A 15-year-old Ohio girl accused of killing her reportedly abusive father will not be facing a life sentence as a result of her case being judged in juvenile court rather than adult court.
The decision to let the case of 15-year-old Bresha Meadows be tried in juvenile court was announced on Dec. 1, said her lawyer, Ian Friedman, The Huffington Post reports.
On July 28, police officials say Bresha used her father's gun and shot him in the head. The man allegedly had been physically abusing her mother and terrorizing her family for years.
Charged with aggravated murder, the teenager has been held in a juvenile detention center in Warren, Ohio, since the incident and has pleaded "not true" to the charge. The plea in juvenile court is the same as a not guilty plea.
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"I am obviously thrilled with the decision by the prosecutor to keep Bresha’s case in the juvenile court," Friedman said. "This doesn’t change our position that this was a self-defense scenario and we will press on with our effort to get Bresha home with her family right away. Today is a great day."
The decision means that even if Bresha is tried and convicted of aggravated murder, she can only be held in a juvenile center until her 21st birthday.
Martina Latessa, Bresha's aunt and a police officer for Cleveland, was pleased with the decision.
"We didn’t know for months what was going to happen," she said. "Now we know she will not spend the rest of her life in prison, no matter what."
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She described the reaction of Bresha's mother to the news.
"She was crying, saying, 'My baby is not going to be gone forever,'" she said. "It takes a lot of pressure off of Bresha. Now she has hope. She has a future. Now she knows this is not forever."
Latessa linked the shooting to years of domestic violence. Police and child services were contacted in the past but little could be done.
"If I knocked on his door and said Brandi (the mother) lets go, I'm the police get your stuff you guys lets go, I might as well walked in that backyard with a shovel and dug her grave because my sister wasn't going," an outcome that is standard for domestic violence victims, Latessa explained, WFMJ reports.
In the time before the fatal incident transpired, Bresha had run away from home and gone to Latessa to talk about the latest episodes of domestic violence. Bresha told her aunt that her father was physically abusing her mother and had voiced death threats to the entire family.
"The nightmare she was born into had a profound impact on her, to the point where she was suicidal," Latessa said, according to The Huffington Post.
Friedman said Bresha's father would use a weapon to threaten and intimidate his family. The teenager is accused of using the same gun to shoot her father.