PIERRE, South Dakota — Attorneys representing a Pierre teenager accused of killing another teen will not be allowed to interview a key witness in the case, a judge has decided.
Braiden McCahren, 16, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death last Dec. 18 of classmate Dalton Williams, 16.
McCahren is accused of shooting Williams with a shotgun after first pointing the weapon at another 16-year-old male following an argument about a paintball game.
Defense attorneys want to interview that boy — the sole witness in the case — saying there are "significant inconsistencies" in three earlier statements he has made — two to investigators and a third to the grand jury that indicted McCahren.
The ability to interview the boy is "critical to the outcome of the transfer hearing and the ultimate outcome of the case," defense attorney William Taylor said during a Thursday court hearing.
The transfer hearing, scheduled May 1-2, is to determine whether the case remains in adult court, where the teenager has been charged, or moved to juvenile court. McCahren could face life in prison if convicted of murder in adult court. If the case is moved to juvenile court, the state could hold him in custody only until he turns 21.
Defense attorneys wanted to depose the witness boy this month to help them prepare for the transfer hearing.
"Much of the overall evidence in the case will be presented in the transfer hearing," Taylor said.
Prosecutor Michael Moore disputed that there are discrepancies in the witness boy's statements and opposed the defense motion. He said the defense knows from the boy's statements what the boy will say, and there will be no "trial by ambush."
Sixth Circuit Judge John Brown denied the defense request, saying any discrepancies in the boy's statements could be addressed at trial or during the transfer hearing.
Brown also moved McCahren's trial date in adult court from June 3 to Aug. 7, to give attorneys more time to prepare. The trial, if it remains in adult court, is expected to last two weeks.