Case Puts Focus on Release of Juveniles

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An 18-year-old District resident was ordered held in city jail yesterday after being charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of another teenager last month.

Lafonte Lurie Carlton is not new to the legal system. City officials said he was found guilty of homicide three years ago and sent to the city's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. His arrest last week highlights concerns among D.C. Superior Court judges who have been frustrated as they watch juveniles come to their courts after being released from the custody of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Judges, residents and police have said some offenders are released too soon.

In this case, Carlton, of the 4000 block of Ninth Street NW, is charged with killing Paul Dominique Jones, 17, on Jan. 9.

According to D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Carlton pleaded guilty as a juvenile in the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man in 2006.

D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield declined to discuss the Carlton case specifically. He said judges can send juveniles to Youth Rehabilitation Services, but it is up to that agency to determine whether the offender can be monitored with probation or should be sent to the city's Oak Hill detention center in Laurel.

Satterfield said many people younger than 17 who commit violent crimes know that no matter how serious the offense, it is the city that determines the punishment.

"We can order they be committed to the city and hope that the city will keep them in a secure situation for a long period of time," Satterfield said. "But sometimes, they could be out the very next day."

Reggie Sanders, a spokesman for Youth Rehabilitation Services, said the agency has lengthened detentions over the past four years.

Carlton was sent to Oak Hill, Graham said.

According to the arrest affidavit in the Jones killing, a witness told police that Carlton and four others entered an apartment building near 14th and Columbia roads NW. The witness heard gunshots and saw Jones trying to run away as Carlton followed, according to police. An autopsy determined that Jones died of a gunshot wound to his back.

Magistrate Judge Aida L. Melendez ordered Carlton held until his next hearing Feb. 20.

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