It is rare that prosecutors have mercy on defendants, but when an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer can point out mitigating evidence to show charges should be dropped or a sentence should be lighter, the defendant can benefit.
This is especially important in cases of juvenile crime in Jacksonville. Teenage defendants can see their entire lives be ruined with a conviction for a serious crime.
The juvenile criminal justice system is designed to rehabilitate and teach teenagers the consequences of their poor decisions in the hopes that they don't get in trouble in the future. The criminal justice system, in contrast, punishes. It doesn't put much stock in helping convicts in the future, but housing them in accordance with the sentence they receive from judges.
When teens are locked up with older criminals, it can hurt their future because they can learn things that hamper them from improving their lives. But the juvenile system allows for them to serve time with other juveniles, with counselors and in educational and working situations to take their minds off criminal activities and focus them on better behavior.
Cristian Fernandez, the famed 12-year-old murder defendant, is in a tough position. On the one hand, he's the youngest Jacksonville murder suspect in the city's history after being accused of slamming his 2-year-old half brother into a bookcase.
As the Jacksonville Criminal Attorney Blog has covered in the past, his mother is also charged in the case, accused of neglecting the care of the 2-year-old after the incident.
But in a recent interview, the prosecutor handling Cristian's case said that she doesn't intend for him to spend the rest of his life in prison, despite charging him with first-degree murder, which is punishable with a life sentence. The newspaper reports that a plea agreement is close and neither side expects a trial.
But the prosecutor stopped short of saying she would be going lenient on the boy murder defendant, saying that he should be punished for his alleged crime. The boy has suffered through years of abuse, having watched his stepfather commit suicide in Miami before the family moved north to Jacksonville.
He needs years of therapy and guidance in order to improve his life. What he doesn't need is 20 years in a prison where he essentially grows up and forms his opinion of right and wrong based on grown men who have made their choices and landed in prison.
Sometimes it takes a less-than-popular choice to do what is fair and just. The 2-year-old boy didn't deserve to die, but the 12-year-old obviously has some issues that need to be addressed and they won't be if he spends decades of his young, impressionable life spent in prison.