Juvenile offender gets controversial second chance - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Juvenile offender gets controversial second chance

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

A 15-year-old from Memphis will not spend any time in jail despite pleading guilty to attempted second degree murder and five counts of assault.

A judge ruled the teen should not be tried as an adult because of the environment that fostered "retaliation and violence."

The ruling isn't setting well with everyone.

How often have you been willing to take a "leap of faith" when it comes to your fellow man? For a Shelby County Juvenile Court judge and a Memphis defense attorney the story of a 15-year old child's pathetic home life and the belief he might one day be able to escape from a culture of violence has led to a thought provoking  decision.

"After he just went, 'pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.'"

Orange Mound homeowner Eddie Davis will never forget the chaos that ensued when shots echoed outside his neighbor's house at the intersection of Cable and Grand in September. A loud argument in the street violently escalated when a young assailant went for the gun in his cousin's waistband.

"All of a sudden he came up with that damn pistol, with his right hand and start shooting," Davis recalled. "It was at least about six or seven shots. People screaming for their life, screaming for they life. He was very, very angry. I heard he was like 14 or 15 years old? He acted just like a grown man."

In a neighborhood where troubled youth can feel just as abandoned as most of the houses on the street, the admitted retaliation shooting by a 15-year-old, ending in the wounding of two people who weren't the intended target of his vengeance, took an unusual twist this week in county juvenile court.

For after pleading guilty to attempted second degree murder and five counts of aggravated assault for shooting into a crowd, the teen avoided adult court when Special Judge Dan Michael agreed to place the child in the custody of the Department of Children's Services, where he will be assigned to a foster home until the age of 19, rather than face jail time.

His attorney Matthew John, told FOX13 News by phone, Judge Michael's decision was based on compassion after learning of  the child's erratic social history, a background with his mother, John argued encouraged retaliation and violence.
 
"All of the situations that this child was kind of finding himself into seemed to be connected to a lack of good parental guidance," he said.

"He thought what was most important here was to stand up for his mother," added Dr. Jim Whelan, University of Memphis psychologist. "And to do the right thing for his mother, not taking into consideration the harm he was doing to other people."

John noted the child has been in and out of state care throughout his life. During those times away from his mother, John alleges the child's made good grades and responded to counseling. Dr. Whelan, who has never treated the child, believes his road to rehabilitation will be difficult.

"To resort to extreme violence with such apparent ease is a hard thing to kind of justify and figure out what's going on in that person's world," Dr. Whelan said.

"I don't think that's right," Davis said. "I don't think that's right. Something need to be done more than that."

"We have to do everything we can before we introduce them to the adult system," John said. "Because the reality is, if they get out of the adult system, what chance are they going to have to succeed?"

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