In a disturbing case out of Florida that has loud parallels to the Lionel Tate saga from a few years back, a 12-year-old boy may face adult charges and a mandatory sentence of life without parole for fatally beating 17-month-old Shaloh Joseph, his cousin.
Last Friday the boy was at his cousin’s home watching cartoons when the baby started to cry; according to the police report, the boy became agitated by the interruption, picked up a wooden baseball bat and hit her several times. The AP reports that “she was pronounced dead later and was found to have suffered several skull fractures.” The boy, a ninety-pound seventh-grader who had no prior record, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He appeared in juvenile court on Sunday morning, where a Broward County judge ordered him detained for at least three weeks. He is currently being held in a juvenile detention center until prosecutors decide how to handle the case.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, though, that could take a while. The paper reports that Broward County prosecutors said Monday it could take up to a month for them to decide whether the boy will be tried as an adult or a juvenile. “For the second time in eight years, Broward prosecutors will have to decide whether a 12-year-old boy accused of murder should be prosecuted as an adult and, if convicted, face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole; or whether he should go through the juvenile system and face a lesser punishment for what police call a brutal murder,” the paper explains.
“We have to look very carefully at these kinds of cases,” said Maria Schneider, Broward’s chief juvenile crimes prosecutor. “They are complicated and we are going to discuss every aspect of the case. We will make a decision that we feel is appropriate to reflect the seriousness of the crime and all the circumstances involved, including the age of the defendant.”
Sandy Perlman, one of the boy’s lawyers, is, naturally, arguing to keep the case in juvenile court. “The juvenile justice system is in place for a reason, and juvenile sanctions exist for a reason,” she told the AP.
* * *
Background on the Tate parallel: In 1999 12-year-old Lionel Tate was tried in Florida as an adult for fatally beating a 6-year-old girl playmate and sentenced to life in prison. In 2004 an appeals court overturned his first-degree murder conviction; he was released after pleading guilty to second-degree murder but returned to prison with a thirty-year sentence after violating probation.