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Breaking News

Michigan Judge Sentences Nathaniel Abraham to Juvenile Detention

Aired January 13, 2000 - 1:06 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you back now live to Pontiac, Michigan inside a courtroom where Nathaniel Abraham is about to learn his sentence.


JUDGE EUGENE MOORE, OAKLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: ... much of what has been said inside the courtroom -- I don't know what's been said outside of the courtroom -- I certainly feel is false. I think their motivation is solely to provide justice for the respondent here and to provide justice for the victim's family and, ultimately, to protect the citizens of Oakland County.

With those observations, let me continue. The trial is over and now we face an equally important decision. What should the sentence or disposition be for Nathaniel Abraham? The decision will make an enormous effect on both Nathaniel and society.

In 1999, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the juvenile court of America. It started in 1899 in Cook County, Chicago. Its roots were in England during the industrial revolution. During the industrial revolution, two groups of people joined hands to fight the abuse of children. One group opposed the criminal system treating children the same as adults while punishing those convicted of a crime. Adults and children were punished alike.

The second group was concerned about using children as chattels, as a form of very cheap labor. Little food, no school, large dormitories and working 18 hours a day was a common abuse of children. The protection of children from these abuses brought about the Cook County, Chicago juvenile court here in America.

In Michigan in the early 1900s, the legislature decided to punish girls convicted of crimes differently than women and built Girls Training School at Adrienne, Michigan. Boys Training School in Lansing followed shortly. This also meant punishing boys differently than men. Gradually, there developed the parents patriai doctrine where the juvenile judge became the substitute parent for the child. A juvenile code was adopted separate from the criminal code. The first paragraph of that juvenile code mandated that juvenile court judges provide for children that come before them, quote, "the care, custody, and control that the child should have received in his own home," end of quote. To this end, the legislature created a new separate juvenile court, separated from the criminal court to ensure that child -- that children were properly cared for. Each child was to receive, quote, "individualized treatment," end of quote, necessary to change his or her behavior so the child would grow up to be a successful adult. Society was less concerned with guilt or innocence because the court supposedly had a better world for the child than the child often got in his own home.

Juvenile court advocates recognize that children were different than adults. They were still young, immature and not fully developed. Thus, character and behavior could be molded and they could still be rehabilitated. Rehabilitation became the by word of the juvenile court. Few wanted to lock up children for life. There was a recognition that if we were going to protect society from future criminal behavior by the child, we better do something to rehabilitate the child. So when released by the juvenile court, the child was changed. Only by doing this would you and I be protected from further criminal activity by the child.

Unfortunately, often because of inadequate resources, our juvenile courts failed in changing many delinquents' behavior. As a result, many people began to advocate that our juvenile court not try to change a child unless we were even more certain that the child was guilty. Only if clearly guilty could the courts impose incarceration or even probation on a child. Thus, in the 1960s and '70s, with the landmark cases of Kent and Gault, we found the United States Supreme Court ensuring that children had attorneys, the right to remain silent, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and many of the safeguards afforded to adults accused of crime.

The 1980s saw a rise in juvenile crime, unfortunately, and especially of crimes of an adult nature committed by juveniles. In response, the legislature enacted tougher and tougher laws aimed at treating children more like adults than subjecting them to adult penalties. The motivation was that society expects even children to be accountable for their actions. The way to stop juvenile delinquency and activity is to hold offenders accountable. This works on the theory that individuals will be deferred from -- deterred from future criminal behavior if they are held accountable for their actions and know that consequences will follow. Likewise, it is thought that others in society will be persuaded from illegal action because they see what has happened to people convicted of crimes.

Certainly, holding individual accountable for their actions is one of the cornerstones of molding human behavior. However, at the same time, you must take a clear look at how well the adult criminal system works. The adult system does accomplish two goals: first, it punishes criminals. When convicted, an adult criminal is held accountable for his actions. Often he is punished by probation or some form of incarceration in a jail or prison. Second, it keeps society safe for a period of time. While the criminal is housed, society is saved from further criminal activity by that particular individual.

But we must look clearly and fully at the effects of incarceration. Is the criminal rehabilitated? The answer unfortunately to that question, unfortunately, is often no. Our adult system often does not rehabilitate the way we want it to.

Does the criminal re-offend when released? Unfortunately, again, the answer to this is often yes. Our penal system has an alarmingly- high recidivism rate.

