The legal fate of the 16-year-old US boy accused of stabbing or slashing 21 fellow students and a security guard at his high school will probably pivot more on his mental state than his tender age, lawyers say.
The sheer number of victims won’t preclude him from being treated as a juvenile, something that would assure his freedom by age 21, according to lawyers.
Alex Hribal’s lawyer is seeking a psychiatric evaluation and will seek to have his client transferred to juvenile court.
To get the case moved, the lawyer will have to show Hribal has a better chance of rehabilitation in the juvenile system than in adult court.
“Now once it’s determined what his mental health issues are, if any, that’ll go a long way in determining, I would assume, what a judge would do here,” said the lawyer, Patrick Thomassey.
“Why would a 16-year-old who has no history of anything just take two knives from a drawer and go to school and start stabbing people?”
Authorities say Hribal took the knives to the 1200-student Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, east of Pittsburgh, on Wednesday and randomly attacked other students in a crowded hallway just before the start of classes.
The rampage stopped when an assistant principal tackled him.
Hribal is charged as an adult with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault and could face decades in prison if convicted as an adult.
Five students remained hospitalised on Saturday, including four in critical condition, hospital officials said.
The boy’s family is just as puzzled as police about what triggered the attack, Thomassey has said.
No evidence has surfaced that he was targeting any particular individual or that he was bullied.
He doesn’t appear to have a history of misbehaviour or any known mental problems.
But lawyers agree his mental health is likely to be central to the case.
Westmoreland County prosecutor John Peck said he doesn’t know what arguments his defence lawyer plans to make. But, he said, “generally, mental health issues can play a large role in having the case remanded to juvenile court.”