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Saturday, 28 March, 1998, 00:28 GMT
Arkansas schoolboys 'unlikely to face federal charges'
parents
Parents escort their children back to Westside Middle School
Officials in Washington are quoted as saying that the US Justice Department is unlikely to bring federal charges against the two boys accused of killing four girls and a teacher in a schoolyard ambush in Arkansas.

Reports quote officials as saying that a consensus is emerging that federal charges would be inappropriate and unnecessary - but that no final decision has been made.

"We're still considering all the options," one official said.

The possibility of bringing federal charges arose because federal law might bring longer sentences than state laws.

Under state law, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, 11, can only be charged as children. If convicted of the murder charges they must be released by the time they are 21 and could be freed when they are 18.

Politicians in Arkansas tried last year to lower the threshold from 14 to 12 for charging juveniles as adults, but the measure failed. Now State Representative Jimmy Jeffress is demanding a law that would set no age limits for prosecutors deciding whether to pursue adult charges that could keep juvenile offenders behind bars for life.

School reopens

Meanwhile Westside Middle School has reopened after the tragedy.

flowers
Flowers mark the murder site
Pupils returning to the school wore white ribbons, a white cross of flowers with a red bow was on the flagpole in front of the school and the flag flew at half-mast.

The scene of the killings was festooned with red and white bouquets, and white ribbons fluttered from posts and mailboxes.

The school authorities began the first day back with an hour-long meeting in the cafeteria, where counsellers took questions and tried to ease the pupils fears.

hallet
Cory Hallet is escorted into the school by a policeman
"Life goes on, and from there we're going to start a new beginning," said 12-year-old Colby Brooks who was brought to school by his mother. "I can't believe my own classmates could be doing this."

His first class on Thursday morning would have been taught by Mrs Wright, the teacher who died trying to shield a pupil from the gunfire.

"She's probably crying, thinking how we're all grieving over her," Colby said. "And she's probably telling us to keep on studying that English and spelling words and move on, and not worry about her, 'cause she's doing good."

School officials said 17% of the middle school's 250 students were absent, about double the normal absence rate. Colby said he though children should show up, because: "It's just going to be as bad Monday as it is today."

But Erica Swindle, also 12, decided not to go to class, saying she didn't think she would be up to it until Monday. "I never thought Andrew would do that," she said. "I'll be a little bit nervous when the fire drills go off."

"It scares you real bad," Erica said. "I could have been shot in the back."

See also:

25 Mar 98 | Americas
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
27 Mar 98 | US shooting
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
26 Mar 98 | Americas
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
26 Mar 98 | US shooting
Links to more US shooting stories are at the foot of the page.


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