The mother of Cristian Fernandez pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in by culpable negligence in Duval County last week in the death of her 2-year-old son and the focus is now on how that will affect the first-degree murder case against Cristian.
Cristian, now 13, was 12 when he was the youngest person in Jacksonville ever to be charged with first-degree murder. He is accused of slamming his half brother into a bookshelf and killing him a year ago. Biannela Susana, the mother of both boys, left Cristian in charge at the home and, when he called to say the 2-year-old was hurt, she waited eight hours to take him to the hospital, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. She lied to state officials about how and where the incident occurred, first saying it happened on a playground, and initially told police she only waited two hours to take the boy for help, according to the newspaper report.
Susana’s guilty plea in her Jacksonville criminal case has her facing between 13 and 30 years in prison. Prosecutors said she was not offered any deal for pleading guilty and it was unclear last week whether she’d be sentenced before or after Cristian’s case is resolved. Every detail of this case it seems is headline news – but this development is important to Cristian’s case. First, it opens the door for Susana to be called as a witness if Cristian’s criminal case goes to trial. The state will want to establish Cristian’s history of violent and deviant behavior – he is also charged in a Jacksonville sexual assault of another sibling, which is a Duval County sex case. The defense will likely delve into the details of what happened that March day when the 2-year-old was killed. The strategy of Cristian’s Jacksonville defense team has been to emphasize that Susana is the mother, the adult. She had the responsibility to get the 2-year-old to a hospital immediately. Instead, she waited eight hours. Doctors told police the young boy could have survived his brain injury if he was treated quicker.
It also establishes a standard for punishment in the case. One of Cristian’s Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys told the newspaper he didn’t understand why the mother – who the Duval attorney says is fundamentally responsible – was able to plead to a lesser crime than his 13-year-old client. That argument is sure to be a focus in further hearings in the case. Using sentences in previous cases – or in the same case – in front of a judge can be uneasy ground to walk on. Judges want to hear the defendant admit guilt and be sentenced on their case, not anyone else’s. But this case is different. It gets to the custodial responsibility of the 2-year-old and who is ultimately responsible.
The state says it was a 12-year-old. His criminal attorneys say it was the mother. As the case plays out, we’ll see what a judge, perhaps ultimately a jury, has to say. No trial date has been set in Cristian’s case.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.