Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Teen faces charges in death of Orange County man

Susan Jacobson

Sentinel Staff Writer

11:12 PM EDT, July 15, 2008

A teenager was arrested late Tuesday on charges of murder, attempted murder and grand-theft auto after a 20-year-old man was found dead at home and his mother seriously injured, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

Matthew Braxton, 19, was arrested about 8:50 p.m. by a deputy assigned to the sheriff's Juvenile Arrest and Monitor Unit, said Jim Solomons, a sheriff's spokesman. He is suspected of killing James Walter Hufstetler and hurting his mother, Patricia Warren. A neighbor found them at their east Orange home on the 1100 block of Overdale Street about 10 a.m. Tuesday and called for an ambulance.

Investigators would not say how Hufstetler died or what injuries Warren suffered. Nor did they disclose a possible motive. Braxton was an acquaintance of the mother and son, Solomons said.

Deputies recovered Warren's 1994 Hyundai Elantra, which had been missing.

Braxton was convicted in April and September 2007 of grand-theft auto. Solomons said he also has a juvenile record, but details were not available.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Juvenile Justice

Some changes would improve legislation in the Senate.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

SINCE 1974, federal law has required that juveniles picked up for breaking the law be kept separate from alleged adult offenders -- and for good reason. Juveniles held in adult facilities are more likely to be attacked, more likely to commit crimes once released and more likely to commit suicide than those held in facilities that house only minors. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider reauthorizing an updated version of the 1974 bill. The Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008 strengthens protections for juveniles while safeguarding judicial discretion to deal with exceptional cases. It also calls for preservation and expansion of programs that have been particularly effective in combating delinquency and crime among youth, including mentoring and after-school supervision. The bill should be passed, with some changes.

Over the past decade, an increasing number of states have adopted laws allowing juveniles to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes; prosecutors in these jurisdictions often have the last word on charging decisions. Those jurisdictions often also require that these juveniles be held in adult facilities. Under the proposed bill, even juveniles charged as adults must be held in juvenile facilities or out of "sound and sight" of adults in adult facilities unless a judge specifically orders otherwise. A judge must take into account the alleged offender's age, his physical and mental maturity, and the nature of the crime, among other factors; a judge must review every 30 days the decision to send a juvenile to an adult facility. This approach is sensible. The bill should be amended to explicitly allow prosecutors and other state officials to flag for the judge juveniles they believe would be a danger to other minors and so would be better held in adult quarters.

The legislation also takes a step in the right direction by setting stricter limits on detentions for status offenders -- those youths who are picked up for skipping school or running away from home. Such youths have not committed crimes and would not have been locked up for these infractions had they been adults. Studies show that these juveniles -- and the community -- are better served when they are directed to mentoring or school-based programs. As it is, judges in many jurisdictions may hold juveniles indefinitely for status offenses; the proposed bill would limit that to seven days. That's an improvement, but lawmakers should consider eliminating these detentions altogether.

The Congressional Budget Office has not yet estimated the cost of the new juvenile justice bill. According to Justice Department figures, the existing version of the law cost taxpayers just under $300 million last year -- real money but a fair price to pay for smart and effective programs.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Boy, 12, takes plea deal in tot's beating death

A 12-year-old Broward County boy accused of beating his toddler cousin to death with a bat was sentenced to 18 months in a high-risk juvenile treatment facility Wednesday after pleading no contest to second-degree murder charges.
The plea deal came just moments after the boy was found competent to stand trial.

After being released from the program, the boy will return home to be with his mother, Guerla Joseph, but is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with children under the age of 10.

The boy could have been sentenced to life in prison if he was convicted as an adult.

The boy, whom The Miami Herald will not name because of his age, has spent the past several months at a treatment facility in Tampa after being found incompetent to stand trial in January. Doctors then said he was too immature to understand the legal system.

On Wednesday, the soft-spoken boy said, ''Yes,'' to Judge Charles Kaplan when the judge asked if he understood what was going on.

''He got a second chance on life today,'' said Sandra Perlman, one of the boy's appointed public defenders. ``We are looking for a happily ever after story.''

That story got off to a tragic beginning.

Lauderhill police detectives said the boy, who was baby-sitting 17-month-old Shaloh Joseph at the time, confessed to beating her at the family's Lauderhill home Jan. 4 because she was crying while he was trying to watch television. He was alone with the girl and his 10-year-old brother, according to police.

Guerla Joseph, who has been adamant about her son's innocence throughout the case and had first objected to the plea deal, declined to comment after court Wednesday.

Her son could be returned home even earlier than the expected 18 months, said Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes Jr. His stay in the Tampa treatment facility will depend on his continued progress, he said.

Doctors testified Wednesday that the boy had made tremendous progress sine their last psychological evaluations in January, even understanding complex legal issues like plea deals and different court proceedings.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


"The death penalty is about revenge and hate, and revenge and hate is why my daughter and those 167 other people are dead today."

Bud Welch, father of Julie Marie Welch,
victim in the Oklahoma City bombing

"I have come to believe that the death penalty is not what will help me heal. Responding to one killing with another killing does not honor my daughter, nor does it help create the kind of society I want to live in, where human life and human rights are valued. I know that an execution creates another grieving family, and causing pain to another family does not lessen my own pain."

MVFHR board member, Vicki Schieber, testifying to the Subcommittee on the Constitution,
Civil Rights and Property Rights; Committee on the Judiciary; US Senate, February 2006