Is the public safe? The answer to this question seems to be twofold: The public is safe from the individual criminal of the period of incarceration, while the critical is removed from society and placed in prison; that individual's unable to further harm society. But when this person is released, what is the danger to society? The criminal, as stated, is often re-offense, and there's a good chance that the next time that person commits -- the next crime the person commits will be more serious than the first. In essence, the long-term effective incarceration in our adult criminal system seems to be that oftentimes we mold more-harden criminals.

In deciding whether to impose tougher sentences on juveniles, we must also look at what are the causes of juvenile crime. This question should be debated and analyzed continuously by everyone interested in helping children and reducing crime. It is a community problem with community solutions. No court system in isolation can solve this problem. Only when the community comes together and recognizes the problems and factors which contribute to crime will we be able to tackle the problem.

There are many factors that we all know contribute to criminal behavior. We have an increasing number of children born to very young single parents who simply aren't equipped emotionally or financially to rear children. We have a generation of youth who are being bombarded by images and messages of violence; movies, TV, music and especially video games are teaching our children violence. Kids are exposed to violence without attaching any sort of ethical or moral value to it. The message of many popular video games is that it is desire to brutally maim, shoot and kill people, conflicts are to be resolve with violence. And to further confuse the sponge-like mind of our youth, there is certainly no message about permanency or gravity. With a flick of the restart button, all the characters are again alive and the carnage can start over again.

There are no lessons about compassion, compromise, empathy, no exposure to the grief of the families that are affected. Violence is made neat and clean and detached. When kids are bored they use violent games, music and shows to occupy their time. There must be better experiences and messages to teach our children.

We live here in one of the wealthiest counties in the entire nation. We have some of the finest juvenile programs in the country, but we must do more. Individually and collectively. many enjoy great wealth and prosperity. Why, then, can't we boast of having the best services in the country? Somehow some of us have lost our sense of social responsibility. We can't afford to live in isolation, closing our eyes to the plight of many of our youth. Children like Nathaniel can't reach out for help and be placed on a waiting list for six months. To a child, six months is a lifetime. Just as immediate consequences for ones actions are necessary, so is immediate intervention at the signs of trouble of youth. If we want to be safe from the kind of crime that Nathaniel committed, we must be prepared with our efforts and wallets to keep and create and fund programs to stop this tragic waste.

Children and the potential each possesses are our most precious resource. We must collectively guard and protect and nurture them. We need better-trained parents, we need mentors, we need big brothers and sisters, we need more recreational programs and youth groups, we need more counselors for children and families, we need more foster care homes and more support for these generous families, we need better schools. Any effort that touches the life of one of our children in a positive way is a vital and indispensable piece to the puzzle in stopping juvenile delinquency and criminality.

We must enlist the financial support of our privileged individuals and local corporations, as well as individual efforts of many, to help create and fund effective programming for children. It is only by intervening now and helping develop mature, responsible, caring and empathetic children that we can ensure a safer society. What we sow today we will reap in the future.

Most agree that our laws were originally connected to social norms and ethical and moral justification and rationale. Within society, behaviors were not randomly assigned legal values of right and wrong. Instead, we collectively believed in the moral and ethical reasons for those laws. Children must be taught the fundamental reasons for laws and rules. Learning to live in society is something that develops over an entire childhood. Children are explorer and discoverers, they have an inherent need to know why. Why is often the most repeated word a parent hears from a child. When children learn about the rules and laws of society, they need reasons to follow them. These reasons are essential for the child to feel connected and part of society. To really understand the nature, one should not kill; a child has to develop social abilities such as empathy and compassion. These are the building blocks of a cohesive society. It is only by internalizing society's norms that children and eventually adults will truly be guided by them and abide by them. We can't cure the problems from the outside in, we must work from the inside out.

Who are the heroes of our kids? When you ask children today what they want in the future, do they respond the fireman, policeman, doctor, teacher, or do we hear wrestler, sports figure or do we hear anything at all?

Instead of increasing support for prevention programs, many have continued to say, get tough. As a result of the get-tough-on-kids policy, we saw changes in our waiver statutes. The waiver age was reduced in Michigan from 15 to 14. In addition, prosecutors were given the discretion to bypass the juvenile court waiver process in which the juvenile court judge had a full hearing, taking testimony to measure against certain standards, order to decide whether the child should be tried. At these waiver hearings, the court looked at the child's past record, the seriousness of the crime, the child's pattern of living and the programs available in the adult system versus the programs available within the juvenile system. Instead, for certain serious crimes prosecutors alone, without a hearing, could make the decision of where to try the accused child, in the criminal court or the juvenile court.

