Arm Chair Jurors: Wrestling Teen

A thirteen year old boy was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years to life, for the death of a six year old girl. It is said that they were “playing wrestling” which caused her injuries.


I was just watching a story on this on one of the morning programs. The little girl suffered 35 major injuries, including a cracked skull and a torn liver.

First of all - what do you think? Who do you blame?
Do we condemn Professional Wrestling for inspiring this violence? If not, who?

Here are a few things I got from the TV show:
His defense attorney was offered a plea in which the defendant would have served 3 years in juvi, 1 year house arrest and 10 years probation. He refused it stating that it was all an accident. He brought the case to trial, and lost, sealing the youngster’s fate.
That was the defense - it was an accident. I found myself screaming at the screen - Bullshit! 35 major injuries is not an accident. That child must have been wailing, but this kid kept on beating her. The kid needs some help here, but that doesn’t sound accidental to me.

His mother was asked if she had witnessed him “playing wrestling” before. She replied that, yes, he played wrestling ever since he was a young child. Later she was asked if he ever displayed violent tendencies. Her reply - “no, never.” This seems to be convenient blindness and it causes me to feel a great deal of blame towards the mother. It seems she did not teach her child right from wrong, pretend from real, or that there are consequences for actions.

To sum up: If I were on that jury (of course I don’t fully know all the evidence, but bear with me) I think I would have voted to convict. But I’m equally furious at the kid’s lawyer for not accepting that plea. That kid will absolutely not be rehabilitated in an adult prison. If anything his fate is being set for him. If he had no criminal tendencies before, he will surely learn them there.

Your thoughts?

Hindsight on the plea bargain, but it looks pretty darn generous in retrospect. With that many injuries, I’d definitely have recommended it. Wonder if mom refused to let the kid accept under the impression that he really was just her innocent little angel?

Anyway, I’d have voted to convict too, although first degree murder is a bit of a stretch for a twelve year old. In every state I know of, 1st degree murder requires premeditation, and that doesn’t sound real likely here. But the jurors were the ones who got to listen to the evidence, and I’m not going to second-guess them from 1000 miles away.

The bigger question for me was trying this kid as an adult. I don’t know where to be drawing the line on that, but twelve years old seems awful young to be considered an adult.

Ahh, Florida. Doing its best to make Texas look good. :slight_smile:

A person at twelve years old seriously lacks the mental processes to fully understand the finality of his actions. Yes, he most likely knew he was doing something wrong, but I doubt he truly understood what the consequences of what he did.

I would have voted to convict, but would hope the judge would have sentenced him to a juvenile facilit until he is 21. The boy’s life is still salvagable if he gets the proper attention.

Yes…what a vicious trap. My friends and I all watched wrestling when we were young. So far, no fatalities. I’m going to check with my sister this evening though, just to be certain. Who knows what three story building I might have forgotten I had thrown her off of.

I’d like to know if this was Florida’s first degree murder laws, but based upon what I’ve read, that his actions were “intentional and abusive” I agree with the jury’s decision.

I seriously need more information though. Throwing her into a railing would not cause 35 major injuries unless the bannister was covered in metal spikes.

Jack, it’s my understanding that while he has been convicted, he hasn’t yet been sentenced. At least that was what I heard on the Today Show this morning (both in its news and in its interview with the boy’s mother and lawyer). And whether he actually will get 25-to-life is still open for debate, according to CNN:

The full CNN story is here.

Like Minty Green I also thought that murder in the first required premeditation, but based on what I’ve been hearing about this, premeditation doesn’t seem to be present in this case. However, the jurors were there and I wasn’t, and so until I hear more, I’ll reserve judgement.


I watched professional wrestling when I was a child. I remember the time King Kong Bundy smashed all of Hulk Hogan’s ribs on Saturnday Night’s Main Event. I thought that stuff was real.

Anyway my friends and I decided to wrestle just like they did on television. But then we were all boys of the same age so it was pretty much equal. Sometimes we got hurt but overall it wasn’t such a big deal. Point is I don’t think pro wrestling can be blamed. I used to wrestle with other kids even before I was exposed to the WWF.

I wouldn’t have convicted if it meant sending him to an adult prison. He’s a minor and there’s still a good chance to rehabilitate him.


My mistake. I may have mis-heard the story this morning. I thought he had been sentenced. But that makes sense. If he was convicted yesterday, his sentence wouldn’t be handed down this soon.

