BY TODD WRIGHT
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.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
BY TODD WRIGHT
Posted by carie at 5:51 PM