Even more recently, the legislature determined that if the prosecutor chose a trial in the adult criminal court, the child, if convicted, would have to be sentenced as an adult. No discretion is given to the sentencing judge to decide to use the juvenile system. Get tough continue to be the cry of many.

This is not to say that the adult system of incarceration is not vital to our society; we need immediate protection from dangerous individuals. But the message is that we need to look also for more long-term, systemic answers to crime in our society. The legislature's response to juvenile crime is a very short-sighted solution. If we put more kids into a failed adult system, although we might -- may house them where they cannot do any damage for a period of time, we should not be surprised when they emerge upon their inevitable release as more dangerous, often, and hardened criminals. Instead of spending more money building prisons, we should spend more money preventing crime and rehabilitating youthful offenders.

Prevention and rehabilitation are the fundamental elements of the juvenile system, as I've said. The juvenile system recognizes that children are the most precious commodity. They're our hope for the future. If we prevent the criminal mind from getting -- taking hold of our youth, then we, in turn, prevent adult criminals from coming into existence. If we rehabilitate these youth who have committed criminal acts, we are making ourselves safe both now and in the future.

However, not being satisfied that we were tough enough, in the 1990s the legislature went one step further in an enacted Public Act 244 of 1966, the basic statute case at hand. Under this statute, the prosecutor can elect to have the child tried in the juvenile court as an adult, and if convicted sentenced in one of the following three ways at the discretion of the judge. First, as a juvenile with release at age 21; second, as an adult subject solely to adult penalties and punishment; third, a blended sentence: Initially sentence as an adult, delay the adult sentence, first placing the child in the juvenile system. If at age 21 the child is not rehabilitated, carry out the adult sentence. There shall be yearly reviews, the adult sentence can be imposed at any time up to age 21 if there's a violation of the sentence, or the child can be released before 21 if rehabilitated. If neither has been occurred before age 21, there shall be a hearing. At that time, the defendant may be released if rehabilitated or the adult sentence imposed if not rehabilitated.

To many, this is a reasonable statute. Don't ask the judge to look into a crystal ball today and predict five years down the road, give the juvenile system a chance to rehabilitate, don't predict today at sentencing whether the child will or will not be rehabilitated, but keep the options open. At 21, have a hearing and see if the person, now 21, has changed for the better. If yes, release, if not, still a danger and carry out the adult sentence. The stickler is that while the legislature placed a minimum age of 14 for judicial waiver and also set a minimum age of 14 for prosecutorial automatic waiver, there was no minimum set for the statute under which Nathaniel was charged. That's if we try a child 11 at the time of the crime or as adult in the juvenile, now called a family court, we subject him to three dispositional alternatives I've mentioned to Nathaniel, including a possible sentence of life in prison.

To the case at hand, Nathaniel Abraham. I've reviewed all the psychological reports and recommendations of Mr. Hamilton, the juvenile court case worker, the report of the out-of-home screening committee of the juvenile courts, the report of Cathy Milligan (ph) of MIA (ph), the report of Susan Peters (ph) of adult corrections. I reviewed all the psychologicals and reports submitted by the prosecutor and defense. I considered the testimony here as part of the sentencing process. I've heard the arguments of the prosecutor and defenses, and I thank you, Greene family, for their comments.

Obviously, we must deal with the law that we have. We have a child convicted of second-degree murder committed when he was 11 years old. The legislature was told that the sentencing judge -- has told the sentencing judge what criteria I must use or must be weighed in making a decision about which of the three options I alluded to above will be used. The statute, section 7128.18-1N says we must look at what? At the best interest of the public in making our sentencing decision. The best interest of the public is to protect the public from further criminal behavior by this defendant. In making the decision, the statute says the sentencing judge must look at, one, the seriousness of the offense in terms of community protection, including, but not limited to, the existence of any aggravating factors recognized by the sentencing guidelines: the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon and the impact on any victim. Here, the offense is one of the most serious in nature: A person was murdered. The impact upon the victim and family is devastating. A firearm was used in the commission of this offense; community protection dictates that a long-term program is necessary.