And I agree with you. I don’t think it matters (within reason) what a child is exposed to as entertainment. If his parents aren’t wise enough to guide him intelligently through life, he’s screwed anyway. When I saw his mother interviewed this morning, I was furious at her. She had this “my poor baby” attitude that really curdled my milk.

It’s somewhat disturbing that a judge wouldn’t allow a defendant to have the best possible defense. I wish it had listed the judge’s reasoning behind that decision.

judge thought “mitigating circumstances might prevent conviction, we can’t have that”

‘Violence on tv doesn’t cause violence on the streets… there’s a lots of comedy on tv and I don’t see any comedy on the streets.’

if someone could tell me who I’m terrible misquoting I’d appreciate it.

I don’t know who originally said it, but the first time I ever heard it was from Dick Cavett in a TV Guide interview during the previous century.

Yes, his actions certainly seemed to fit under the Florida statute of “intentional and abusive” = first degree regardless of actual intent to kill.

let me suggest, tho’ that the Florida law sets the standard pretty high - it seems to me that in most states and jurisdictions, if I throw a punch at a guy “intentionally to abuse or cause injury”, generally, a manslaughter (accidental death) is the appropriate charge.

The number and severity of the injuries may have been due to his size vs. her size (he outweighed her by 122 pounds according to the CNN link). The injuries listed were: a fractured skull, lacerated liver, broken rib, internal hemorrhaging and cuts and bruises. It’s likely, I’d think that the ribs caused the liver and other internal damage. Yea, she was probably banged up for a while before she died, but hard to say how much was inflicted either at or near the point of death.

It doesn’t appear that the jury was not given a middle of the road choice - and in todays climate of 'lock ‘em all up forever’, I’m sure that this jury didn’t want to be reading about the ‘tv wrestlers made me do it’ defense in the future.

It doesn’t surprise me. I live in MI, where the prosecution of an 11 year old as an adult went on (yes, he was found guilty, the judge sentenced him in a ‘split’ fashion which allowed him to be in a juvenile facility, re-evaluated when he is like 21 I think). Saddens, yes.

The death of a child, any child, is a tragedy. It seems sad to me, tho’ that we can hold a child responsible for what even the prosecutors acknowledge was an unintentional event.

Who else do I hold to blame? Mommy who’s babysitting for the little girl, but takes a nap and allows the then 12 year old to be in charge, and doesn’t wake up despite all of the noise that HAD to be happening in that home.

as for the contention that the 12 year old didn’t know wrestling was staged - hell - my ex husband didn’t, either. (yet another of the many, excellent reasons, he’s an ‘ex’)

Jack Batty:

The defense attorney refused it?

I don’t think that it is reasonable to expose children to professional “wrestling”, any more than it is rerasonable to expose children to a cooking show in which the cook reaches into what appears to be a pot of boiling water to pull out some food. Professional “wrestling” seriously misrepresents what it is safe to do, and I think that they should bear responsibility for that. This is very different from being against violence on TV in general. Watching someone get beaten up with solid metal objects and then being taken off to the hospital is quite different from watching someone get beaten with solid metal objects, then get up and walk away unharmed.

From what I can tell, the boy did not realize that in the real world, this stuff can kill. Murder requires intent to kill, and I don’t see that in this case. I think he should have been convicted of manslaughter.


Well, I think that is largely false. I do see a lot of attempts at humor on the street.

Speaking as the mother of an almost-14 year old (Bonzo) who likes to “put the wrestling moves” on his 10-year-old sister (La Principessa), when I first heard about this last week, I found the whole thing to be so appalling that I could hardly even think about it without feeling sick. I considered it a “teachable moment”, of course, and made a B.F.D. out of drawing Bonzo’s attention to it. “See, this is what can happen. Put moves only on people your own size.”

However, now that the initial shock has worn off, and I’ve had a chance to read some more detailed news accounts, I can see several big trees in the forest.

First, this wouldn’t be the first time in the history of the world that an older boy beat a younger kid to death. I don’t think it’s fair to classify what happened as “wrestling moves”, even Smackdown-type wrestling moves. If you sit and watch Smackdown, there really isn’t a lot of just stomping and kicking. They do a lot of picking up and throwing around.

