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The Burleigh County Courthouse is located in downtown Bismarck on Thayer Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets.

A teenager charged as an adult in a Burleigh County murder conspiracy case has been remanded to juvenile court in a rare legal decision.

John Holmberg Wilson, 16, was charged as an adult in October with felony conspiracy to commit murder. He is one of three teenagers accused of planning to beat and kill a man with a bat on July 28 at the MacLean Bottoms south of Bismarck; however, Wilson was apparently the only defendant charged as an adult.

On Wednesday, South Central District Judge Bruce Haskell dismissed the transferred case, with "no effect" on the open juvenile proceedings. 

John Wilson, Wilson’s father, offered few comments on the case beyond his relief.

“Since this matter is now in juvenile court again, confidentiality will apply, so I can’t really have any comment except to say I believe justice was done,” Wilson said Tuesday.

Wilson has previously criticized the prosecution of his son’s case, citing "zero" efforts to reform or rehabilitate his son and “micromanagement” of the bond conditions.

About 9 percent of referrals to North Dakota’s juvenile court had a formal court process in 2017. Many juvenile cases are resolved with diversions to programming.

It’s unclear why Wilson was remanded to juvenile court. Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Tessa Vaagen said she couldn't comment on her motion to dismiss or a related hearing due to the confidential nature of the case.

Her Nov. 19 motion to dismiss only mentions "the reasons provided by the Court on the record at a hearing held on November 15, 2018." 

Wilson’s attorney, Lloyd Suhr, said he couldn’t comment on specifics of the proceedings as they are now in a confidential system. He did say that for a juvenile case to be transferred to adult court and then remanded is “fairly rare.”

Wilson’s remanding is the first such one he’s seen, according to Suhr, who has handled juvenile cases previously as a prosecutor.

“Certainly we're glad to be able to move forward with proceedings in juvenile court again,” Suhr said.

Juvenile transfers are rare by themselves — in 2017, one juvenile in North Dakota was involuntarily transferred to adult court.

In his 22 years working with the juvenile system, Bismarck and Dickinson area juvenile court director Cory Pedersen said he hasn’t seen a juvenile transfer remanded from adult court.

"I actually haven't seen it even be requested as a motion to reconsider on a transfer," he said.

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or


Capitol Reporter