Earlier this month, 18-year-old murder suspect Autumn Wood was denied youthful offender status. After a Lauderdale County, Ala., judge denied that request, Autumn’s attorneys objected to that ruling, claiming that the denial violated the young woman’s constitutional rights. The ruling, they claimed, ”is an abuse of discretion,” and violated their client’s 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendment rights. A judge has denied their grounds for objection and request for a new hearing.
Autumn is accused of fatally stabbing 14-year-old Brooklyn Hollins last March. According to authorities, a group of approximately 20 teens were having a party at a house with no parents present when a fight broke out between four girls. The fight worked its way into the kitchen where police say Autumn grabbed a knife and stabbed Brooklyn, who died at the scene. Autumn, 17 at the time, was gone when police arrived but turned herself in later and was charged with murder as an adult. According to testimony heard at a preliminary hearing in June, there was alcohol at the party. Witnesses said the fight was started by a friend of Brooklyn and a friend of Autumn, and the two young women came to their friends’ defense.
Youthful offender status, under Alabama law, would have limited Autumn’s sentence to three years, and prevented the release of criminal record information to the public, thus allowing Autumn employment opportunities that would normally be closed off to felons. In the state of Alabama, youthful offender status is available to persons between the ages of 18 and 21, and is, according to its definition, “intended to extricate persons below the age of twenty-one years of age from the harshness of criminal prosecution and conviction. It (was) designed to provide them with the benefits of an informal, confidential, rehabilitative system.” If granted the status, Autumn would have waived her right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to youthful offender status instead of the crime with which she is charged. If convicted as an adult without youthful offender status, Autumn faces ten years to life.