The case against the final defendant charged in the killing of a juvenile detention center officer in 2010 has been settled, but because of juvenile confidentiality requirements, prosecutors can’t disclose details.
Nicholas Dismuke, who is now 18, was 15 when Leonard “Sandy” Wall, 58, died after being allegedly beaten by three juveniles during an escape from the facility on Jan. 30, 2010.
“For the Wall family who have had to deal with the loss of their loved one for almost three years, the matter has been resolved in reference to the three individuals,” Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said Wednesday. “Because juvenile court proceedings are confidential, I cannot comment further regarding the resolution of the matter.”
“I know this is a matter of great public interest but because of the rules of juvenile court, I am unable to speak about the resolution of a matter that is still there (in juvenile court),” Hunter said.
Dismuke, Christopher Beverage, who was 16 at the time, and Brandon Henderson, who was 18 at the time, were all charged as adults with capital murder and other offenses following an investigation by Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies.
The case against Dismuke was transferred to juvenile court in 2011 by the Arkansas Supreme Court because of what the high court said was the failure of prosecutors to provide the defense with the names of witnesses who were to testify at a hearing to transfer the case from adult court to juvenile court. Dismuke is now referred to as “N.D.” in court documents.
After the case was transferred to juvenile court, prosecutors asked Juvenile Judge Earnest Brown Jr. to approve a request for Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction, which Brown did after a hearing.
In June, the supreme court rejected claims that Dismuke should not be subjected to (EJJ), meaning that a judge could retain jurisdiction even after Dismuke reaches the age of 21 when he would normally be released from the juvenile system.
Attorneys for Dismuke had argued in that if the juvenile court granted EJJ in the case, then it would be transferred back to circuit court, violating the previous court order.
The unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court, written by Associate Justice Robert Brown, sand Dismuke’s contention was wrong because state law does not require the juvenile court to transfer the case back to circuit court, and the order by Juvenile Judge Earnest Brown Jr., which granted a motion by prosecutors for the EJJ designation, does not mention a transfer to circuit court.
Additionally, the case was transferred from circuit court to juvenile court only because of the supreme court’s order.
The high court also rejected a claim by Dismuke’s attorneys that the EJJ designation constituted double jeopardy because he was subject to receiving a life sentence in criminal court if he had been tried as an adult and because when the case was transferred to juvenile court, that potential life sentence was no longer possible without EJJ.
“The EJJ designation simply means at this stage that if the juvenile court finds the allegations in the petition to be true and adjudicates him as delinquent, he may be sentenced to a more strenuous punishment than what is available in juvenile court without such adjudication,” Brown said in the ruling.
Under state law that existed at the time of the arrest, Dismuke and Beverage, if convicted of capital murder in the death of Wall, would have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Henderson could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection because he was 18 at the time the crime was committed. Arkansas law prohibits imposing the death penalty on people under the age of 18.
In August, prosecutors amended the charge to first-degree murder against Dismuke and Beverage because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a sentence of life without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional, with attorneys for juveniles in Alabama and in a non-related Arkansas case arguing that juries had no discretion on sentencing options under the existing laws.
Henderson pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the case and was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Oct. 13, 2010.
On Sept. 7, Beverage pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and numerous other charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He will have to serve 70 percent of that before being eligible to apply for parole.
The confidentiality requirement of juvenile court also prohibited law enforcement officers who investigated the case from discussing its resolution, although Sheriff’s Department Major Lafayette Woods Jr., confirmed that Dismuke, who had been held at the adult detention center while awaiting a trial in juvenile court this week, was transferred to a Division of Youth Services facility at Dermott.