On June 18th, a 16-year-old suspect was arrested for the shooting and death of 62-year-old Elsa Mikeska during an attempted robbery the day before outside of Life Fit Personal Studio in Southeast Houston.
The suspect is in the custody of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and has been charged with capital murder by the Juvenile Probation Authorities. Police are not releasing the suspect’s name or photo because of his age. HPD homicide detectives say there were 2 other men involved in the shooting.
Mikeska was arriving early to her 5:00 a.m. exercise class at Life Fit when she was surrounded by the assailants. According to HPD, she had just parked her car in the fitness studio’s parking lot when a Chevrolet Suburban parked near her. As she walked towards the front door of the gym, the suspects called out to her.
Police say that Mikeska ran when she realized they were attempting to rob her. One of the suspects then pulled out a gun and shot Mikeska, who collapsed.
About an hour before Mikeska’s death, police say they got a report of an attempted carjacking close by and that the victim’s description of the suspects matched those involved in the shooting of Mikeska.
The Houston Police Department says the investigation is ongoing, and they are looking for the 2 other suspects.
The juvenile justice system in Texas
In this case, the arrested suspect would be considered a juvenile. In Texas, a “juvenile” is legally defined as someone who is between the ages of 10 and 17 at the time that they commit an act of “delinquent conduct.”
If the individual is between the ages of 17 and 18, they would be tried as a juvenile if they were arrested for something they did before their 17th birthday.
However, there are some cases in which a child may be tried as an adult, even if they are considered a “juvenile.” One such instance is if the individual is a chronic offender or if they commit a serious crime.
For most cases, a child will be tried as a juvenile if they committed the offense before they turned 15, unless they commit a capital offense. If a child is 14 years old or older and commits a first-degree felony, or an aggravated controlled substance felony, they can still be tried as an adult.
Therefore, in this case, even though the suspect is a juvenile, they may be tried as an adult because they are being charged with capital murder.
How does conviction differ for juveniles?
The juvenile justice system differs from the penal system for adults in several important ways. For instance, while adults are tried with the emphasis on public safety and punishment, often juvenile corrections also focus on treatment and rehabilitation.
The goal within the juvenile justice system is to educate the youth so that they can learn about discipline, work ethic and values. Often in these cases, such as the one in the Houston gym shooting, their records are sealed and public information is anonymized so that they aren’t faced with social stigma. However, this may change as they get older if they complete their sentences as an adult.
The realities of juvenile conviction can be much more serious, though, depending on the child’s age, history and the nature of their arrest.
Punishment for a juvenile conviction could include any of the following:
- Supervisory requirement. The child receives regular counseling from the probation department. The child and their family may be referred to social services as well.
- Deferred prosecution. The child may be placed on a 6-month voluntary probation term. If they violate the terms, the case will proceed to prosecution.
- Probation at home, foster care or within another program. The child may receive probation until they reach age 18. They’re likely to perform mandatory service to the community in addition to probation.
- Restitution. If the crime involved a loss of life and/or significant property damage, the convict will be required to repay the victim or the family of the victim.
- Incarceration or commitment. The Texas Youth Commission may incarcerate the child. They may be transferred to the Department of Criminal Justice at age 21. Incarceration decisions—such as how long they will be incarcerated, if or when they will be eligible for early release and the question of transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice—depends on the crime committed and the child’s history.
Consult with a juvenile criminal defense attorney
Juvenile defense is a specialized legal practice; thus children and teens tried as juvenile offenders deserve specialized legal advice.
An attorney with experience in juvenile cases can guide the child through the criminal justice system with their extensive legal knowledge and proven courtroom skills. These lawyers can provide practical legal advice for their juvenile clients and will tailor the defense to the client’s strengths, needs, family, community and social structure.
If your child is facing a criminal trial in the Houston area, it’s important to reach out to a criminal defense attorney that has experience in juvenile cases.