Thursday morning a 13-year-old Knoxville boy made his first appearance in juvenile court on charges of first degree murder in the shooting death of his 12-year-old brother.
The administrator of the juvenile court said the hearing was ordered closed, so no media or members of the public were allowed to attend. Defense attorney Greg Isaacs is representing the 13-year-old and was at Thursday's hearing along with the boy's parents. None provided any comment on the case.
The names of the 13-year-old and the 12-year-old victim are not being released.
LINK - Dec. 21, 2016: 13-year-old charged in fatal shooting of younger brother
Tuesday night's shooting is one of several recent high-profile criminal cases involving juveniles, including the arrest of two juveniles for arson in the wildfires that destroyed parts of Gatlinburg and killed 14 people. Authorities have provided no information about the genders or ages of the two juveniles who were arrested for the wildfires. The only official information given about their residence is they live in Tennessee, but not in Sevier County.
LINK - Dec. 13, 2016: Juveniles arrested in Sevier County wildfires awaiting first hearing
Many people have asked 10News why the amount of information identifying juveniles can vary so much from case-to-case. Legal experts say in some instances the decisions are based on personal judgment. In other cases, it is a matter of law.
"Especially for a juvenile under the age of 14. The law is very specific. Anything that would basically identify the suspect of the crime, if they were under 14, you are unable to release that information," said Chief David Rausch with the Knoxville Police Department.
However, in Tuesday night's shooting KPD did provide information regarding the ages of the victim and suspect, the fact they are brothers, and where they attended school. A specific address was not given, but KPD said it occurred on the 2100 block of Needham Lane.
Chief Rausch said there was a need to release some information because it impacted a school community. Furthermore, members of the media were already at the scene of the crime and asking questions immediately after the shooting took place.
"We have a robust media in Knoxville. Initially, we thought the shooting was self-inflicted and made reporters aware of that. As the investigation went on, the facts changed and we felt the need to inform the community of the correct information. So I think it's that balance if you will of that balance to make sure we're following the law, but also being responsive to the community."
Rausch said even though they are legally allowed to provide some information about juveniles, especially in cases involving teens between the ages of 14 and 18, they can still decide not to. That's what investigators have done in Sevier County by withholding anything that could identify the two juveniles arrested.
"Each case is going to be handled specifically to that case. You look at it and say, 'how much of this is for the public good and how much of it could do harm to those that are involved?' Harm comes in many forms. You could cause harm to the juveniles involved in a case as well as their families. You do not want to put people in danger. And then there's harm to the general populace, as well."
Legal experts have pointed out a main distinction between juvenile cases and adults charged with crimes. The primary aim of the courts in juvenile cases is to rehabilitate rather than punish.
"In juvenile cases in Tennessee, they can only remain in the juvenile system until their 19th birthday," said attorney Don Bosch. "Death penalty is always off the table for any juvenile. That's been ruled federally unconstitutional. The goal of any juvenile system is the rehabilitate and treat issues that cause criminal behavior."