On Feb. 4, Judge Tracy McKenzie of the Dutchess County Family Court denied 13-year-old Julissa Dawkins an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) for a hearing held on March 4. In New York State, an ACD essentially defers a trial, with dismissal altogether pending, if the defendant stays “out of trouble” (NYCourts, Sealed Records: Good Result (Favorable Disposition CPL §160.50, 11.01.2018). Her sister, 16-year-old Jamelia Barnett, was granted an ACD at the same hearing. Both sisters were charged with obstruction of governmental administration as a result of an incident outside Poughkeepsie Middle School on March 11, 2019, during which a law enforcement officer threw Barnett to the ground. Dawkins was additionally charged with resisting arrest.
Barnett and Dawkins’ lawyer, William O. Wagstaff III, explained to The Miscellany News that a written motion was filed in February on their behalf to request a dismissal and to clear the girls of wrongdoing. MacKenzie responded on Feb. 26 by denying the motion to dismiss the charges.
Barnett and Dawkins appeared in court on Feb. 27 for a preliminary conference scheduled ahead of the trial set to begin on March 4. During a pre-trial conference, the defendants’ attorney and the judge discuss details such as evidentiary issues, witnesses and the trial’s duration. Instead, Wagstaff shared that he came prepared to make another motion, permitted only to be made orally, requesting that the court grant an ACD for both Barnett and Dawkins. An ACD would remove the charges against the sisters as long as they do not engage in any activity that the judge finds to be inappropriate for a six-month period. Mackenzie elected to reserve judgement until March 4 and requested Barnett and Dawkins’ school records to inform her decision.
At the meeting on March 4, the presentment agency, as the prosecution is called in cases of juvenile delinquency, argued that Dawkins should not be given an ACD because her school records indicated a disciplinary action for which Dawkins was given a one day in-school suspension. Dawkins and Barnett’s mother, Melissa Johnson, stated the incident that led to the disciplinary action was a playful interaction with a peer. Wagstaff claimed that the report issued by the school is inaccurate and requested that the school’s guidance counselor be called as a witness. Barnett was granted an ACD despite objection from the prosecution.
Johnson says that the trial has had an emotional impact on her daughters. On the decision to deny Dawkins an ACD, Johnson said, “She’s innocent of the charges that she’s being charged, and it was upsetting her, she was crying a lot … To know that she didn’t do anything and the DA is doing this to them as children, it’s just sad.”
Related coverage: Charge dismissal delayed for Julissa and Jamelia.