What Lionel did wasn’t wrestling–it was just plain stomping and kicking. I read in another article, in the Chicago Tribune I think, that someone pointed out that he only said, “Yeah, it was wrestling moves” after his attorney prompted him.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame professional wrestling, either. Bonzo watches Smackdown constantly, and I’ve seen him practice moves with his buddies in the back yard. Of course, he knows that at least once during the proceedings, Mom (or the Granddad of one of the other boys who lives next door) is going to put her head out the back door and remind him to be careful. (Granddad just bellows at them, “Cut it out!”) And I do see that the boys are actually rather formal about it. They don’t just scuffle and thrash around–they take turns, critique each other’s performance, and give advice. This is a far cry from what evidently went on in that mobile home.

So I don’t see anything intrinsically bad about WWF, any more than I see anything intrinsically bad about Mortal Kombat. Boys have always wrestled out in the back yard, and large dysfunctional boys have occasionally beaten smaller children to death.

Second, Lionel’s mother was described as “being asleep” in the mobile home while this was going on. I’m such a cynic–for “asleep” I have to hear either “passed out drunk” or “having taken a sleeping pill”. Unless they’ve got some kind of special soundproofing installed in that mobile home, I can’t comprehend how a child could be beaten to death at one end of the trailer and an adult, even a sleeping adult, at the other end not hear anything.

Speaking as someone who babysits another woman’s 10-year-old before and after school, I know that you don’t take a sleeping pill and lie down for a nap when you’re “on duty”.

Third, Lionel is described as weighing 170 pounds. Jeepers, that’s the size of the Better Half, who is not a small man. So this was a big hulking kid who beat a 6-year-old to death. I don’t see where any of that has anything to do with professional wrestling.

And fourth, I would say Lionel had a terrible lawyer. I guess he thought he’d be able to pull it off (“it was an accident, and besides it was all Vince McMahon’s fault!”), but he failed.

Ryan, I think boys who are properly supervised by adults can watch Smackdown without causing the death of younger children. I’d have to disagree with you, that it’s like watching a cooking show where the cook reaches into a pot of boiling water. Bonzo’s been watching wrestling since he was 10, and from the git-go he’s had Mom (and Dad) reminding him, “Now, you know this is all fake, it’s all scripted.” And we got some videos from the library that showed how professional wrestlers do it, and how they’re trained. He also was in a real wrestling club for a year (Greco-Roman collegiate stuff). Not to mention all the years of training he’s had at his mother’s knee on the subject of, “Just because you see it on TV doesn’t mean it’s true.”

So it’s like with anything else–as long as you’ve got parental input, I don’t see any problem with it. But if you just let kids watch whatever they want on TV, with no parental input, then of course you’re going to run into problems.

And speaking of Evil Cooking Shows, what about Jacques Pepin? Have you ever SEEN how much butter he puts in stuff? Now THERE’S a need for parental input–“listen, my children, just because Jacques Pepin puts a stick of butter in his chicken gravy doesn’t mean it’s a good idea…” :smiley:

From what I remember from the story on Today, this morning - yes. Which is what irritated me the most. The kid screwed up. He needs help, not only to prevent him from doing this again but also to deal with what he has already done.

Point noted. However, shouldn’t the parents be held responsible for what their children are exposed to, especially on TV. And, if one’s child does happen to watch wrestling, shouldn’t the parents be responsible for that child’s knowledge of its fakery?

The problem is, “wrestling” doesn’t hold a monopoly on that. A weak arguement might be made for cartoons, but I won’t go there.
Witness any fight on TV. It doesn’t look like it hurts too much. Most of the time the only damage you see is a little trickle of blood on the lip, or maybe a black eye.
And I won’t even mention that beloved children’s movie Home Alone.

He should have, and his parents should have made sure he did.

I somewhat agree with you here. But, again, I don’t know the full details. Maybe he didn’t mean to kill her, but it does seem as though he was out to do some damage.
On the other hand, it is possible that this kid has homicidal tendancies to begin with, and this was a convenient excuse to carry them out. At any rate, prison sure as shit ain’t going to help him.

You seem to be taking the kid at his post hoc word. From accounts I read earlier this week, there was convincing testimony that the 35 injuries we’ve been discussing would have been extremely painful. This little girl was most likely crying, screaming, and begging the boy to stop–which, obviously, he did not do. The circumstances were so extreme that it seems reasonable (but not necessary) to infer that the kid must have known his actions were likely to result in death. There was no mention of testimony that he believed he was incapable of killing somebody.

