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Chism seeks trial as juvenile in murder of Danvers teacher

Philip Chism appeared in court earlier this month.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Philip Chism appeared in court earlier this month.

Lawyers for Philip D. Chism contend that his constitutional rights will be violated if he is tried as an adult for the October 2013 rape and murder of Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer inside the school.

In papers filed in Essex Superior Court, Chism’s lead public defender, Denise Regan, wrote that a 2012 Supreme Court ruling established the legal principle that teenagers cannot be given the adult sentence of mandatory life without parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

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The nation’s highest court ruled that the brain of a juvenile is physically different from an adult brain.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court followed in 2013, with a ruling that juveniles in the state cannot receive any sentence of life without parole, not just mandatory sentences of life without parole.

But Massachusetts law still mandates that juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 who are charged with murder must be tried in Superior Court and face adult punishments, Regan wrote.

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Regan asked that a judge dismiss Chism’s adult indictments and instead send the case to juvenile court, where a sentence generally ends when a person turns 18 years old.

Chism faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated rape in the killing of Ritzer, a math teacher. Just before 3 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2013, Chism allegedly followed her into a bathroom at the high school, wearing gloves and holding a box cutter.

Essex prosecutors allege Chism raped Ritzer, slashed her throat, and stole her cellphone, credit cards, and two driver’s licenses.

He is accused of putting her body into a recycling bin and wheeling it into the woods behind the school.

He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

A spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, whose office is prosecuting Chism for the Ritzer killing, declined comment on the defense motion to dismiss, which was first reported by the Salem News.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.
com
. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.
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