Appeal filed in juvenile hearing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2004

WINDSOR – A juvenile convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 3-year-old will remain in custody as authorities continue to seek a treatment facility that will accept him.

The juvenile, now 9, was convicted in November of the crime after Malik Beverly drowned in an open septic tank in the Saunders Mobile Home Park in Hexlena.

The court ruled that evidence showed the juvenile, 8 at the time of the crime, &uot;slammed&uot; the victim on his head and placed him in the opened hole. In addition, an autopsy showed the death to be by drowning.

In a disposition hearing Dec. 21, Judge Alfred Kwasikpui read allowed the order that confines the juvenile to 24-hour supervised treatment for 90 days as extensive evaluations are taken and places him on probation for one year – the most time allowed by law in this case.

Kwaskipui also stated that a review would be allowed at 11 a.m. Feb. 28, 2005 to check on developments of the evaluation.

There is, however, a snag in the process of fulfilling the order of the court and that is finding a facility that will accept the juvenile because of his age, which means that in the meantime, the juvenile is housed under 24-hour watch in a facility that does not offer any treatment for mental or emotional illness, or the evaluation of either – a key of the defense in accusing the court of holding the juvenile illegally.

Several witnesses pointed out in the Nov. 30 hearing that a Level 4 facility, which is being recommended, will not accept the juvenile because they currently take no one younger than the age of 13.

The juvenile’s attorney, Perry Martin, has used this piece of information as a stronghold in his argument that the child should be returned to the custody of the parents.

Martin said he agreed to a third party evaluation process, arguing to allow that agency to come into the home and work with the child eight hours a day, seven days a week.

Ronnie Riddick, a representative of Life Incorporated – a contracted agency working with the Roanoke-Chowan Human Services Center – was ordered at the last hearing (Nov. 30) to exhaust all Level 4 facilities in the state of North Carolina.

The State argued that by doing this, a Level 3 facility could be sought for placing the juvenile.

As Assada Buffaloe argued, until there is written denial for all Level 4 facilities, the Level 3 facilities cannot be approached.

As Riddick took the stand Tuesday, it was determined the assignment had &uot;not been completed.&uot;

Riddick explained that he did not have written denials from all Level 4 facilities in the state because he had not been allowed to use the juvenile’s name and therefore applications that some facilities required, could not be submitted and in turn no letter of denial could be obtained.

Buffaloe ridiculed Riddick for failure to carry out the assignment and then asked how many juveniles he had placed in Level 4 facilities. Riddick’s answer was, &uot;None.&uot;

She then asked how many juvenile’s he had placed in Level 3 facilities and his answer was, &uot;None.&uot;

These answered would later play a role in a second order written by Judge Kwaskipui following a seemingly unexpected notice of appeal that was entered following the hearing by the family of the juvenile. A move that would remove Martin as legal counsel from the case and that ultimately placed the juvenile in automatic and immediate custody of the Bertie County Department of Social Services until the appellate court can be heard six to 12 months from the date of Tuesday.

In that second order that basically read the same as the first, Kwasikpui added that an &uot;experienced&uot; service provider be placed in charge of finding a Level 3 or Level 4 facility. He also added that this is an &uot;extremely complicated matter&uot; and &uot;detailed evaluation of a 9-year-old who has committed involuntary manslaughter&uot; needed to be carried out for a period of 90 days.

This second order came after Martin went back before Judge Kwaskipui to enter the notice of appeal, an action he later said was &uot;against his better judgment&uot; because he had not had the time to discuss the options with the family.

Once the order was read, Martin stood before the court and stated the family had decided to have a court-appointed attorney with &uot;juvenile experience&uot; take over the case going forward.

He said he did not think his client, or the family members, fully comprehended the order that had been handed down or fully understood all the options that were available to them – referring here also to the options to appeal.

Martin said he attempted to ask the family what they wanted to do, but the family did not answer. He said an outside person was doing the talking for the family and that this person had &uot;interfered&uot; with the case and with his ability to do his job.

He said the appeal today (Tuesday) &uot;has extended the custodial period longer than I had wanted…&uot;

Martin would later say, out of the courtroom, that the appeal meant immediate custody of the juvenile back with Social Services.

There was only a &uot;slim&uot; chance that during the appeal process, the juvenile may have been &uot;released by law&uot; to the parents, &uot;but now that’s not possible,&uot; Martin stated.

Martin would not comment on any of the issues of the court’s findings, the person involved in the decision for the notice of appeal, stating only that he wished the best for &uot;this young man (juvenile) and his family.&uot;

When asked later, the father of the juvenile said it was his and the mother’s decision to file the notice of appeal.