Propisition 21 ruled legal in school shooting case

The Associated Press
Saturday April 28, 2001

EL CAJON — A judge ruled Friday that the teen-ager charged in a deadly school shooting in suburban San Diego will be tried as an adult, rejecting a challenge to a new, voter-approved California law aimed at cracking down on juvenile crime. 

Charles Andrew “Andy” Williams, 15, pleaded innocent to two counts of murder and 26 other felony charges in the attack March 5 at Santana High. 

Superior Court Judge Herbert R. Exarhos rejected a challenge to Proposition 21, a gang violence and juvenile justice law that requires prosecutors to charge juveniles as adults for certain serious crimes. 

Public defender Randy Mize said he would file a challenge with a state appellate court in San Diego. 

The judge read from his 17-page ruling before a courtroom packed with friends and family wearing stickers and carrying placards featuring photos of Bryan Zuckor and Randy Gordon, the two boys killed in Santee. 

Williams, wearing a jail-issue orange jumpsuit, kept his head bowed through most of the hearing. 

The slightly built teen spoke publicly for the first time, softly uttering “not guilty” and answering “yes” to the judge’s questions about whether he understood the charges. 

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 17. 

After the hearing, Mize said Williams understood the judge had dealt his case a setback, but did not fully comprehend the court proceedings. 

“He certainly did not have a clue as to what the judge said today,” he said.  

“Based on his age, I don’t think he has a clue of what Proposition 21 is and how it applies to him as a 15-year-old.” 

Zuckor’s aunt, Carol Lynn Briens, said she cried tears of relief at the judge’s ruling but thought “all these words, all these legal things” distracted from the truth about Williams. 

“The truth is what he did, and what he did has affected many people’s lives,” she said. 

Williams’ lawyers argued that Proposition 21, approved by 62 percent of voters last year, violated prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment in the California Constitution and gave prosecutors the power of judges. 

In adult prison, defense attorneys argued, Williams would be cruelly targeted for sexual and physical assaults at the hands of older inmates.  

Exarhos disagreed, citing regulations requiring minors  

to be segregated from the  

adult prisoners. 

The judge also said prosecutors properly exercised their discretion when they alleged that Williams was “lying in wait” for his victims and committed multiple murders.  

Under Proposition 21, those circumstances automatically landed the case in adult court. 

“The defendant does not have a constitutional right to have the charges brought in juvenile court,” Exarhos said. 

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kristin Anton said the case belonged in adult court. 

“This case involves horrific crime. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a victim or a family,” Anton said.  

“Even without Proposition 21, we would have proceeded to get this individual into adult court.”