On Thursday dozens came together to protest a plea deal where the 15-year-old shooter who killed two teens and critically injured another was sentenced to six years in juvenile detention. 

Paul Tahi’s Mother, Lata Tahi said she forgives the teen who shot and killed her son and 14-year-old Tivani Lopati, but the justice system continues to let her family down. 

“Whatever I felt from the beginning when my son died, is exactly what took place almost a year later,” said Tahi. 

The shooter pleaded guilty in a juvenile court to two counts of manslaughter and one count of discharge of a firearm. He will remain in juvenile detention until he turns 21. 

Assistant Professor for the Department of Criminal Justice at Weber State University, Michelle Jeffs said juvenile justice in Utah has changed over the years. 

Currently in Utah, if a minor is convicted as a juvenile, they cannot remain in custody beyond their 21st birthday. And it’s difficult to try them as adults. 

“It needs to be in the best interest of the minor and of the public,” said Jeffs. 

The judge also has to consider the following:

  1. Seriousness of the offense
  2. Offender’s criminal history
  3. Offender’s mental, physical and educational background
  4. Can the offender be rehabilitated?
  5. Does the offender need to remain in custody beyond the age of 21?

“It’s really hard to prove it’s in the best interest of the minor to go to prison,” said Jeffs. 

Tahi said Thursday’s protest is about so much more than her son. 

‘It’s justice for all everybody that’s been impacted by a judicial system that continues to fail us.That’s what I’m here for,” said Tahi. 

While in this case the judge had to decide whether or not to try the shooter as an adult, minors 16 and older charged with murder are automatically charged as adults.