This year, the story of two Florida sisters accused of shooting and killing their brother has gripped much of the country. Early reports indicated that the 15-year-old girl shot and killed the 16-year-old brother, while the 11-year-old girl served as a “lookout” while her older sister retrieved the gun from a bedroom.
Initially, the two were going to be charged with murder. Then, in February, they were both released, with charges ruled out for the younger sister. Finally, last month, it was announced that the older sister would also be spared murder charges, a decision made in light of the alleged abuse the two sisters had suffered.
Our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale juvenile defense lawyers know that this case serves as a great example of how impressionable children are and how seemingly criminal and malicious actions are often just the consequence of abuse and neglect.
At first, it seemed like a case of sibling quarreling gone terribly wrong. When the 15-year-old girl met with investigators, she told them that she was angry that her brother had beaten her up.
But looking at the situation more closely, as our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale juvenile defense lawyers are glad that the state attorneys handling this case did, we begin to see an image not of an angry sister taking seeking and getting the ultimate revenge on her older brother, but rather of a teenager girl who had undergone years of physical and mental abuse and neglect finally cracking under the pressure. To begin with, at the time of the girl’s arrest, police documents revealed that the 15-year-old girl’s uncle had been convicted of molesting her back in 2010. Moreover, the documents also discussed how the mother of the children at one point found them having sex.
Speaking of the mother, at the time of the killing, the parents had been away, leaving the three children home alone. The parents were charged with child neglect causing great bodily harm and were also accused of failing to properly supervise their children. That quick trip away was not out of the ordinary; apparently, the mother and father would quite frequently leave the children home alone, with the 16-year-old brother, now deceased, in charge.
When the 16-year-old was home alone with his siblings, he allegedly abused them repeatedly. The 16-year-old apparently beat his 15-year-old sister and locker her in her room. Further, the girl was used to being locked in her room for days with only a blanket and a bucket that she could use to go to the bathroom. Our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that this type of abuse had to figure into the determination of whether or not to charge the teen with murder, as an adult or not, and we are glad to see that it did.
Sure enough, a deal was reached whereby the 15-year-old girl pleaded no contest to felony burglary and will receive probation in exchange for authorities agreeing not to charge the girl with murder. This case is a great example of the benefits of judicial and prosecutorial discretion; one never knows, at the onset of a case, what went into making an individual act the way that they did. Mandatory minimums too often take away power from judges and prosecutors by making it impossible for them to amend charges or strategies based on the particularities of a given case, as they were thankfully able to with this case.
If you have any questions about this or any other juvenile defense issue, or if your child has been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade Count, please contact our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale juvenile defense lawyers by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.