Court erupts after judge's decision
Victim's family erupts after suspect is granted youthful offender status
By GARY McELROY
A judge's decision to grant youthful offender status to a man accused of
shooting his teenage ex-girlfriend to death sparked a melee in a Mobile
Relatives and friends of Mesha Anglin, 17, erupted in anger and anguish
following Mobile County Circuit Judge Joseph "Rusty" Johnston's decision,
according to courtroom witnesses.
The Friday morning hearing before Johnston involved defense attorneys' efforts
at obtaining youthful offender status for their client, 19-year-old Steven
When Johnston announced his ruling, 15 or so supporters and members of the
victim's family and about 10 of Mason's supporters converged in the courtroom
aisle, shouting curses and threats, according to witnesses.
Courthouse police officers were called to Johnston's sixth-floor courtroom at
Mobile's Government Plaza to break up the confrontation.
Johnston's decision came after Mason's Mobile attorney, Arthur Madden, told the
judge that Mason had no previous criminal record.
Mason was 18 in June, when he was accused of standing outside Anglin's Bay Front
Court bedroom window, near the Brookley Field Industrial Complex, and shooting
her once in the head with a .22-caliber weapon.
Youthful offender status means that Mason, who was charged with murder and
facing a maximum of life in prison if convicted as an adult, will now be tried
as a youth, with a maximum possible sentence of three years of incarceration if
convicted by a judge during a non-jury trial.
Assistant District Attorney John Furman argued against the status, calling
Anglin's June 1, 2002, shooting death "an atrocious crime."
Johnston told Furman, Madden and the crowded courtroom that it would be
improper of him to deny youthful offender status based strictly on the severity
of the charge.
At this, the courtroom erupted in chaos, witnesses said.
Apparently no one was injured in the 10-minute clash, and there were no
arrests. According to one court official, following the hearing, Anglin family
members were counseled by victims' assistance coordinators in the district
Johnston set Mason's trial date for Feb. 3.
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