Parents of slain toddler ask that 12-year-old not be charged

Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.

LAUDERHILL, Fla. - A toddler's parents do not want authorities to prosecute a 12-year-old boy who is accused of beating the baby girl to death because she was making noises while he watched a TV cartoon show.

If officials do decide to prosecute, the baby's parents, Ocnel Joseph and Merlande Alexis, want the boy to be tried in the juvenile system, not in the adult one, said their attorney, Jahra McLawrence. They want to avoid heavy media attention and do not want to take revenge on the boy, McLawrence said.

The boy, who authorities have not identified because of his age, was baby-sitting his second cousin, 17-month-old Shaloh Joseph, on Jan. 4 when police say he fatally beat the toddler with a baseball bat.

He could be charged with first-degree murder, and prosecutors are still mulling whether to try him in adult court. If convicted as an adult, he faces a mandatory life term.

The girl's parents have filed an affidavit with prosecutors seeking leniency for the suspect, McLawrence said.

"I think they felt overwhelmed. First of all, they have this grief and feelings of loss, that void, that absence," McLawrence said. "This has completely crushed them."

McLawrence and Broward County prosecutors would not release a copy of the letter.

"We always consider how a victim's family feels and how they would prefer us to handle a case," said Maria Schneider, chief prosecutor in the juvenile crimes division. "We give their wishes great weight, but we owe a duty to the public at large, too, not just the victim's family."

The parents do not want their child's death and a subsequent prosecution to turn into a media frenzy similar to the prosecution of Lionel Tate, who was 12 when he beat to death a playmate half his age, McLawrence said. That case led to international attention.

At the time, Tate was the youngest person in modern U.S. history to receive a life prison sentence. His attorneys initially said he accidentally killed 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick in 1999 while imitating pro wrestling moves.

Tate was convicted as an adult of first-degree murder, but the conviction was thrown out in 2004, and he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

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