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Sanchez to be tried as adult in teen killing

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A Buffalo teenager accused of luring and killing a fellow teenager last May will be tried for the crime as an adult.

Erie County Judge Shiela DiTullio ruled Wednesday that New York State law allowing prosecutors to pursue adult charges against Jean Sanchez is constitutional, and said that moving this case to Family Court would be, in her words, neither warranted nor appropriate.

Sanchez is accused of luring, sodomizing and then strangling 13-year-old Ameer Al Shammari last May.

Defense attorney Paul Dell explained after the hearing that the law in question, passed in 1978, has been made outdated by advances in scientific understanding of brain development.

"We didn't have our first MRI or brain scan until 1979," Dell said. "We know a lot more about the development of the brain right now, and that the law is antiquated and it doesn't match science."

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita, who welcomed the ruling, quickly rejected Dell's argument.

"Neither a 13-year-old nor a 16-year-old, or a 17-year-old for that matter, is as mature as a fully formed adult. There's no question about that. But just about every 13-year-old, 14-year-old, 15- 16- and 17-year-old by that age knows there are certain things you don't do," Sedita said.

Judge DiTullio pointed out Sanchez's reported record of violent behavior while staying in juvenile detention. That, Sedita said, would not be admissible in court when the trial begins.

Sanchez will be back in court on June 2, when lawyers on both sides will argue whether his reported confession can be admitted as evidence.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.