Mom of slain Alabama infant disputes allegations

This photo provided by the Birmingham Police Department shows a police mug shot of Katerra Lewis, 26, of Birmingham, who was arrested on a murder charge, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Police say an 8-year-old Alabama boy is charged with beating a 1-year-old girl to death while they were left home alone. A warrant has been obtained against the boy, and Lewis, who is also charged with manslaughter in the death of 1-year-old Kelcia Lewis. Birmingham police spokesman Sean Edwards says the girl began crying while the children were left alone and the boy attacked her. Police say the girl suffered severe head trauma and major damage to her internal organs. (Birmingham Police Department via AP)
This photo provided by the Birmingham Police Department shows a police mug shot of Katerra Lewis, 26, of Birmingham, who was arrested on a murder charge, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Police say an 8-year-old Alabama boy is charged with beating a 1-year-old girl to death while they were left home alone. A warrant has been obtained against the boy, and Lewis, who is also charged with manslaughter in the death of 1-year-old Kelcia Lewis. Birmingham police spokesman Sean Edwards says the girl began crying while the children were left alone and the boy attacked her. Police say the girl suffered severe head trauma and major damage to her internal organs. (Birmingham Police Department via AP)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – A woman charged in the death of her infant daughter – who authorities say was killed by an 8-year-old boy – disputes allegations that she left the children home alone, her attorney said Wednesday.

Police say Katerra Marsha Lewis, 26, and a friend left the 8-year-old boy to watch over five younger children while the women went to a nightclub. The boy beat Kelci Lewis to death last month when she wouldn’t stop crying and placed her back in her crib as if she were asleep, police said.

The boy was charged with murder in juvenile court and placed into the custody of child welfare workers, Birmingham Police spokesman Sean Edwards said. The infant’s mother faces a manslaughter charge.

Legal experts say the case will be challenging on several fronts because of the boy’s age.

University of Alabama associate law professor Jenny Carroll said in many jurisdictions, children under the age of 10 or 12 are presumed not to have the capacity to form criminal intent and have difficulty understanding court proceedings.

“We recognize that children don’t have the same thought processes and don’t have fully developed decision-making processes at that age,” said Carroll, who has represented juvenile offenders.

Yet children as young as the Birmingham boy have been convicted in killings.

In 2009, an Arizona boy pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the fatal shootings of his father and a man who rented a room in the family’s home. He was 8 at the time of the shootings. The boy was sentenced to indefinite treatment at a residential facility and probation until he’s 18.

Alabama is one of about three dozen states that have no minimum age for children to be prosecuted in juvenile court, according to Marsha Levick, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. She was only aware of a handful of cases involving children younger than 12 who were charged with murder.

Levick said the case would be best handled by the child welfare system, not the juvenile justice system, because the boy would be more likely to get the necessary psychological and educational help.

“The juvenile justice system has almost nothing to offer him,” she said.

Bryan Stevenson of the Montgomery-based group Equal Justice Initiative questioned the way the boy has been characterized. Police have called the assault “vicious.”

“What I’m really concerned about is assigning to this boy all of these evil, and vicious and adult-like characteristics when we’re talking about an 8-year-old child,” Stevenson said. “This is about neglect, abuse. It’s about the way we fail to help our children in the most vulnerable situations. It’s not about an 8-year old murderer.”

The infant’s mother is charged with reckless manslaughter on accusations that she caused Kelci’s death Oct. 11 by leaving her in the care of another child that she knew was violent or under conditions where the girl wouldn’t be protected from abuse. Her lawyer said she told him otherwise.

“I know they’re saying she left her child there without any type of adult supervision, but that’s not what she’s saying,” Lewis’s attorney Emory Anthony said. “Right now we’re just trying to find out what they have,” Anthony said, declining further comment before Lewis’s preliminary hearing.

Charging the girl’s mother with manslaughter could be strategic so that a jury could be instructed to also consider child abuse or neglect, Carroll said.

“They could convict her on a lesser offense, they can’t go the other way though,” she said.

The boy’s mother hasn’t been charged.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WKBN 27 First News provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. No links will be permitted. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s