Thursday, December 8, 2022

Wisconsin authorities file adult homicide charges against 10-year-old boy

Activists in Milwaukee and across the country are pushing to move the case of the 10-year-old boy charged as an adult in the shooting death of his mother into juvenile court as the child's initial court proceedings continued this week, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The boy's latest hearing lasted just five minutes. Judge Kristela Cervera informed prosecutors and defense attorneys the case is being transferred to Judge Jane Caroll, the presiding judge of Milwaukee County Children’s Court.

The 10-year-old’s homicide case remains in the adult court system. The proceedings are taking place at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center, which includes the detention where the boy is being held on $50,000 bail.

The Journal Sentinel is not identifying the boy or his 44-year-old mother at this time due to his age and the circumstances of the case. Cervera previously ordered that the boy’s name, image, date of birth and address not be released to the public.

The boy attended Wednesday’s online hearing but Cervera permitted him to keep his camera off. His next hearing is before Carroll on Dec. 14.

The case has already drawn scrutiny for the fact that a 10-year-old is being charged as an adult. In Wisconsin, state law requires children as young as 10 to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes, at least to start the case. That includes the charge the boy faces: first-degree reckless homicide.

This week, activists with the Youth Justice Milwaukee campaign issued statements urging the case to be moved to the juvenile system.

“We have to stop criminalizing children, especially black and brown children who are still disproportionately charged and sentenced at higher rates than their white counterparts,” said Sharlen Moore, the director of Youth Justice Milwaukee and Urban Underground.

Youth Justice Milwaukee is a campaign advocating for community-based, family-centered restorative programs as alternatives to youth prisons. In a statement released Tuesday, the organization and several others called on Wisconsin to re-examine how it treats children accused of serious crimes.

“We would like to express to the City of Milwaukee and the District Attorney’s Office that there are far too often a rush to dispose of little black boys, both nationally and locally,” said Sean Wilson, a national organizing director for, which advocates for lower prison populations.

Last week, Craig Mastantuono, an attorney who defended a 10-year-old boy charged in the Charlie Young beating case in the 2000s, told the Journal Sentinel the adult criminal justice system has fewer rehabilitative resources available to children, whose brains are still developing and cannot fully think through the consequences of their actions.

The shooting was initially believed to be an accident after the boy told police he was twirling the gun around his finger when it went off and a bullet hit his mother.

The boy was allowed to stay with his family immediately after the shooting, but a day later, his family began questioning his story and contacted police. The boy later told investigators he used a key to open his mother’s lockbox, removed a gun and intentionally pointed it at her because he was upset she woke him up early and would not buy him something off the internet, according to the criminal complaint.

The family told police the child had a history of mental health treatment and concerning behavior, the complaint stated.

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