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By Elizabeth Chuck
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
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.
Juvenile offenders, like the boy in Texas, have a strong ability to rehabilitate themselves if they get the right tools, Chein added. 19659007] "The science here is clear that for an individual who presents himself as a 12-year-old anomalous behavior, there is a potential that affects us socially, can still be rehabilitated and turned into a healthy, functioning human. As a grown-up he did an important contribution to society, "said Chein.
This is a position shared by Lindsey Linder, senior lawyer for juvenile justice at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
"If you say a sentence of 40 years Conscience may not shock the murder of capital, but for someone who is 12, you are nearly four times the age at which you are currently working," she said pointed out that the US Department of Corrections considers 470 months or more "disappointing." life sentence. "Of course, I do not know the details of this case, but I would definitely ask the prosecutor to take the mitigating circumstances into account.
Steven Halpert, chief of the Harris County Department of Youth, Texas, a public defense bureau not overseeing Uvalde, said the Texas law does not allow the boy to be brought to trial as an adult because he is under 14 years old.
Instead, prosecutors, according to Halpert, may resort to a grand jury and receive a so-called determinant verdict that will allow them to seek a jail term of up to 40 years, which may allow them to stay inside the justice system after they leave The juvenile sentence has expired, although he is standing trial in juvenile court, he said h The boy would not receive as long as a sentence.
"There is a serious rehabilitation that must be done when the twelve-year-old has committed this crime."
"With a twelve-year-old you are talking about the absolute bottom end of brain development. People might say it was a heinous crime – obviously someone died, which is horrible – but I do not care who the 12 year old is, he can not fathom the consequences of his actions at that age, "he never said If the 12-year-old committed this crime, he must be seriously rehabilitated. "
The Supreme Court has also considered the age of the offenders in other cases, including a judgment from the The year 2012, which put down the necessary laws, orders courts to convict juveniles convicted of murder without parole.
Linder said the court needed to learn more about what other factors in the boy's life played a role in making a judgment.
Someone so young, I think you have time to work with them and see if you can not address the cause of the damage and put it on the right track, instead of just a moment, a mistake and you to throw them away, "she said.
" Even children who have committed the most abominable offenses can rehabilitate themselves.
She suggested that adolescents like him should be taken to safe facilities that "look as therapeutic and comfortable as possible." And receive rehabilitation th at is tailored to individual needs, as opposed to adolescent prisons that resemble adults
"I hope that the prosecution prosecuting this case has processes that take into account youthfulness," Linder said, "because even children who have committed the most outrageous offenses can rehabilitate themselves."