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Judge: 13-year-old boy accused of killing 9-year-old at playground is competent for trial

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GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — A 13-year-old boy is competent for trial in the fatal stabbing of a 9-year-old boy at a western Michigan playground and can learn details of the legal process like any other defendant, a judge has ruled.

The decision by Kent County Family Court Judge Paul Denenfeld is in line with a state expert's finding. It conflicts with the opinion from an expert hired by the boy's lawyer that the child couldn't sufficiently understand the charges and aid in his defense.

"While the defendant may not understand all the details of the process, that makes him no different from most Americans who gain their understanding of the criminal justice system from television and movies," Denenfeld wrote in his opinion released this week.

"There is simply no persuasive argument that, based on the undisputed facts presented here, the defendant fails to 'understand the nature and object of the proceedings,'" Denenfeld wrote.

Defense lawyer Charles Boekeloo told The Grand Rapids Press he was disappointed with the judge's decision. He said he plans an insanity defense and that the boy, who was 12 at the time of the killing, was not able to know the consequences of his actions.

The boy is charged with murder in the death of Michael Verkerke, who was killed in August at a playground in Kentwood, near Grand Rapids.

The Associated Press isn't naming the boy because of his age. His mother and stepfather are facing child abuse charges, and his siblings have been removed from their home.

A jury trial is scheduled for July 15.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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