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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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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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