Aug. 18, 2020 – A state appeals court has rejected a claim that adult court jurisdiction was improper in the case against Morgan Geyser, who participated in the attempted murder of a 12-year-old classmate in 2014 when Geyser was also 12 years old.
The case drew national attention when Geyser and accomplice Anissa Weier repeatedly stabbed their friend in the woods of a nearby park. The victim survived the attack.
Weier, in interviews with police, said they could become “proxies” of and appease Slenderman, a fictional internet character, if they killed their classmate. Geyser told police the two had plotted to kill their classmate for months prior to the attack.
Other disturbing evidence emerged before a hearing to determine whether the Geyser should be charged with first-degree or second-degree attempted murder.
The court denied arguments supporting an attempted second-degree intentional homicide charge. She ultimately entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease and was committed a maximum 40 years in a state mental health institution, with the ability to petition for a conditional release every six months.
Adult Court Jurisdiction
Adult courts have exclusive jurisdiction over juveniles charged with first and second degree homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
But adult courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction over juveniles charged with attempted second-degree intentional homicide. A hearing is held to determine if there’s probable cause to believe a juvenile committed a crime subject to adult court jurisdiction.
Geyser argued the court erred when it determined there was probable cause to charge her with attempted first-degree intentional homicide because there were mitigating circumstances: she thought Slenderman would kill her family if she did not kill the victim.
That is, Geyser argued that Wisconsin law, Wis. Stat. section 940.1(2)(b), allows first-degree charges to be mitigated to second-degree charges if the actor believed the action was necessary to defend someone, even if the belief is unreasonable.
In State v. Geyser, 2018AP1897-CR (Aug. 12, 2020), a three-judge appeals court panel concluded that the trial court “properly maintained adult-court jurisdiction and bound Geyser over for trial as it found that the State had established probable cause” that she committed the offense of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
“For the adult court to lose jurisdiction based upon a preliminary hearing, the court would have to fail to find probable cause to believe the defendant committed the specific adult-court-jurisdiction-conferring offense with which he or she is charged,” wrote Judge Mark Gundrum, noting the state did not have a burden to “disprove” the defense.
The panel also rejected the claim that Geyer’s due process rights were violated when the court did not suppress an incriminating statement she made to an officer. Geyser had argued her waiver of Miranda rights was invalid due to age and mental state.
“We need not determine whether the court erred in declining to suppress this statement because even if it did, such error was harmless as we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that even if the statement had been suppressed, it would have made no difference,” Judge Gundrum wrote.
“Even without the admission at a trial of Geyser’s statement to Casey, the evidence of Geyser’s guilt for the charged offense of attempted first-degree intentional homicide as a party-to-the-crime would be overwhelming.”