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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How young is too young to be tried as an adult?

My wife sent me this story today. its certainly not the top story of the day, but it is out there. And it is a recurrent issue in criminal justice.

A 12-year-old boy could spend life in prison when he is tried as an adult for the murder of his two-year-old brother.

Cristian Fernandez is the youngest person ever to be charged with first-degree murder in the city of Jacksonville. Prosecutors say the pre-teen "acted with premeditation" when he allegedly shoved his two-year-old brother into a bookshelf, leaving the boy with a fractured skull and internal bleeding to the brain, CBS reports.

The younger boy, David, died two days after the March incident.

So, he SHOVED his brother. He did NOT try to kill him. He SHOVED him. Which of course kids do all the time.

Find the murderer.

"Yes, I have compassion for Cristian Fernandez , but it's not my job to forgive, it's my job to follow the law," prosecutor Angela Corey recently told Fox News.

The prosecution did offer a plea deal that would have freed Fernandez on his twenty-first birthday.

Defense attorneys did not accept, however, on the basis that Fernandez would be forced to admit murder and likely serve the final three years of his sentence in an adult prison, according to the Florida Times-Union.

So, this is plea bargaining at work. Take the deal and admit to being a murderer, and you get nine years. Don't take the deal and lose at trial and you go to prison FOREVER.

A trial is set for Feb. 27, 2012.

Ferandez's mother, 25-year-old Biannela Susana, also faces aggravated manslaughter and culpable negligence charges relating to the incident. Prosecutors say Biannela, who gave birth to Fernandez when she was 12-years-old, first informed cops that her younger son injured himself in a fall.

So, when is too young to be tried as an adult? You can vote at age 18, serve your country at 18, but work at 16 and cannot drink until 21. Keep in mind that the latest brain research suggests your brain is not fully developed until on average about age 25 years.

1 comment:

  1. This is a difficult issue, especially from the perspective of a criminal justice policymaker. For starters, the US sets an inconsistent standard of "adult" with the variations in voting age, drinking age, emancipation, etc. These blurred standards combine with the above mentioned research findings that the brain does not develop until 25 and present even further difficulty for policymakers. To attempt to throw articulation of mens rea and premeditation into the equation is an almost guaranteed impossible mission!

    A child development service coordination agency in Charlotte has dealt with similar grey areas. The program is designed to age a participant out at age 3; however, some children are still in need of the program's services at the 36 month cutoff. Should the agency make exceptions, or does bending in certain instances open the door for inaccurate evaluation/articulation, as well as misuse of the exception? I foresee the "try as adult" standard trending in that very direction: poor application and/or misuse.

    Normative standards may not be the best available option...perhaps adult should be 12. However, the standard is the standard and should be followed steadfast as such in regards to policymaking until empirical evidence and detailed analysis present a clear alternative solution.

    And oh yeah... premeditated death by crushed skull via bodily force into a bookshelf at age 12?!?! That seems as feasible as the old "Off the floor, off the table, off the skyscraper, nothing but net" my opinion.