Probation officer breaks down complex justice system for minors

SAN ANTONIO – A 14-year old from San Antonio is facing capital murder charges in the death of a woman, her pregnant teenage daughter and the child she was carrying, who died a few days after a shooting.

The suspect was already in custody on a separate charge. The victims' family members said they want him to face the death penalty, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling does not allow anyone under 18 years of age to face execution in a crime.

Lynne Wilkerson, chief probation officer for Bexar County Juvenile Probation, said it’s very rare to see juveniles facing capital murder charges.

“Most of the kids come in on misdemeanors rather than felonies. Very few come in on very serious charges, such as murder, capital murder,” she said.

The system to determine how to deal with juveniles is somewhat complex, sje

Wilkerson said a teen could be put on probation following a conviction, and the teen would remain on probation until they turn 18. If the child is in a state facility, they could be kept until they are 19 years old.

In more serious juvenile case convictions, a teen could get a determinant sentence.

“The child can actually get a sentence of a definite term up to 40 years in some cases,” Wilkerson said. 

A grand jury who brings the case to an indictment. The child would serve their sentence in a juvenile system until they are 18 and then would be transferred to an adult prison.

 “The other option is what's called certified transfer, where a child can be certified as an adult and tried in the adult system. And in that case, the court takes a couple of things into account,” Wilkerson said. 

The court would look at the welfare of the child, maturity and sophistication of the child at the time of the crime, as well as the overall safety of the community.

If convicted as an adult, the child would go to an adult prison.

Attorneys and judges have about a month to determine if the 14-year-old in this case will be tried as an adult. The victim’s family will also have input in the decision.

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