Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Flanagan had big robes to fill when he was appointed to succeed Jim Blanchard, who had risen to a superior court post. Already, Flanagan has taken a stand that is a pleasant surprise to a sometimes jaded community.
It started in a recent hearing, when Flanagan ruled that 16-year-old Daniel Newton should join three adult defendants awaiting trial in an Evans murder case.
Newton, two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old are accused of participating in the horrific kidnapping and burning death of 63-year-old Jack Murray, the stepfather of one of the defendants. Flanagan ruled Newton is mentally fit for trial, with a juvenile record proving Newton hasnt been slowed by previous encounters in youth courts.
Its that last part in which Flanagan makes his early mark. Ordinarily, juvenile court records pile up for the worst offender, only to be wiped clean when the punk reaches adulthood. In this case, however, Flanagan listed in open court the crimes for which Newton has recently been convicted.
The crimes range from minor to major: From shoplifting at age 11, to running away and being unruly, to criminal trespass, aggravated assault and obstruction of police - a long rap sheet for a dropout who should still be in high school.
What a waste. While most Columbia County kids are buckling down to a new semester of schoolwork and generally behaving themselves, Newton has been a one-kid losing streak. Flanagan is seeing to it not just that adult court can send the message the juvenile system has been unable to deliver to Newton, but also to make sure the community knows exactly why this rotten apple has been excised from its midst.
Good work, judge.
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