While family feuds may seem like a thing of the past, a vestige of Americana we’d sooner forget that embrace, they still do occur, sometimes with fatal consequences. Now, a 16-year-old boy is facing first-degree murder charges after firing into a crowd and hitting Maria Tritico, 32. Tritico was not privy to the feud when the bullet struck her. The assailant was aiming at someone else. His name is unknown since it is not clear whether the teen will be charged as an adult. Murder cases involving 16-year-olds who blindly fire into crowds tend to be prosecuted in criminal court which dispenses adult sentences. The teen will continue to be held in a juvenile center until the district attorney decides whether to charge him as an adult.
What Evidence Do Police Have?
A witness at the beach told investigators that he heard the shot and then immediately saw Tritico fall to the ground. Video surveillance shows someone fleeing from the scene with a gun in their hand. Bullets were found in the area where he and two other males were standing. Thus far, no one else has been charged in the case.
Chances are good that the surveillance will provide a jury with enough evidence to convict. That leaves the defendant with only a few possible defenses left.
Coercion or Undue Influence
In cases where a 16-year-old gunman is pulling triggers while standing next to his two brothers, the police have every reason to suspect that the other two assailants leveraged him into pulling the trigger in the hopes that he would not be charged as an adult. The best possible defense is thus undue coercion from his brothers who set him up for the crime. Such a defense would be permissible on the basis of the boy being only 16 years of age, but he’d have to throw his brothers under the bus to leverage that kind of deal. Even still, he won’t just walk free. His case would be remanded to family court and he would serve a sentence in a juvenile detention center. His case would then be revisited when he turned 18.
Since the boy has been arrested, the prosecution has asked that the teen have no contact with his brothers. This may be a sign that they would be more interested in pursuing the brothers on criminal charges than the teen. Nonetheless, the teen would have to raise a defense that his brothers coerced him into committing the crime shifting the first-degree murder charge to them. That tends to be rare.
So here you have a situation where two older brothers get their younger brother to fire at people they’re having problems with. The teen misses and strikes an innocent bystander. He now faces a sentence of life imprisonment or even death, if convicted.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing serious charges, then you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect you from excessive charges, bad prosecutions, and honest mistakes. Call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. to learn more about how we can help.