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13-year-old “murderer” to be tried as an adult

A 13-year-old boy faces a first-degree murder charge for killing his brother.

Despite protestors rallying against it, prosecutors are pushing ahead with attempts to charge 13-year-old Cristian Fernandez with first-degree murder in Florida, US, in connection with the death of his 2-year-old brother in 2011.

Fernandez was 12 when he allegedly pushed his brother into a bookcase, causing brain trauma and the resultant death of the toddler, and was arrested in March last year.

Activists are horrified by attempts to treat Fernandez as an adult for the purposes of the trial- the consequences of which could be that he is sentenced to life in prison if found guilty. They argue that he is a strong candidate for rehabilitation if he is tried as a juvenile, in which case he would only face a maximum of 36 months in a juvenile facility if found guilty.

He’s already seen more trauma than most adults: Apart from the death of his brother, Fernandez was also witness to his stepfather’s suicide- he shot himself in front of the family to escape being arrested on child abuse charges.

His mom is also in hot water- she waited more than six hours before seeking treatment for the injured toddler. She faces aggravated manslaughter charges.

The courts aren’t sure how to tackle the case. The severely-abused 13-year-old  is obviously not a candidate for prison, and prosecutors insist that even if he’s tried as an adult, he would only be held in a juvenile facility if convicted. At the age of 21 he would be released into a court-supervised rehabilitation programme.

In South Africa, The Child Justice Act 75 of 2008 states that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that a child between the ages of 10 and 14 lacks criminal capacity. That means the child must undergo evaluation to assess whether or not, because of his immaturity, he “was incapable of understanding what he had done or the wrongfulness of his conduct”. (Wikipedia).

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