A 16-year-old from Lake Worth Beach will be tried as an adult after fatally shooting another teen last month, according to police. In a scene right out of Pulp Fiction, Police say that Diego Pedro Jose was brandishing a weapon in the backseat of a vehicle, when the vehicle hit a bump and Jose accidentally fired the loaded weapon, killing the driver. Another 16-year-old, Esteban Gonzalez, died three days later as a result of his injuries.
A witness to the incident said that Jose possessed poor gun-safety skills and was holding a loaded weapon in a reckless manner, apparently with his finger on the trigger. According to another teen who was in the car, Jose handed him the pistol to show it off. The other teen remarked that it didn’t appear real. Jose said something along the lines of, “You want to see real?” Seconds later, the gun went off and the driver slumped over, losing control of the vehicle. The vehicle came to a stop after striking a parked car.
The Defendant’s Statement to Police
The defendant essentially lied to the police about what transpired. Jose told police that he heard gunfire coming from another location, but police were able to use surveillance video to prove that was false.
Manslaughter Charges in Florida
Manslaughter in other states will not necessarily get you a long sentence. Florida is not one of those states. Manslaughter with a firearm in Florida is considered a first-degree felony that carries a 30-year maximum sentence.
In addition, Florida works on a sort of point system when it comes to assigning sentences. Manslaughter with a firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 11½ years absent grounds for a downward departure.
In this case, the defendant’s age can be used to depart from the standard sentencing guidelines. While the defendant certainly did something quite dumb, it is also likely that he was not trying to harm anyone. He did, of course, imperil the lives of everyone in the car by brandishing a loaded weapon and a negligent or reckless homicide that emerges from the commission of a felony can be charged as felony murder in Florida. The mere possession of a firearm by the defendant could be enough to charge felony murder. The police are not taking that approach, however. A felony murder charge comes with a possible life sentence.
Adjudication of Youth Crimes
Most youth offenses will go through the family court system as opposed to the criminal court. An exception is made in the event of a homicide, usually premeditated or black-hearted murders that evince a “depraved mind”. In this case, the defendant’s mind wasn’t depraved. His major offense was recklessness with a weapon. Hopefully, the charges against him can be reduced so he doesn’t end up spending a significant portion of his life in state prison.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing manslaughter or weapons charges, you need an attorney who understands how the court handles crimes such as these and can present you in a sympathetic light. Call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to discuss your situation and allow us to begin preparing your defense immediately.