STEM suspect makes brief court appearance

Final arraignment scheduled in February


The younger STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting suspect was in court for a brief hearing on Dec. 16 in which he was scheduled to enter a plea, but the hearing was continued until February at the request of defense attorneys.

District Court Judge Jeffrey Holmes said he expects the newly set hearing will be the final arraignment for Alec McKinney, 16, who faces 43 charges in connection with the May 7 school shooting.

Senior Kendrick Castillo died in the incident and eight more students were injured. McKinney and his codefendant, Devon Erickson, 19, are accused of planning and carrying out the attack.

Public defender Ara Ohanian said the defense team received new discovery in McKinney's case less than two weeks earlier, and that he'd not had enough time to review it before the Dec. 16 hearing.

Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler asked the judge to deny the defense's motion to continue and said victims in the case also opposed delaying the proceedings.

“This is a case that has been in the system over seven months,” Brauchler said.

The new discovery containing ballistics reports should not have bearing on what type of plea the defendant enters, he said, adding the prosecution was prepared to set the case's trial date.

Holmes agreed to give defense attorneys more time and continued the arraignment. Attorneys then debated whether to unsuppress the case. The prosecution has requested the case files be made public while defense attorneys hope it remains entirely sealed.

Brauchler said they resubmitted their request to unseal the case after Holmes determined the case should remain in adult court, where McKinney is charged.

Defense attorneys previously asked Holmes to transfer the case back to juvenile court, in part because it wasn't yet known if McKinney would be tried as a juvenile, Ohanian said, but also because of the widespread attention the case has received.

Holmes decided to keep the case in adult court on Dec. 4 after an emotional, seven-day hearing.

Brauchler has noted in past hearings that there is significant interest from the public in the case and its outcome when requesting it be made public.

Although the case file remains sealed, Holmes said he believes it's appropriate to unseal the case with the exception of certain files. He gave attorneys until Dec. 20 to decide which files they'll ask remain sealed or to ask for more time in making that decision.


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