Prosecutor: Shooter’s ability to walk the street points to need for juvenile justice reform

Following the revelation that the 19-year-old man arrested for killing three people in Pine Hills Wednesday, including a 9-year-old girl and a News 13 reporter, had a long rap sheet, people wondered how he was even free.

Sheriff John Mina said Keith Moses was a known gang member with a long record of arrests. However, only one of those arrests happened in the adult court system.


The charge was for marijuana possession, which State Attorney Monique Worrell said was almost meaningless.

“There is absolutely nothing that could have been done with that charge that would have prevented these murders from happening,” she said, explaining that the amount he was arrested for did not meet the state’s threshold for testing.

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Juvenile charges don’t result in convictions, Worrell said as she painted a picture of a broken system in bad need of reform.

The problems begin with the intake process when workers use a form to determine whether a teen should be released to the custody of their parents or held in detention. Officials said that sets the stage for how seriously a case is treated and how quickly a teen is pushed back out onto the streets.

Worrell said the most serious charges can only result in a 36-month detention and weren’t meant for extremely violent crimes.

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“It’s not long enough -- 18 to 36 months -- to actually reprogram whatever it is that has them engaged in this violent behavior,” she said. “We also have to develop program that specifically addresses violent behavior.”

Worrell is working with lawmakers in both chambers of Florida’s legislature on reforms that would increase the court’s oversight of teens in the juvenile system, hold onto them longer and punish them for bad behavior while in their programs or on probation.

Bills that include her wish lists are expected to be filed before the session begins next month.

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Other officials said despite years of work, the juvenile system remains underfunded and understaffed, causing the best workers to leave quickly.

“It’s a really challenging position that the state needs to dedicate the resources to resolve,” former Senator Jeff Brandes (R) said.

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