Will the case of 13 year old Cristian Fernandez move forward now?
June 28, 2012 1 Comment
Statements made by Cristian Fernandez when he was 12 years old are a critical component of the prosecution’s case against him. Cristian is facing not one trial, but two. The sexual battery case is scheduled to take place on August 27th. The murder trial is expected to begin September 10th.
To recap, State Attorney Angela Corey sough a grand jury indictment against Cristian in 2011 for charges of murder and aggravated child abuse. The two charges combined exposed Cristian to felony murder statutes, which prior to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling would have required that the mandatory sentence of life without parole was imposed if he was convicted at trial. Felony murder does not require prosecutors to prove premeditation when it comes to the murder element of the charge. This is problematic because it allows courts to give children and teenagers extreme sentences, even if the circumstances surrounding the event are not premeditated and the death was not intentional.
Cristian’s mother testified at an earlier hearing, where she put in a plea of guilty for aggravated manslaughter, that she waited approximately eight hours to seek treatment for her youngest child. A doctor at Shands hospital told the police that had she gotten the child treatment sooner he might have survived his injuries. These facts have added to the complexity of this case when it comes to matters such as culpability.
Though the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences are unconstitutional, Cristian could still receive this sentence if his judge deems it appropriate.
In 2011, Dr. Meadows was contracted by the prosecution to evaluate Cristian. He found that despite Cristian’s difficult life, his exposure to physical and sexual abuse, and the circumstances surrounding his alleged crimes, the child was amenable to intensive rehabilitation.
The prosecution decided to ignore this finding and moved forward with charging Cristian as an adult, intentionally exposing him to life without parole due to the felony murder doctrine. When Angela Corey contacted me regarding the petition I started for Cristian I asked her directly why she sought charges for aggravated battery and murder if she was stating to the press that life without parole was not her intention. She insisted the charges were appropriate and even expressed that people were indicating online and elsewhere that she needed to prove premeditation in the case. She said that she did not, which has been confirmed through discussions with defense attorneys in the Jacksonville area.
Cristian’s petition has nearly 189,000 signatures, but Angela Corey refuses to reverse her decision to try him as an adult. She told me it was just not going to happen.
The best evidence the prosecution appears to have against Cristian are statements he made pertaining to David’s injuries and then those made during questioning regarding a sexual abuse allegation. Cristian denied the allegation repeatedly. The discussion with the detective indicates that there may even be confusion as to what the five year old boy communicated, but none of this has concerned Angela Corey and her office.
Judge Cooper will have a difficult decision before her as she evaluates the information presented in court. She must decide whether or not to suppress the statements Cristian made on the basis he did not have sufficient understanding of his rights when he made them. If she suppresses these statements, the prosecution’s case is diminished significantly.
The judge could also decide, based on the evidence presented, to throw out the case entirely, especially in light of the state’s psychologist reporting that Cristian did not appear to understand what it meant to waive his rights or the implications it would have on his situation.
You may read a partial transcript of the sexual battery interrogation here.
You may also read a partial transcript of the murder interrogation here.
Updates on the hearing are being provided today here.