CLINTON — A Clinton County District Court judge has ruled that a 15-year-old boy accused of child endangerment resulting in the death of a child will be tried as a juvenile, not as an adult or a youthful offender.

Instead, the case against Shawn W. Kiger should proceed in juvenile court because he is not competent nor mature enough to assist effectively in his defense in the context of an adult criminal prosecution, states the ruling filed by Clinton County District Court Judge Gary McKenrick.

Kiger is accused of child endangerment resulting in the death of Arryana JoLee Clark, 13 months, the daughter of Marvin Clark and Jessica Barnhart Clark, 1879 270th Ave., Delmar. At the time of the child’s death, Kiger was one of four foster children living in the home of Jessica Barnhart Clark’s parents, who live in a different home at the same address.

Clinton County sheriff’s officials were called to the scene around 6:30 p.m. Nov. 22 after a 911 call was made from the home of the baby’s parents.

In announcing the charges at a press conference in December, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf would not give details about the events leading up to the death, only stating that the state medical examiner’s office ruled the death was a homicide and the child had sustained head injuries.

Court records indicate Kiger was watching the baby after Jessica Barnhart Clark went to the other home on the property and that Kiger knowingly acted in a manner that would create a substantial risk to the child that could lead to injury causing death. Those records also indicate the head injury was of a severe nature and required substantial force caused by another person.

In determining whether Kiger is competent to face charges, Kiger underwent psychological testing and had asked that the charge be dismissed. McKenrick at that time ruled Kiger is competent to face the charges and denied the motion to dismiss.

That ruling followed a contested hearing that took place May 17 in Clinton County District Court. Admitted into evidence was the opinion of Dr. William D. McEchron, who has been Kiger’s treating psychologist since 2004. While Kiger has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, McEchron concluded Kiger possesses solidly average intelligence and intellectual capacity for a person his age and that he does not appear to have any memory problems or cognitive difficulties.

McEchron stated Kiger is able to participate in court proceedings without presenting any behavior problems that would interfere with the judicial process and that Kiger does not present any indicators of psychoses that might interfere with his ability to participate in the judicial process in an appropriate fashion. He concluded ”the child appears to meet the minimal standards of participating in his own defense and assisting his attorney.”

However, an opinion from Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh, a clinical psychologist who also evaluated Kiger, concluded Kiger is not competent at this time to meaningfully assist his attorney in the defense of the delinquency petition and that Kiger has difficulty making autonomous decisions, requires significant guidance and direction in decision making and is unable to appropriately weigh and appreciate future consequences of his decisions and actions. She said Kiger’s social workers describe him as having a maturity level comparable to that of a child who is 7 or 8.

In that ruling, McKenrick stated: “Although the question is exceedingly close, the court concludes that the child presently has sufficient maturity when coupled with guidance and advice from his attorney and his guardian ad litem to appreciate the charge contained in the delinquency petition, to understand the nature of the delinquency proceedings and to assist effectively in his defense in the context of these juvenile delinquency proceedings.”

The next step was a hearing to determine whether the case would be moved to adult court. That hearing took place July 31.

If Kiger had been tried as an adult, he could have faced up to 50 years in prison, which would have been a mandatory sentence upon conviction. The Clinton County Attorney’s Office sought to have Kiger tried as a youthful offender, which meant that if convicted he would have remained in a juvenile facility but turned over to the custody of the Iowa Department of Corrections when he turned 18.

McKenrick however, said that based on Kiger’s mental condition and immense immaturity, he should not be tried in adult court, or even as a youthful offender, due to his incompetency.

He said Kiger would have to be placed for treatment to bring him to competency and then it would take some time.

“Based on the evidence presently before this court, such treatment most probably would be in the context of his current treatment and placement at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo,” McKenrick wrote. “The current prognosis for the child indicates that competency likely would not be attained prior to the child’s 18th birthday. Therefore, the prosecution of the child as a youthful offender or as an adult likely would not occur until after June 16, 2010. Such a delay would not be in the best interests of either the child or the community. Indeed such a delay may create serious impediments to the child’s prosecution under due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions,” he wrote.

The matter now will be set for a pretrial hearing in juvenile court. A date and time is not yet available, Wolf said.

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