A 17-year-old girl from Delaware was convicted of criminally negligent homicide for participating in a school fight that left a 16-year-old girl dead.
The ruling was made by Family Court Judge Robert Coonin on April 13, following a week of testimony, according to The Associated Press. The trial did not include a jury.
Amy Joyner-Francis died of sudden cardiac arrest in April 2016 after being attacked in the bathroom of Howard High School of Technology. The fight was recorded on a cellphone.
Two other 17-year-old girls who were present during the fight were charged with misdemeanor conspiracy. All three girls were 16 when the incident occurred, and all three were tried as juveniles.
Joyner-Francis had a rare heart condition that had gone undiagnosed by doctors, and defense attorneys argued that this meant her death was unforeseeable. They said she was a willing participant in the fight, which they described as being between "mutual combatants." They also argued that there was a "culture of fighting" at the school.
Defense attorney John Deckers insisted his client should not be held responsible because, as far as reasonable people are concerned, the likely result of a school fight "is not death, but rather discipline."
Prosecutors argued that Joyner-Francis was not a willing participant, but was in fact trying to avoid a physical confrontation when she was attacked.
"Distress, the unexpected nature of the attack, the brute ferocity of it raining upon her, all led to Amy's death," deputy attorney general Sean Lugg said in his closing argument. He said the attacker displayed "a level of barbarism that reasonably would result in the outcome."
"This is not reasonable behavior," Lugg added, according to AP. "This was in fact a full-fledged beating."
At the trial, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Richard Ringel testified that Joyner-Francis had an extremely rare heart condition, Eisenmenger syndrome, whereby a heart defect is accompanied by severe pulmonary hypertension.
"It was a cruel combination of medical conditions," Deckers told the judge. He said the chances of a teenager having such a condition was 2.2 in 1 million.
The altercation had its roots in an online group chat. Joyner-Francis was offering advice to a friend who was having a problem with a boy, and told her to "just be careful." When the defendants were brought into the chat, Joyner-Francis' attacker misunderstood what was being discussed, and thought Joyner-Francis was talking about her.
A video of the fight, taken by one of the defendants with her cellphone, shows Joyner-Francis on the floor of the bathroom trying to defend herself while her attacker hits and kicks her in the head, according to CBS News.
Because she was tried as a juvenile, Joyner-Francis' assailant faces community supervision and treatment until she is 19. If she were tried as an adult, she would have faced up to eight years in prison.