On April 6, 2011 a young man was incarcerated and sent to Level 4 Maximum Security Prison for one year due to an adolescent misstep.
In the case of State v. David Fernandes Jr, a then 15-year old boy was initially charged in juvenile court with Conspiracy to Commit Assault in the Second Degree. He had no prior criminal record and, in fact, no previous contact with the court system at all.
“I have been involved in the defense of juvenile delinquency cases for over 20 years and currently supervise all of the public defenders assigned to juvenile courts in Connecticut,” said Christine Perra Rapillo, director of Juvenile Delinquency Defense. “I know of no other cases where a child with no record was transferred on a Class D felony.”
“The juvenile court record reflects this 15-year old boy, with no criminal record, who was charged with videotaping a fight, was moved to adult court because ‘the judge wanted to keep the cases together,’” said Rapillo. “There were codefendants who, although teenagers, were adult in the eyes of the law and the prosecutor and the judge opted for convenience over true justice.”
Since Mr. Fernandes’ arrest in 2005, the way that young people are treated who become involved with the justice system has changed dramatically. The United States Supreme Court has issued two decisions adopting scientific research on adolescent brain development that shows young people are physically unable to make the decisions of a mature adult. In Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that an adolescent’s developmental differences mean that they must be held to a difference standard of culpability than a grown up.
“The Supreme Court decision in State v. Fernandes was a great victory for the young people of Connecticut – except for David Fernandes,” said Rapillo.
Mr. Fernandes has already served eighteen months under house arrest which will not be counted toward time served. He was denied any divisionary program even though he fully qualified as a first time offender. The judge gave no reason for the denial.
For additional background on the case and ways to get involved in support of David Fernandes Jr., visit www.justicefordavid.net.