Juvenile Court trial sought for girl in death

Posted: July 17, 2003

An attorney for the 15-year-old girl accused of luring Fishtown teenager Jason Sweeney to his death filed a motion yesterday requesting that his client's murder trial be transferred from adult to Juvenile Court.

Defense attorney William J. Brennan cited Justina Morley's young age, lack of a criminal record and history of mental-health disorders, and the nature of her alleged role in the May 30 slaying.

According to testimony at the preliminary hearing last month, Morley lured 16-year-old Sweeney to a vacant lot with the promise of sex. There, prosecutors charge, three boys attacked Sweeney and beat him to death for the $500 he had earned working construction with his father.

Edward Batzig Jr., 16; Domenic Coia, 18; and his brother, Nicholas Coia, 16, are all charged with murder.

Yesterday, prosecutors filed court paperwork indicating aggravating circumstances - the first formal step in seeking death sentences for the boys. Morley is ineligible for the death penalty because of her age.

The teens, who all remain jailed without bail, were not required to attend the brief arraignment hearing.

Sweeney's father, Paul, sat in the courtroom and vowed to attend every hearing in the case.

"Straight up - the death penalty is what I want," he said after the hearing.

Paul and Dawn Sweeney recently established the Jason Keel Sweeney Foundation to fund a scholarship to the Valley Forge Military Academy in memory of their son.

"We're looking for a C student, and a C student only, who's in financial need and really wants to go there," Dawn Sweeney said.

The foundation will be holding a July 31 fund-raiser and silent auction from 7 to 10 p.m. at Liberties restaurant, 705 N. Second St. Dawn Sweeney said $25 tickets would be sold at the door.

Contributions may be sent to the Jason Keel Sweeney Foundation, Box 3775, Philadelphia 19125.

The next court listing for the four teens is scheduled for Aug. 19. Brennan said a judge was unlikely to hear arguments on his motion to move Morley's case to Family Court until after that date.

Contact staff writer Jacqueline Soteropoulos at 215-854-4497 or jsoteropoulos@phillynews.com.

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