Five Michigan teens are to stand trial after being accused of throwing rocks onto a highway from an overpass.
The alleged incident occurred in October 2017 and led to the death of Kenneth White, after one of the rocks pierced the windshield of the van he was traveling in, MLive.com reported.
The five teenagers, aged 15 to 17, will appear in court Jan. 11 for a probable cause hearing. They are facing charges of second-degree murder.
"All five are charged as adults and face penalties of up to life in prison on conviction," Genessee County Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Potbury told The Associated Press. "It's an understatement that this is a real tragedy. We have five young people whose lives will be changed forever and the tragic death of a father/husband heading home for work after a long day."
The prosecution accuses the teens of tossing around 12 rocks, one weighing 20 pounds, from the overpass.
Requests for bond for the five defendants have been rejected, with Genesee County District Judge William Crawford stating that "the seriousness of these charges and the danger to the public" means that bond must be denied.
Prosecutor David Leyton explained why the teens are being charged with second-degree murder.
"While some may be saying, 'Well, we want first degree murder,' I don't believe there was pre-mediation (to cause a death) here," Leyton said, according to MLive.com.
Lisa Halushka, a former prosecutor, noted that under Michigan law, there are three potential states of mind under which a defendant can be convicted of second-degree murder. These include an intent to kill, intent to commit great bodily harm, or if the defendant knowingly created a situation in which there was a very high risk of death or great bodily harm.
"My suspicion is that Mr. Leyton is operating under the third -- that these kids knowingly created a high risk of death by throwing the rocks over the bridge," Halushka told MLive.com. "I think he's charging it very broadly. In terms of second-degree murder, what he's going to have to prove is that the other four were aiding and abetting the defendant who actually threw the rock. So he's going to have to develop some facts to convince the jury that they were acting intentionally to help him."
Defense attorney Michael Manley, who is representing 16-year-old Mikadyn Payne, told the AP that he expects some of the defendants will be found less culpable.
"The public is outraged over this death and they have a right to be outraged," Manley added. "But at the same time, we have to take into consideration these are still children and determine what accountability, if any, they should suffer."