Thornton case update

An Arkansas court will hear motions in May on whether to transfer to juvenile court the case of three Arkansas teenagers charged with Kevin Thornton’s murder.

The date was set on Monday when Richard Whybark, age 17, Timothy Norwood and Clinton Ross, both age 16, appeared in Hot Spring County Circuit Court.

The teens were charged in August in adult court with the second degree murder of 19-year-old Kevin Thornton, of Juneau, who was visiting the Malvern, Arkansas area when he was assaulted while he and a friend were walking along a road. Prosecutors say the teens attacked the two for no apparent reason. They’re also are charged with an aggravating count of violent group activity.

Defense attorneys argue the charges should have been initially filed in juvenile court. They filed the motion to transfer in October.

Attorney Gregory Crain appeared with the trio in court on Monday. In his motion, he argues that subjecting a juvenile to the penalties available to adults – such as a life sentence without parole – is cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. and Arkansas constitutions.

The hearing on the motion to transfer the case to juvenile court is scheduled for May first.

Meanwhile, mental evaluations for Ross and Whybark indicate the teens have the capacity to understand the legal proceedings against them and to effectively assist in their own defense.

All three boys recently went through court-ordered forensic examinations. Results for two were available. According to the psychologist’s report, neither Ross nor Whybark had any mental disease or defect at the time of the examination and the alleged conduct.

The forensic report indicates both had the capacity to appreciate the criminality of the alleged offense.

Ross had just finished 9th grade prior to alleged assault of Thornton. He told the psychologist that he had been arrested once on a battery charge at age 15. He reported using alcohol, often to intoxication on some weekends, and said he had consumed about 10 to 15 beers the afternoon of the alleged assault.

Whybark was a senior in high school. He reported receiving school counseling for anger issues in 11th grade. Whybark told the psychologist that he began using alcohol about age 12. He said prior to his arrest he was using it most weekends to the point of becoming intoxicated.

He also said he had consumed 14 to 15 beers the afternoon of the alleged assault that resulted in Thornton’s death.

Under Arkansas law, self-induced intoxication is not a defense for failure to recognize one’s actions are culpable.

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