Two, the juvenile's culpability in committing the offense, including, but not limited to, the level of the juvenile's participation in the planning and carrying-out of the offense and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors recognized by the sentencing guidelines. Nathaniel is fully responsible, having been the person who pulled the trigger. However, his teacher, Elvira Ozaro (ph), at the Lincoln Middle School is reported to have stated that Nathaniel at the time did not understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Additionally, he was determined to be functioning between a 6th- and 8th-grade-old level in terms of emotional maturity, internalized norms for appropriate behavior and acceptance of responsibility for his behavior. Youngsters at his developmental age often judge their behavior strictly in the terms of the immediate impact it has on them. Further, Nathaniel was tested below average intelligence. He's, further, very impulsive.

Three, the juvenile's prior record of delinquency including, but not limited to, any record of detention, any police record, any school record or any other evidence indicating prior delinquent behavior. The offense is not part of a repetitive conviction pattern. It is Nathaniel's first offense. It is, however, a part of anti-social behavior. Nathaniel had been noted to be engaging in delinquent behavior about two years prior to the offense, but there was no formal intervention. While in Children's Village, his behavior has been a problem at times but has improved to some degree, according to his official reports. He is unlikely to disrupt the treatment of other juveniles in such a treatment facility.

Three, the juvenile's programming history, including but not limited to the juvenile's past willingness to participate meaningfully in available programming. There has been no effort to provide treatment programs for Nathaniel until he entered Children's Village two years ago. His mother did seek treatment for him through community mental health; he was placed on a waiting list for six months prior to initiation of treatment. He did attend three sessions after the initial assessment. The mother indicated that a different therapist might be more helpful as the reason for she discontinued treatment. Since he has been at Children's Village, Nathaniel has been seeing a therapist and has made some improvement. He needs a therapist he can trust and who will help him develop self esteem and social controls.

Five, the adequacy of the punishment of programming available in the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system is designed to provide treatment for youngsters such as Nathaniel. Programing is available to meet his psychiatric, behavioral, educational, vocational and recreational needs. The juvenile system is also designed to provide treatment for the family. Nathaniel needs to learn that he is accountable for his behavior. He needs to be far-less impulsive and more concerned for the needs of others. The programming is much more extensive and comprehensive in the juvenile system than in the adult system. The dispositional options available for the juvenile these I've alluded to above.

We must look at the three sentencing options in light of the criteria I have just mentioned. First, sentence only as an adult. Should Nathaniel be sentenced today as an adult? If we say yes, even for this heinous crime, we have given up on the juvenile justice system. Can we be certain that between now and the time he turns 21 that he can't change his behavior? Must we say today that Nathaniel, age 13, must be put into an adult prison system? No. The testimony and/or reports are clear that the adult penal system is not designed primarily for youth. It is only a last resort if the juvenile system fails. Testimony in the psychological examination demonstrate in the last two years, while awaiting trial, Nathaniel has made progress within the juvenile system. It is also clear that the adult system has very few treatment alternatives for a 13-year-old. In addition, at 13, Nathaniel may be subject to brutalization in prison that can destroy any hope of rehabilitation.

As I've indicated the legislature has responded to juvenile criminal activity not by helping to prevent and rehabilitate but rather by treating juveniles more like adults. Is this the good option? Is our adult system successfully rehabilitating people, do our jails release productive, reformed citizens? We all know the answers to these questions. The real solution is to prevent an adult criminal population ever coming into existence. This only can be accomplished by taking advantage of the hope and promise of your youth and nurturing healthy adults.

I think the law Nathaniel has been charged under is fundamentally flawed. It is not my place, however, to make law. I must look at what the legislature has enacted. However, I urge the legislature to reassess this law. I urge the legislature to learn -- to lean toward improving the resources and programs within the juvenile justice system rather than averting more youth into an already-failed adult system. I admonish the juvenile court to make sure our courts are not turning away parents who may come to us for help. In sentencing Nathaniel, I have to consider the protection of our community now and into the future. Specifically, I urge the legislature to reconsider the statute in question and set a minimum age at which a child can be charged as an adult under the statute. Is eight too young? What about six? The legislature, not the prosecutor, not the judge, not the jury should decide this. I urge the legislature to act now. Perhaps, the minimum age should be 14, as it is in our other waiver statutes.

The second option, sentence of the juvenile. If Nathaniel is sentenced as a juvenile, he will be released at the age of 21. Will the public be best protected if Nathaniel is released at 21? We don't know what Nathaniel will be like eight years from now. Eight years, however, is a long time. With the progress he's made in the last two years plus the next eight years, the juvenile system should be able to rehabilitate him. The protection of the public and the rehabilitation of the respondent are the opposite sides of the same coin. If we can rehabilitate the defendant, then the public is safe. If we don't, he may kill again.

