The Law Considered Jose Torres to Be a Child -- Until the Friend he Allegedly Shot Died

Jose Torres is a child who will be tried as an adult on a manslaughter charge for allegedly accidentally shooting his playmate in the face.

Adults, as it turns out, have "playmates."

Jose, a 17-year-old Deerfield Beach teenager, shot that playmate in the face with a 9mm pistol, which was one of the weapons Torres kept beneath his bed, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office. Jose was not part of a militia, nor was he a survivalist. From all appearances, he kept the weapons because he thought they were neat, as any adult might.

Among other charges, he is being charged as an adult with five counts of "unlawful possession of a weapon by a minor," which is to say he is being charged as an adult for a

crime which by definition can only be committed by a child. 

Jose shot 12-year-old Anthony Alejandre in the face while the two played in Jose's room, deputies say. Anthony lived across the street, and their families were close. Jose's parents, Salvador and Tomasa, were Anthony's godparents. After the shooting, Jose quickly placed the gun in Anthony's hand and claimed Anthony had shot himself. Forensic experts recognized the deception, and Jose confessed under questioning.

Anthony languished on life support for four days before succumbing on October 15. Prior to Anthony's death, Jose was to be tried as a juvenile for attempted manslaughter; the charges were upgraded on Wednesday. When Anthony died, it seems Jose grew up.

Why aren't minors allowed to possess weapons? Because they're not competent to use them responsibly. Why do we charge minors as adults? Because we believe they possessed adult-level maturity at the time of their crime. How can you be certain that you don't possess adult-level maturity? It's impossible to know for sure, but playing with guns might be a sign.

Another sign might be violent wrestling with a toddler, as Lionel Tate did. Another might be an honor student, such as Nathaniel Brazill, shooting a favorite teacher for denying him access to his girlfriend. Beating a girl to the threshold of death over an offensive text message, a la Wayne Treacy, may be another. All actions smack of impulsivity; of hormones out of whack, of brains undeveloped. All of these children were tried as adults -- not because they were mature, which they obviously weren't, but because their immaturity led them to do terrible things.

Minors in adult prisons are 21 times as likely to report being assaulted or injured as those in juvenile detention facilities. They are five times as likely to be raped, twice as likely to be beaten by staff, and seven times as likely to commit suicide. Adults, when sent to prison, are not sent to prisons full of inmates smarter, savvier, meaner, and stronger than they. That is a punishment reserved for children.

Florida tries more minors as adults than any other state.


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