Charges could be downgraded for teens charged in Ensley slayings

Charges could be downgraded for teens charged in Ensley slayings

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The three suspects in court on Wednesday. Source: WBRC video The three suspects in court on Wednesday. Source: WBRC video
Rashad Stoves (L), Artavius Underwood (middle) and Reginald Mims (R). Rashad Stoves (L), Artavius Underwood (middle) and Reginald Mims (R).
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

The three teens accused of killing five people in an Ensley home in January may not face capital murder charges. The possibility of downgraded charges came up during a hearing today.

Judge Stephen Wallace says he will make a final ruling on the issue in a few days. If those charges are downgraded, that would be a big win for the defendants in this case.

Suspects Artavius Underwood, Rashad Stoves and Reginal Mims are all accused of killing five men on Jan. 29 inside a home in the Ensley Highlands community.

All three suspects were under the age of 18 when they were arrested and charged with capital murder. Because they were so young, a Supreme Court ruling protected them from receiving the death penalty.

Today, defense attorneys for the three men argued that they should not be charged with capital murder at all, due to another Supreme Court ruling that came down in June. That ruling says no one under the age of 18 can face a charge in which there is a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

However, that is the case with Alabama's current capital murder statute. Defense attorneys argue that in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, Alabama's statute is no longer valid for juveniles. That led them to Judge Wallace to drop the capital murder charges against their clients.

If the judge rules that the capital murder charges should be dismissed, the state can come back and charge the three teens with felony murder.

However, the penalty for that crime in Alabama is 20 years to life, which means the young men could eventually be paroled.

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