Paul Thompson, Daily Mail (London), June 6, 2011
Prosecutors want to lock a 12-year-old boy up for the rest of his life–to stop him from killing again.
Cristian Fernandez could become America’s youngest ever ‘lifer’ after being charged as an adult over the murder of his two-year-old brother.
Prosecutor Angela Corey said: ‘We have to protect the public from this young man’. She recommended that he face trial as an adult.
Ms Corey said the public had a ‘right to be protected’ from him.
If Fernandez were charged as a juvenile and convicted he would be free by the time he is 21.
Fernandez is alleged to have beaten his younger brother David Galarriago to death at their home in Jacksonville, Florida, in March.
The two-year-old died from a fractured skull that caused bleeding on the brain. He died two days after being admitted to a hospital.
An autopsy showed the injuries were caused with blunt force trauma consistent with being punched in the head.
Fernandez had previously assaulted his brother and broken his leg.
Prosecutors decided to charge Fernandez as an adult rather than a juvenile defender after reviewing his history of violence and behaviour.
State Attorney Angela Corey said, ‘It’s one where you go, at what point do you step in, so you prevent another murder, and that’s how we felt in this case.
‘If we don’t intervene now and do the tough thing. We have to protect the public from this young man.
‘The fact that we indicted a 12-year-old in and of itself is a stunning event and a sad event in our prosecutorial lives that we had to do this, but it is the only legal mechanism that we can use to protect the community from this particular defendant at this point’.
Fernandez’s defence has compiled a dossier exposing family turmoil, sexual battery and an abusive stepfather’s suicide.
His mother Biannela Susana, 25, had him when she was just 12-years-old.
Both mother and child were put into the foster care system when Fernandez was two and she was 14 after authorities found the toddler walking around dirty and naked outside a South Florida motel while his grandmother, who would have been about 34 at the time, nursed a drug habit.
Documentation also indicates that abuse was occurring regularly in the home from the beginning of Fernandez’s young life.
His stepfather shot himself in front of the family to avoid being arrested on child abuse charges.
The 12-year-old has been examined by two forensic psychologists who found him to be emotionally underdeveloped but essentially reformable despite a tough life.
Assistant Public Defender Rob Mason, one of two attorneys assigned to defend Fernandez, said: ‘The whole system has failed him. This child clearly is a victim. We think he can be rehabilitated and, as his lawyers, we will fight for that.’
Mr Mason said Fernandez’s father has never been around, partly because he went to prison on sexual assault charges after impregnating Fernandez’s mother.
According to an arrest report, Fernandez was looking after his younger brother at their home on the 11000 block of Alden Road, while their mother was out.
When she returned to the family’s apartment she found the toddler unconscious.
Instead of calling for an ambulance she wiped his face clean of blood, changed his clothes and put ice on his head, hoping it was just a concussion and the boy would wake up.
Police said she waited two hours before driving David to St Luke’s Hospital.
Doctors told police that if she had sought immediate medical treatment the boy might have survived.
According to court documents it was the second time David was injured at the hands of Fernandez.
The younger boy suffered a broken leg in January that was initially blamed on a fall from a jungle gym.
Court records show that Susana later admitted to the Florida Department of Children and Families that she lied to investigators and that Fernandez broke his younger brother’s leg while wrestling with the boy.
Police said Susana continued to allow Fernandez to baby-sit his younger brother.
Fernandez is the youngest person in Florida to ever be charged as an adult with first degree murder. The charges carry a mandatory life sentence.
His mother has been charged with negligent homicide and goes on trial later this year.