A 12-year-old boy, clocking speeds of more than 90 miles an hour, crashed a car into a tree in a southern Mexico City neighborhood, sending passengers flying out of the car, killing five and injuring three, all children.
According to Mexico City police officials, the boy was driving a Pontiac G3, a 4-door passenger car, packed with nine other children, when he lost control and spun off the road. Photos of the crash site show the mangled automobile with its windows shattered and car parts strewn around several covered bodies in the roadway. Police say the children, three girls and two boys died instantly, all between the ages of 12 and 14.
Mexico City officials say they cannot release any more information, including the children’s names, because they are minors.
According to Milenio newspaper a 10-year old boy, sandwiched between seats in the back, survived the crash and ran home to alert his parents. Three surviving children were taken to local hospitals. The 12-year old driver was taken into custody and sustained light injuries.
On Twitter, Mexicans expressed outrage, with many placing blame on the boy’s parents. Several tweeted the boy’s parents should be held responsible for the deaths. Others demanded the boy be tried as an adult. Children under the age of 18 are tried in juvenile courts in Mexico.
Mexico City’s department of Boys, Girls and Adolescent Investigators says the 12-year-old boy, only named as Luis Eduardo, will be investigated for vehicular homicide and that he remains in custody.
Several Mexican newspapers however are reporting the boy may be released to the custody of his parents under Mexico’s new legal system, which does not require immediate imprisonment for vehicular accidents.
The new judicial system, which was approved by Mexico’s Congress in 2008 and became fully operational in June 2016, now requires trials to be held in public with testimony and evidence presented in open courts. Mexico’s old system was criticized for its secrecy and testimony submitted only in written arguments.
Critics charge, though, the new system has allowed for the release of tens of thousands of suspected criminals and prisoners due to faulty evidence gathering and poor prosecutorial follow through. Such flaws in the new system have caused a backlash among politicians and citizens alike. Mexico City’s mayor has blamed it for a “very dangerous” decline in the number of inmates held in the country’s capital. Mexico’s homicide rate, nearly 30,000 last year, was the highest registered since crime statistics first were kept in the 1990s.
Francisco Riquelme, a member of Mexico City’s Bar Association and a criminal defense lawyer says the 12-year-old boy in the car crash is not being tried under the new system. Due to his age, Riquelme says he will face charges under Mexico’s juvenile justice system, which also does not allow minors to be held in jail while awaiting trial.
“It would have to be extraordinary for a judge to hold a child under the age of 14 in jail for an accident,” says Riquelme. And Riquelme says it’s unfortunate that the public has a bad perception of the new judicial system. “Any failures (of the new system) aren’t because of its laws, but because of the wrong practices of its operators,” he added.
David Shirk, of the University of San Diego, who has been a consultant to Mexican judges and lawyers on Mexico’s open trials, says it is unfortunate the new judicial system is taking a public beating. But he says in the case of the 12-year joyriding boy, it is unlikely that any justice system in the world could offer a suitable process of punishment for the horrible consequences of his actions.
“Sadly, there really is no way to achieve justice for those five kids, but treating this child unjustly is not the solution,” says Shirk.