Christian Fernandez, 13, is the youngest inmate in Duval County, Florida. He faces life in prison, for charges of murder, in the fatal beating of his 2-year-old brother and sexual abuse charges of his 5-year-old brother. That's horrible. Like, really despicable. Where does a boy so young get the kind of anger to commit such heinous crimes?
A look into Christian's background offers many insights into the life of this boy, and how he got to where he is now. He was born in 1999, to a 12-year-old mother. His father, 25, was convicted of sexual assault of a minor and sentenced to 10 years probation. At the age of 2, he was found naked and dirty, just wandering around in the street. His grandmother, who was to be caring for him, was in a messy motel room, abusing cocaine, and his 14-year-old mother was not around. So far, life's not looking promising for this boy.
Fast forward a few years: Christian was sexually assaulted by a cousin and brutally beaten by his step-father, who committed suicide before police could arrive, likely in front of the boy. Now, at 13, he's got some pretty major scars. He told a councillor, "You got to suck up feelings and get over it." Psychological evaluations say that Fernandez poses a significant risk of violence. So has he just mastered burying his feelings, or has his upbringing turned him into a monster, incapable of feelings?
Some say he committed the crimes, so he should receive the life sentence, but is a boy so young really capable of understanding the consequences of his actions? Especially considering the myriad of violence he had endured over the course of his life, how could he know that what he was doing was wrong? It's doubtful he learned any kind of morals from the people in his life, as it appears none of them had any.
Others say Christian deserves another chance. Because of his young age, they think his time would be best served in a facility for juvenile offenders, where he may be given another chance at life. It's not like he's the first child to commit a horrible crime.
In 1993, Eric Smith, at the age of 13, brutally murdered 4-year-old Derek Robie. After a few years in juvenile facilities and young adult prisons, he now sits in Clinton Correctional Facility in New York, where he has been denied parole six times, most recently in May 2012.
In 2011, a 12-year-old Colorado boy was found guilty of killing his two parents and was given a seven-year sentence in a juvenile facility, with three years parole.
An 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy was accused of killing his father's pregnant fiancÃ©e and her unborn child. He was sent this year to an undisclosed juvenile facility where he will likely stay until his 21st birthday.
According to the Justice Department, 29 children under the age of 14 killed someone in 2010. That's a little ridiculous. What kind of environment causes children to behave this way?
So, now's the time to weigh in. Do you think this child, who has already suffered far more than most adults, should have to spend the rest of his life in prison? Is he fixable? Or is he a lost cause, that should just be thrown to the wolves? This will no doubt be a difficult decision for all involved. This is an abused child. But has he gone to a place where no amount of love could help him?
Photo credit: Liberation