Hearing delayed in Thornton case

An Arkansas judge has delayed a decision on whether to transfer the Kevin Thornton murder case to juvenile court until it’s clear whether previous juvenile records can be admitted as evidence.

Seventh Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Ed Koon Tuesday gave attorneys ten days to brief him on the issue.

Three Arkansas teenagers are charged with second degree murder in the death of Kevin Thornton of Juneau, who was assaulted July 20th of last year while visiting the Malvern area. Thornton died a week later of his injuries.

The boys were charged in adult court. In October, defense attorneys filed motions to move the case to juvenile court.

Malvern reporter Steve Good was in the courtroom for Tuesday’s hearing.

“There was a discussion in (Judge Koon’s) chambers on whether or not juvenile records had been delivered properly and timely to defense council,” Good said, but it was quickly determined the records had been delivered properly. That triggered the second issue on the admissibility of all of the juvenile criminal records reports.

“The argument is how much of and which of those records are relevant to the possible disposition of the current case, whether or not all can be admitted, some can be admitted, and if some can, which of the ‘somes’ can,” Good said.

Judge Koon halted Tuesday’s proceedings and will resume the hearing on the transfer motion after attorneys file their briefs.

At the time of the alleged assault, two of the juveniles were 16 and one was age 17. Since then, Richard Whybark, who does not have a previous record, turned 18. Clinton Ross and Timothy Norwood, now both age 17, have had past brushes with the law.

Thornton was 19 when he died. His parents, Bill and Darlene Thornton, had traveled from Juneau to Malvern for the hearing.

The parents and other family members of the defendants also were in the courtroom, but Good said they had no contact with the boys.

The three teens wore street clothes to the hearings. Good said both Norwood and Ross, who are being held in Arkansas juvenile correction facilities in different counties, arrived at the hearing in leg shackles and belly chains with handcuffs attached.

Earlier this year, Whybark was released on bond to the custody of his father and lives in the Malvern area.

In addition to the motions to transfer the case to juvenile court, defendants’ attorneys have requested the case be severed and each boy tried separately. No date has been set for a hearing on that motion.

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