Juvenile Law Gets Early Test: 16-Year-Old Charged in Killing Expected to Get Adult Treatment

Article excerpt

Two days after a Virginia law that cracks down on juvenile offenders went into effect, a Fairfax County teen-ager was killed and another teen stands accused of fatally stabbing him.

In the wake of Virginia's strongest juvenile justice law to date, Jimmy Hernandez, 16, of Alexandria was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Romulo Eric Ardila, also 16, outside George Washington Middle School in Alexandria Wednesday.

The case may be the first in Virginia to test the law passed this year by the General Assembly that mandates that the most serious offenses - including capital, first- and second-degree murder and aggravated malicious wounding - be tried in Circuit Court.

The new law leaves no discretion to the courts or prosecutors in charging the most violent juveniles - age 14 and older - in adult court. The law also opens up the court and juvenile records of those who commit violent offenses.

The Hernandez youth was ordered held without bond at the Alexandria Juvenile Detention Center after a hearing yesterday in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

While court records for juveniles will be opened for violent offenses under the new law, Judge Stephen Rideout yesterday asked reporters who attended the hearing to refrain from using his name.

"This is the first time with the new law," Judge Rideout said. "While the hearing is public, please [refrain from] mentioning the defendant's name. He is still a juvenile in this matter."

The judge acknowledged media interest in the case but said procedures under the new law are still not clear.

"Later on, if [the case] is transferred to Circuit Court, his name will be released," Judge Rideout said.

Because the Hernandez youth's name was entered in the public record, however, The Washington Times is publishing it.

"If the judge finds probable cause, there is no discretion," Commonwealth's Attorney John E. …