In addition, I second everything DDG said above. Nicely said, Ms. Goose.

Quote from beakerxf
“A person at twelve years old seriously lacks the mental processes to fully understand the finality of his actions. Yes, he most likely knew he was doing something wrong, but I doubt he truly understood what the consequences of what he did.”

I think by 12, most people have learned something about the fragileness of life. Even if you have been so sheltered you have no concept of mortality, 12 years is more than enough time to learn the following social mores: 1) Don’t pick on people littler than yourself. 2) Don’t hit girls. 3) Don’t keep hitting people when they are down.
This boy did all these things.

(and I made the same mistake initially, too). When I wrote above about mom being asleep and how tough I found it to understand that she could sleep through this, I, too used the word, “trailer”. Then on preview, I checked back to the links. both refer to “house” and “home” , not trailer, and both refer to a stair railing (an atypical thing to find inside the average trailer).

I’m certain the younger child was crying out and asking him to stop. But, frankly, I believe that would have been the case no matter what else, and I personally wouldn’t find that statement as an indication of the seriousness of her injuries. I dunno. And certainly don’t want access to the autopsy/court records to hear more about it.

From one of the links, it seems the law he was convicted under came about as an attempted response to the times when a parent/caretaker of a child would have a pattern of abuse, and ultimately the child died, without being able to point at a single specific act which was an intent to kill (IOW, the parent who routinely beat their child, and one day the child died as a cumulative effect of their beatings/injuries, would be prosecuted as an intentional homicide give the intent to cause **some ** harm.) That this is now being used against another child in these circumstances doesn’t seem to follow the legislative intent (if it was accurately reported - one of the two links given here spoke of it).

Do I think the 12/13 year old deserves consequences? you bet. Beating up on a smaller child, even in “play” deserves consequences. Being locked up for potentially 50 - 60 years? No, not in this instance, IMHO.

Only if he had been taught these things, which was clearly not the case. The mother is clearly at fault in this situation, from the day of the 13 year olds birth, through the day of the death of the little sister.

Pro-wrestling is symptomatic of the larger problem of today’s television landscape. Clearly watching TV (be it wrestling or any other show), affects behavior. Clearly every single network and television executive knows this. If anyone believed the oft-trotted refrain “what they watch has nothing to do with their actions”, no one would be willing to pay $70,000 per second for the chance to affect the behavior of all the football fans watching the Super Bowl.

I heard something similar today on CNN’s “Burden of Proof.” One of the prosecutors in the case said that the boy originally said that he and the victim were playing tag. According to the prosecutor, the defense didn’t mention professional wrestling until much later in the case.

The transcript for today’s show isn’t online yet, but I’ll try to post a link when it’s available.

My two cents:

  1. I don’t know very much about Florida law, but it seems to me that the jury returned a verdict that was in keeping with their charge and with the law.

  2. I hope that the sentencing is done with an eye toward rehabilitation.

My two cents, the longer version …

It’s so sad that it’s hardest to pin down what is the worst part of this story. The part that makes me the angriest is certainly the mother. The news coverage I have seen makes her sound very negligent in caring for both her own child and the girl she was babysitting. And not accepting the plea! It seems like she was convinced that the wrestling defense was going to give this kid an automatic get out of jail card. Now the child will have to pay for her short-sightedness.

I don’t have any problem at all with the judge refusing to allow extensive testimony about the evils of wrestling. A lot of things are fake, but a 12 year old child with average mental abilities (and if I read the stories right, there’s nothing that would indicate this boy is mentally behind his peers) should know what is real and what is pretend. If he was a bookish kid who sat around all day reading Ivanhoe, would he think it was ok to go around bashing people with lances?

In a less idealistic vein, any 12 year old kid should have the basic sense to think “would I want someone else to jump up and down on my head? would that hurt me?” and use the response to behave accordingly. I would guess that DDG’s son has experienced times when he has been slightly hurt while playing around with wrestling moves (as in “Ow, you landed on me too hard!”) … this no doubt serves to teach the kids what NOT to do to others.

I hope this kid is given a chance to rehabilitate, but to blame the crime on wrestling is going too far. Is the mother being brought up on any charges of neglect? I hope she is.