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Judges uphold 11-year-old’s reckless homicide adjudication

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a Morgan County boy’s adjudication for shooting his younger brother while the two were home alone. The 11-year-old claimed that the juvenile court abused its discretion in admitting his statement to the investigating officer at the evidentiary hearing.

In June 2011, N.B. was left home alone with his 6-year-old brother, A.F., and told by their mom if they cleaned their room, they’d have pizza for dinner. A.F. refused to clean their shared room, so N.B. got his stepfather’s .22 caliber rifle from the master bedroom and again told A.F. to clean their room. The boy refused again, so N.B. pulled the trigger, fatally shooting A.F. between the eyes.

N.B. called 911 and told dispatchers and police that A.F. shot himself. The police found some discrepancies in his answers and asked his mother for permission to re-interview N.B. An autopsy revealed it impossible for A.F. to have shot himself.  At the police station, the detective gave the mother and N.B. papers to read setting forth N.B.’s rights. They signed the papers and were later given 20 minutes in private to discuss whether N.B. should speak to the detective.

N.B. later admitted to shooting A.F. This statement was introduced at the evidentiary hearing, at which N.B. faced murder and reckless homicide charges. The judge adjudicated him on the reckless homicide charge and placed the boy in the Children’s Bureau Program.

N.B. argued on appeal that the procedural safeguards for the waiver of a juvenile’s constitutional rights weren’t followed as dictated in Indiana Code 31-32-5-1. He claimed his mother wasn’t an appropriate custodian to the joint waiver because she was the mother of the victim and she faced a criminal charge as a result of the shooting. N.B. also argued that his waiver wasn’t knowing or voluntary because he signed the waiver before being allowed to have meaningful consultation with his mother.

The judges rejected his arguments, finding that his mother faced the neglect of a dependent resulting in death charge regardless of how A.F. was shot. In addition, the Indiana Supreme Court has held that the parent of an alleged juvenile delinquent does not have a conflict of interest by virtue of being a parent of the that juvenile and the victim.

“The totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation of N.B. supports the juvenile court’s conclusion that he knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his rights,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote, agreeing with the trial court that while the signing of the waiver should happen after the juvenile and parent have a chance for meaningful consultation, under the facts of this case, N.B. impliedly waived his rights after engaging in consultation with his mother.


 

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