The third option, a blended sentence. Does Nathaniel fit the criteria that would make sense under the circumstances demanded by a blended sentence? Has the prosecutor met her burden of proof? True, he did commit a heinous crime, but he is not a repeat offender. He has not failed in our juvenile -- juvenile programs to date, but rather had not been given a chance to benefit from them. Nathaniel is also an 11-year-old boy who, by much of the testimony, lacked the maturity and understanding to differentiate between reality and fantasy. He is a boy who has been neglected by his home, our community and our justice system. He represents our collective failings. He is said to have functioned at a 6-to-8-year-old mental and emotional level at the time he committed this crime.

When they created this law, certainly the legislature was not saying that any child, no matter what his age, is capable of forming adult criminal intent and should be held accountable as an adult. To take it to the absurd, an infant child not be tried -- could be tried as an adult under our current law.

However, if we are to ensure a delay -- if we are to impose a delayed sentence, we take everyone off the hook. Sentencing Nathaniel as a juvenile gives us eight more years to rehabilitate him. We, as a community, know that we will -- he will be back among us at age 21. If we are committed to preventing future criminal behavior, we will use our collective efforts and financial resources to rehabilitate him and all the other high-at-risk youth in our community. If we commit yourselves to this, we can ensure our safety now and in the future.

The safety net of a delayed sentence removes too much of the urgency. We can't continue to see incarceration and a prison as a long-term solution. The danger is that we won't take rehabilitation seriously if we know we can utilize prison in the future. To sentence juveniles to adult prison is ignoring the possibility that we are creating a more dangerous criminal by housing juveniles with hardened adults. Adult incarceration is a vital, immediate solution of danger, but it does nothing to address future criminality.

We have eight years. Together, we and Nathaniel can make the difference in his life and the lives of many other children in our community. Nathaniel will begin the next eight years of his life in a secure facility. Thus, our immediate risk of harm from Nathaniel is alleviated. With the right programs and commitment from concerned individuals, Nathaniel can develop and internalize the values that are necessary to be a responsible member of a civilized society.

In addition, the adult criminal sentencing guidelines provide for Nathaniel to be sentenced to prison, if that's our choice, from eight to 25 years. If he were to fail in the juvenile system, and at age 21 we were to carry out that sentence, we would have to have deviated from the sentencing guidelines. The statute states that we must -- he must receive credit for the 10 years that he will have been incarcerated as a juvenile when he turns 21. Ten years is more than the eight years minimum set by the sentencing guidelines.

Prevention, individualized treatment, rehabilitation, the by words of the juvenile justice system, are the best we have to offer. Why should the juvenile justice system follow a failed correctional system? Perhaps for a few juveniles, "get tough" is the only answer. But for the majority, it is not. The juvenile justice system has a much higher rate of success than the adult correctional system. In order to protect society, some juveniles, obviously, have to be sentenced as adults. But this is a small minority. Most of these children are far older and more set in their criminal patterns than Nathaniel. For most youngsters, the juvenile justice system is a far better alternative than the adult correctional system.

The option that best meets the needs of Nathaniel and the public is the juvenile system and only the juvenile system. While there is no guarantee Nathaniel will be rehabilitated by age 21, when he must be released from the juvenile system, it is clear that 10 years should be sufficient to accomplish this goal. It is my believe that blended sentencing is much better suited for older juveniles, perhaps 15 or 16, where there's not as much time to use the juvenile system as there is here with an 11-year-old, and a greater need to preserve the option of adult prison at age 21.

As I said earlier, the pendulum has swung so that much of the public wants us to get tougher with juveniles. For some, it's worked; for others it's not. Here, we have dealt with the most tragic of tragedies: the killing of another human being. Fortunately, murder is a very small part of what we see in juvenile court. In Oakland County, less than one-tenth of one percent of our juvenile cases are killings. If we don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water, treat all youngsters more harshly and perhaps even abolish the juvenile court and return to the days of the industrial revolution where we had one criminal court for both children and adults, we now must do better with the thousands of juveniles that we see every day in our juvenile courts.

This county must be willing to pay in dollars and human energy to help prevent juvenile crime and rehabilitate our young offenders. The media, the defense bar, prosecutors, judges, court and institutional staff, county commissioners, volunteers and, most important, the community, can and must make a difference. As I said, children are too precious to be lost because of our neglect and failures.

