Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 6, 2014

Sentencing debate could delay Chism trial

New charge added in case


“The youthful offender indictments are probably contemplated to be treated, as the murder indictment, as an adult offense,” he said, “but I can see the argument the other way.”

Since there is no precedent on the issue, Whitehead said he is considering asking the Appeals Court to issue an opinion. He acknowledged that it’s possible that an answer could take up to a year, delaying the trial in the case.

A coalition of legislators, led in part by state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, has filed legislation seeking to increase from 15 to 35 the number of years juveniles convicted of murder must serve before being eligible for parole.

Both prosecutors and Chism’s lawyers had some reservations about delaying the trial.

The prosecutor, in particular, was concerned about the possible delay and urged the judge to consider moving the case forward. She asked for time to consult with other attorneys in her office, but acknowledged that “given the state of the law prior to now, there wasn’t much purpose indicting on a youthful offender charge,” because it wouldn’t affect a sentence of life without parole.

Similarly, Chism’s lawyers were also concerned about delaying the case. But they believe Chism is entitled to separate proceedings.

Also during the hearing, MacDougall told the judge she has turned over most of the evidence available in the case so far, including a copy of a hard drive containing all of the surveillance video from the school. A notice filed also indicates that the autopsy report has been completed and turned over.

Not complete is a forensic examination of Chism’s cellphone, which is being reviewed for possible evidence, including any photos that might have been taken during the crime.

Prosecutors want to know if Chism “memorialized” the crime in photos taken with his smartphone. Such photos could explain why Ritzer’s body was both covered with leaves, in an apparent attempt to conceal it, and also posed in a sexual manner. Investigators say it is “not unusual” for individuals who have killed someone, particularly in cases involving sexual violence, to document the act through photos, audio or video, “for further humiliation of the victim or later viewing, for guilty relief or for enjoyment.”

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