Criminal Justice

Tough Call: How to Charge Boy, 12, in Tot's Killing

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Florida prosecutors are now deciding whether to charge as an adult a 12-year-old babysitter who has been accused of murdering a 17-month-old second cousin left in his care.

Because Shaloh Joseph wouldn’t stop crying as the unidentified preteen was trying to watch a cartoon on television, he allegedly hit her with a wooden baseball bat on Friday afternoon, repeatedly fracturing her skull, reports the Associated Press. The 90-pound, 4-foot-11 preteen initially told a fabricated story about what happened, but later confessed to police, according to the news agency.

The toddler’s death is expected to raise issues for prosecutors similar to those faced by their counterparts in the Florida case in which Lionel Tate was convicted in 2001 of murdering a much younger child. As discussed in earlier posts, Tate, who was 12 when he murdered a 6-year-old girl, was the youngest defendant ever to receive a life sentence after he was tried and convicted as an adult. The sentence was later overturned, but he has since been sentenced to a 30-year prison term for probation violation.

Although defense lawyers say Joseph’s killing should be pursued as a juvenile matter, Ken Padowitz, who prosecuted Tate for murder, said his colleagues in the current case now have a tough call to make, just as he did then.

”We found ourselves in a situation of going to a juvenile system that was too lenient,” he says, “and going to the grand jury and risking a first-degree murder charge, which was too harsh.”

Authorities say the preteen in this case has no prior criminal history and the state Department of Children & Families has not previously been involved with the family of either of the children concerned.

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