CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Monday a grand jury indicted 16 year old Jatwan Cuffie on murder charges. Police say Cuffie shot and killed fellow classmate Bobby McKeithen inside Butler High School in October. Initially Cuffie was charged with 1st degree murder but the Mecklenburg County District Attorney (DA) lessened the charge to 2nd degree murder. The DA says since this is a pending case he cannot comment.
WBTV reached out to Thomas Porter. He is a lawyer who has tried murder cases before. He has his theory about why the murder charge went from 1st degree to 2nd degree.
"Typically the evidence could change," Attorney Thomas Porter said. "When the police officers initially charged someone - they are not lawyers. They are not looking at it from that perspective."
Porter says the DA has much to think about before proceeding with a particular charge.
"When the DA's office reviews the case they may consider other factors," Porter said. "There may be additional information that comes to light they have to consider. They have to consider office resources. They have to consider likelihood of a conviction and what they can prove."
Lessening the charge means a lot. The punishment for getting convicted of 1st degree murder comes with the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The 2nd degree murder charge has less of a punishment.
"Meaning you get a term of years," Porter said. "It could be 15 - it could be 20 years but you do have some life at the end."
McKeithen's family issued this statement in response to the lesser charges.
"The Family Of Bobby McKeithen will not be making any statements at this time regarding today's events involving the Cuffie case. Our main focus right now is continuing to comfort his parents during these still difficult days. We are focusing on getting through this first Thanksgiving and the holidays altogether without Bobby. The simple thought of that has caused much pain."
The family issued an additional statement on the lesser charge stating that it is still unclear to them why the charges were reduced.
Porter's prediction is the charges will be lowered again to manslaughter and if convicted Cuffie could spend 5-6 years in prison.
The DA says this case will now go from District Court to Superior Court.
WBTV reached out to Cuffie’s attorney but they have not responded.