We must remind ourselves that the true victim, Mr. Ronnie Greene, has been robbed of his life and has no chance of any future. In addition, we can't begin to know the kind of despair and grief that his family is going through and will continue to go through. But I believe that my decision, although it may not seem the most just to his family in terms of punishment or retribution, in the long run, will get Mr. Greene a legacy that will live on. Hopefully, far into the future, the Greenes will be able to have some comfort in knowing that their son's death was not in vain, but rather was a wake-up call for our community and the nation that our youth are in trouble and we need to pay attention.

Mr. Greene's death can be the catalyst to reinvigorate our help for children. His death, if our community is paying attention and commits to taking action, can affect and shape and the mold the lives of countless children in the future. Let there be no misunderstanding: Nathaniel must be accountable and responsible for his behavior. We have seen all kinds of finger-pointing: mother failed, schools failed, police failed, courts failed -- perhaps. But Nathaniel pulled the trigger; he made the decision. Thousands of thousands of children raised under similar circumstances do not kill.

Therefore, this court orders that Nathaniel Abraham be placed within the juvenile justice system and committed to FIA for placement at Boys Training School. The court shall continue to supervise the progress of Nathaniel Abraham and will conduct six-month reviews of his progress.

It is further ordered that Nathaniel may not be transferred from Boys Training School without a court order after a hear with notice to the prosecutor and defense. This sentence shall be effective until Nathaniel reaches age 21 when this court loses jurisdiction. This treatment program should involve individual and group therapy for both he and his family and shall include positive role models with positive rewards for proper behavior.

These remarks are to you, Nathaniel: Your shooting and killing of Ronnie Greene has destroyed the lives of many people. You need to begin by imagining 10 times worse than you've ever felt in your life, and then imagine that feeling going on and on and on. This is the grief that you've caused Mr. Greene's family. Do you begin to understand what you have done? You clearly need to put yourself in another person's shoes. You learn to -- need to think before you act. You need to look at the consequences of your behavior for yourself and for others.

You have probably done the worst thing that can be done, and that is to kill another human being. You are going to have to come to terms with this before you can begin to grow as a person and develop the potential that all children possess. You need to learn to respect yourself and demand more of yourself. You are capable of learning to value human life and potential, both in those around you and in yourself. Most children see themselves as the center of their universe. Children put their needs first. In the long run, you will best have your own needs met by concerning yourself with the needs of others. You will earn respect from others, and thus self-respect, by treating others the way you want them to treat you.

We as a community have failed you, but you have failed yourself. I will be keeping a very close eye on you and your progress. When you are able to fully understand what I am telling you, I urge you to take advantage of the help we're trying to give you. The only thing you can do to begin to repair the damage you have caused to the Greene family is succeed. Don't let Mr. Greene's death be in vain. Help us help you and, in turn, many other children in this community. No one can do it for you. You have to do it for yourself.

Nathaniel, you have the key to where you're going to be confined. Your behavior will determine this: If you do well, you will receive privileges; if you do poorly, you won't.

The court will set July 20 at 8:30 in the morning as our first six-month review hearing date. We'll stand adjourned.

ALLEN: Michigan Judge Eugene Moore, in a Pontiac courtroom, sentences the youngest murder defendant in U.S. history to the juvenile system. Nathaniel Abraham was convicted in November of second-degree murder for a shooting that he committed as an 11-year- old. Today, he could have been sentenced as an adult and sent to an adult prison. The judge said if that were to happen, Nathaniel would have no chance for rehabilitation and he would be subject to brutalization in an adult prison.

We listened to the judge give a long report about why he feels the juvenile system is the best for this young man who should be there till he's 21.

Let's find out from CNN's Ed Garsten covering this story for us in Pontiac.

Is this sentence a surprise, Ed?

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This sentence, Natalie, is not a total surprise. Judge Eugene Moore has never sentenced any juvenile that's been tried as an adult before him to an adult sentence. So, those that are familiar with Judge Moore would not be surprised at all.

It is a defeat of sorts for the prosecution, that it pushed very hard for the so-called blended sentence which would give the judge the discretion when Nathaniel Abraham is 21 to put him in an adult facility if he had not been rehabilitated; and it is a small victory for the defense which had really pushed very hard to have the boy totally freed and placed on probation while receiving the mental health care that he so badly needs.

ALLEN: All right, Ed Garsten in Pontiac, Michigan, thank you.

We'll continue to report this story for you, so stay tuned to CNN throughout the day for that.

Again, Nathaniel Abraham sentenced to juvenile facility for his crime.


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