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A 12-year-old lawyer charged with capital murder introduces a judicial system poorly equipped for teenagers



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By Elizabeth Chuck

A 1

2-year-old in Texas was charged with murder after allegedly breaking into the house of a professional boxer and killing him. The boy could face a maximum of 40 years if convicted. This is a punishment that the juvenile court lawyers hope for.

Boxer John Duane VanMeter, 24, was killed in his home on Wednesday night, police said in Uvalde, Texas. The woman said a woman in the house called 911 to report that someone had broken in and hers Shot friend. Witnesses told NBC's News 4 branch in San Antonio that a man dressed in black with a black bandana cover in front of the residential building was seen part of his face before he was brought to Jourdanton Juvenile Detention Center

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The police could not identify the suspect. Numerous legal experts told NBC News that they believe he is one of the youngest to be charged with capital murder, the most serious type of crime.

The capital murder charge differs from first degree murder in that it typically includes a special circumstance, such as a kidnapping or the murder of a firefighter or police officer on duty.

In the case of the Uvalde boy, prosecutors are likely to regard the robbery component as a particular circumstance, said Mandy Miller, a lawyer in Houston representing several teenagers who were convicted of capital murder years ago and seeking to reduce their sentences.

"It is a common practice for prosecutors to charge fees as high as they think they can and work down," said Miller, who is not involved in the Uvalde case. "This case obviously gets complicated."

In states such as Texas, which are punishable by death, the crimes of adults accused of capital murder are punishable by death. However, a 2005 Supreme Court case banned the death penalty for youth in the United States.

Jason Chein, a psychology professor at Temple University, who has studied the development and decision-making of adolescents in the brain, said the decision was one of several important recognitions from Supreme Court on the biological differences between brains of adolescents and adults.

"Pulse control is something that continues to develop at least until mid-to-late adolescence, and you'll even see impulse control improvements up to 16 years old, then it starts to distract you and look like a grown-up," said he.


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