentence.

Photo: Bob Jagendorf

There are many questions that a judge and jury should consider when faced with this type of situation. Some research shows that a person’s tendency towards violence decreases with age. According to Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham, the jury in Houston’s case was not advised of this research.

As a juvenile or the parent of a juvenile facing serious criminal charges in Utah, you need to be fully aware of all the rights that you or your child has. One right is to have the best defense you can get. Juveniles make mistakes, and sometimes as a result of those mistakes, crimes occur. However, if it makes sense to you that rehabilitation might be the answer as opposed to be locking up a juvenile offender and throwing the key away, hire a qualified Utah juvenile defense attorney without delay. Your child’s future may depend upon your actions today.