A new Colorado legal procedure will be put to the test in one of the most high-profile juvenile cases to hit the state.
Through this particular procedure Austin Sigg, the 17-year-old defendant in the murder of Jessica Ridgeway, could end up being tried in juvenile court, rather than adult court.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey filed for Sigg to be tried as an adult in the case.
But during a hearing on Oct. 30, Sigg’s defense team said they intend to file a motion for a reverse transfer hearing.
This legal procedure, allowed under House Bill 1271, would require the prosecution to make a case as to why Sigg should not be tried in juvenile court.
The defense team would also have the opportunity to present evidence supporting why Sigg should be tried in juvenile court. Judicial District Chief Judge Stephen Munsinger, will make the final decision.
Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, Aya Gruber, said although the defense is taking this approach, in her opinion, Sigg would still end up being tried as an adult. She said due to the fact that he is on the cusp of being an adult at the age of 17, and because of the nature of the extremely violent crime he is being charged with, she would guess the judge will decide on adult court, rather than juvenile court.
“Sigg is faced with first-degree murder, a class one felony, so I would be very surprised if this were to make it back in juvenile court,” she said.
According to Gruber, a former defense lawyer, Colorado had one of the most prosecution-friendly juvenile transfer procedures, before the transfer hearing procedure was signed by the governor in April. Before, the prosecution was the beginning, middle and end when it came to whether or not a juvenile would be tried as adult, she said.
“The reverse transfer hearing will really help younger juveniles who have committed lower crimes, who now have a fighting chance to be treated as the child they are,” she said.
Gruber said although she believes Sigg will end up in adult court, the defense team has to pursue the reverse transfer hearing because it is their ethical duty to do everything in their power for their defendant in this case.
During the reverse transfer hearing, Gruber said some of the evidence for and against Sigg will be discussed, which could give people a glimpse into the investigation and the personality of Sigg.
“We may learn about the crime itself, or the impact the crime has made on the victims, or even some mental health issues on Sigg’s part could come out during the reverse transfer hearing,” she said. “The judge will be under an enormous amount of pressure to make the final decision.”
If Sigg is tried as an adult he could face life in prison with parole after 40 years. If he is tried in juvenile court, he could face seven years.
Sigg remains in juvenile detention. The next hearing, a status conference, is set for 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27.