Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Attorneys Amend Conditions for Release of Cristian Fernandez

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Attorneys Amend Conditions for Release of Cristian Fernandez

Article excerpt


The case of a babyfaced preteen that became one of Jacksonville's bestknown and most controversial was back in court on Wednesday as his release date approaches.

Cristian Fernandez, who was 12 when he killed his 2yearold brother, is set to be released from a juvenile facility following his 19th birthday, which is Sunday.

Fernandez was not in court, but local attorneys Hank Coxe and Buddy Schulz appeared on his behalf to ask for - and they received - a temporary suspension of the terms of the teen's probation, saying it would be a "meaningless exercise" to try to enforce them.

"Circumstances have developed in the past several months which render application of the conditions of probation ... unrealistic and problematic," Coxe read from the motion. "I'm not going to elaborate on the circumstances but it is such that it would be ... almost a meaningless exercise to enforce these conditions ... on Mr. Fernandez right now."

Fernandez's case has been high profile from the beginning, and as such been the subject of extensive news coverage far beyond Jacksonville. Coxe declined to comment on the case, and the motion filed provides no further detail of the "circumstances."

The proceedings were in front of Circuit Court Judge David Gooding, who handles juvenile cases. At the request of Fernandez's attorneys, the case was transferred to Gooding, who presides over what is called crossover court, or cases in which there are delinquency and dependency issues at play. Gooding was already presiding over Fernandez's dependency case.

Additionally, Gov. Rick Scott appointed the office of William P. Cervone, the elected state attorney in the Eighth Judicial circuit, which includes Alachua, Bradford, Baker, Levy, Gilchrist and Union counties, as the special prosecutor for the case. Melissa Nelson, now the top prosecutor in the Jacksonvillearea circuit, recused herself due to her role on Fernandez's defense team when she was an attorney at McGuireWoods.

Cervone, who phoned in to the hearing, agreed with the defense's request, and Gooding set the next court date to reevaluate the circumstances for Feb. 15.

The teen will still be on probation upon his release - set for Monday - and supervised by the Florida Department of Corrections.

Fernandez was charged with firstdegree murder for the March 14, 2011, beating death of his 2yearold halfbrother David Galarraga. A grand jury indicted Fernandez, and thenState Attorney Angela Corey said his case was best handled in the adult court system.

His curly hair and round face juxtaposed with the seriousness of the charges against him in adult court and potential for a life sentence, Fernandez's case and Corey's filing decision quickly became international news. …

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