Plea Rejected, Youth Faces Trial as Adult

The state Court of Appeal has refused to overturn a Juvenile Court ruling that a Tarzana teen-ager must stand trial as an adult in two bank robberies and two street holdups, despite the fact that his alleged accomplice was allowed to plead guilty as a minor.

Defense attorney Roger Jon Diamond said he will seek a state Supreme Court review of the Court of Appeal ruling handed down Thursday, in part because the probation officer assigned to the case made no recommendation as to whether Michael Morrison, 17, should be tried in adult or juvenile court. Diamond said a recommendation is required by law.

Morrison and Taft High School classmate Mark Berman, also 17, of Tarzana, were arrested last May and charged with the robbery of the Encino Savings & Loan and the Barclays Bank of California in Tarzana.

Berman pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery and three of armed robbery and was sentenced to the California Youth Authority facility in Camarillo, where he can be held until he is 23.

Diamond said he acknowledges that Juvenile Judge Burton S. Katz had the discretion to order one of the defendants tried as an adult and the other as a juvenile. But he said a probation recommendation could have influenced the judge's decision.

If convicted as an adult, Morrison could be sentenced to a maximum of 12 years in prison. He is free on $50,000 bail.

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