Girl faces adult trial in attack on relative

March 06, 2009|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,

A 17-year-old girl accused of assaulting her grandmother so severely that the 69-year-old woman had a heart attack and died moments later will be tried as an adult on a charge of murder, a Baltimore judge ruled yesterday.

Jabreria Handy and her mother burst into tears as Circuit Judge John P. Miller denied the teen's request to send the case to juvenile court because of her history of "behavior problems" at Samuel L. Banks High School.

During the hourlong hearing, prosecutor Jennifer Rallo described how Handy had been suspended nine times during the past two school years, including once for throwing a large textbook into a door, causing glass to break and scatter over a teacher's arm. Handy also had refused to attend counseling and had been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder, Rallo said.

Rallo also said that Handy had been accused of threatening to kill a teacher's cats on the same day police allege she pushed her grandmother onto a bed, got on top of her and held her down until the girl's brother pulled her off.

Handy's lawyer, David Addison, countered with letters of support from assistant principals, the former principal at Samuel L. Banks and the teacher who was involved in the textbook-throwing incident. The teacher wrote that she had recently witnessed "positive signs of an individual getting her life on track for the future."

Addison also pointed out that Handy had no criminal record and that court medical staff had recommended the case be handled in juvenile court.

Addison said he was "surprised" by Miller's decision, saying that he felt the letters of support from school staff said more about Handy than the suspensions.

Miller said decisions on transferring cases to juvenile court are usually simple but that this one was not. With the defense arguing that Eunice Taylor's death amounted to a "relatively innocuous" assault and the prosecution describing the teenager as having an "extreme disregard for human life," "you couldn't get farther apart," Miller said.

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