On February 27, 13-year-old Cristian Fernandez appeared in a Jacksonville, Florida courtroom without wearing the metal shackles on his hands and legs that have been placed on him for the last year. The shackling took place despite Florida's Supreme Court banning the indiscriminate shackling children in 2009 - a practice the court called "repugnant, degrading [and] humiliating." Over 2,300 people joined the campaign calling on Cristian's shackles to be removed. Most of these people were Florida citizens appalled to learn how their state had been treating Fernandez.
The grassroots efforts to remove Cristian's shackles were spearheaded by Alicia Torres, a Jacksonville, FL mother whose children attended school with Cristian, and Melissa Higgins, the NH mother and child advocate who helped tell the world that Cristian was being unfairly tried as an adult.
According to the The Florida Times-Union, Circut Judge Mallory Cooper granted a motion filed by Fernandez’s new team of defense attorneys to remove his leg restraints and handcuffs last week. And he will remain unshackled for future court appearances.
Nearly 200,000 people have signed a second petition calling for Cristian's case to be moved back to the juvenile court.
You can sign that petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/reverse-decision-to-try-12-yo-cristian-fernandez-as-an-adult
An Open Letter to Duval County Judge Mallory Cooper and Lt. Steve Weintraub of Jacksonville Sherrif's Office
We are writing to you in the hopes that you will allow 13 year-old Cristian Fernandez to attend his hearings and trial without being shackled.
The Florida Supreme Court banned the indiscriminate shackling of juveniles in 2009 stating "We find the indiscriminate shackling of children in Florida courtrooms as described in the NJDC's Assessment repugnant, degrading, humiliating and contrary to the stated primary purposes of the juvenile justice system and to the principles of therapeutic justice," in an unsigned 6-1 opinion.
Because Cristian is being tried in adult court, there is a loophole that allows him to be shackled. But the shackling of this young child is not necessary for the safety of others or to keep Cristian from escaping. The use of shackles on him is a dehumanizing and degrading act.
The decision to move Cristian's case to the adult courts is hotly contested by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world - many are citizens of our great state. But that's not what this is about. Common sense, human kindness, and Florida state law tells us that the shackling of a 13 year old boy is wrong - thats why the Supreme Court banned it unless absolutely necessary.
This petition is meant only as a means of showing you that there is widespread support for Florida's statutes against shackling children. We understand this is an unusual and complicated case and thank you for your service - but we also hope you will take into account that Cristian Fernandez has been in custody for nearly a year now and has not had any incidents or indication that he needs to be shackled.
I started this petition because I am a parent and the mother of one of Cristian's former classmates. I believe in Florida's statutes against shackling juveniles and I believe in our country's system of due process which says that Cristian is innocent until proven guilty.
Please do the right thing and allow Cristian to attend his hearings without shackles.