New California law impacts prosecution of teens arrested for Porterville Library fire

Local News

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KSEE) — As devastation struck the Porterville Library on Tuesday, the situation turned unimaginable when two of the firefighters that responded to help, were killed in the flames. Investigators acted quickly and found two people they say are responsible. Two 13-year-old boys, from Porterville.

“Those juveniles were booked at the Tulare County Juvenile Facility,” said Porterville Police Chief, Eric Kroutil.

New California state laws will impact the punishment the two teens may face.

“Juveniles that are 13 and 14 years old, legally cannot be tried in a criminal court,” Chief Kroutil said. “They’ll still face criminal charges, but in a juvenile court.”

That means they cannot be charged as adults. The new laws also impact the way police will be able to proceed with their investigation.

“Recent law changes, say we’re not even able to question juveniles at that age, we just can’t,” Chief Kroutil said.

Fresno criminal defense attorney Charles Magill who is not related to this case weighed in on why the changes in the law were made across the state.

“Psychologists, psychiatrists, said it’s really inappropriate to charge a minor under the age of 14 with murder because they’re mentally not developed,” said Magill. “So to hold them to an adult standard at that age when we don’t allow them to be adults for any other purpose, the legislation finally recognized that this is really inappropriate.”

Magill says the impact will show when it comes down to the possible punishment that the two young teens may face.

“They can only hold them in the California Youth Authority until they’re 26, then they’d be released,” Magill said.

Tulare County District Attorney, Tim Ward says, while his office will face limitations, they are dedicated to justice.

“My office will be dogged in the pursuit of justice for the destruction of the library and the deaths of the 2 firemen,” said Ward. “We will be constrained to work within the parameters of the law, and I will also be limited from sharing with you legally enough information. Our priority is and will always be the responsible pursuit of justice, and to that end, we will not waiver. “

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