Twelve-year old Christian Fernandez is charged with intentionally killing his two-year old brother. His mother is charged with not seeking aid for the ailing child in a timely manner. Check out the full story here.
It's a difficult case for so many reasons, both legally and morally:
- Christian Fernandez's mother was twelve when she had him and, at twenty-four, had four children. One is in jail for murder and the other is dead.
- Allegations of abuse and neglect of Christian Fernandez at the hands of his mother goes back years.
- The mother didn't call 911 for hours after finding her son unconscious. She allegedly searched various websites during that time including a bank, medical information on concussions, and music downloads.
- Christian Fernandez is twelve and confessed to the police. In NY, a parent or guardian is required at the interview for anyone under sixteen.
- Christian Fernandez apparently broke his brother's leg by beating him months earlier.
- Christian Fernandez can serve life without parole.
- It will be difficult to prove a twelve year-old intended to kill him with pre-meditation.
- It will be difficult to prove intentional murder if the only evidence is that he pushed him into a bookshelf. The defense will be able to argue anything from accident to the "horsin' around" defense.
- He apparently turned down a plea deal that would have let him out of jail at his twenty-first birthday.
- He's going to serve until eighteen in a juvenile facility, and then be placed in an adult prison.
I do not envy the prosecutor's who are handling the case. In most of my cases, sympathy is tough to garner for the defendant. Sympathy will be flowing out of the courtroom in this case.
At least in NY, we don't have to worry about twelve-year olds. Family court would handle this case. For murder in NY, the minimum is the ripe old age of thirteen. The maximum for murder for a thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen year old is fifteen years to life in prison. So they would be eligible for parole in fifteen years.
Luckily, I haven't had a case like that yet.
My youngest murder defendant? Fifteen years old. He shot and killed a man during a robbery gone bad.
So what do you think? At what age should a person be treated as an adult? Does it depend on the crime? Should the background of the defendant matter at all? Check out a discussion of New York juvenile crime law.