State Attorney Worrell wants juvenile justice changes after Orlando shootings

Worrell says system was not built for violent juvenile offenders

ORLANDO, Fla. – In announcing the arrest of Keith Moses in the shooting deaths of three people last Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff John Mina made sure to mention his criminal history.

“At 19, he has a lengthy criminal history to include gun charges, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft charges,” Mina said.

But all of those charges came about when Moses was under 18 years old. He was tried as a juvenile, many charges were dismissed, and in other cases, he was sentenced to a year of community control.

The case raises questions as to why Moses was allowed to get so far with such a record.

Last week, Monique Worrell, state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, laid the blame on a juvenile justice system not designed to handle a juvenile like Moses, and called on state legislators to make changes.

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“Our system was not designed to deal with children being the perpetrators of violent crime,” Worrell said at a community event put on by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and faith-based leaders on Thursday. “So it is based solely on rehabilitation and while I believe that rehabilitation is a goal for our children, when you have children who commit violent crime, we have to put programs in place that are going to reduce the likelihood of recidivism, and currently our system isn’t geared towards that.”

Worrell said under Florida law, neither the state attorney’s office nor the courts have a say in the program a juvenile offender is sent to or the length of time they are kept in the program.

“Currently for our max risk programs, you’re looking at a term of 18 to 36 months in a max risk program,” Worrell said. “That is the worst possible punishment in our juvenile system. But that doesn’t match individuals who are involved in gun violence.”

Worrell said the adult corrections system is also not the answer, though, because the system was never built to deal with children.

Worrell said she has asked the state legislature to change that. Worrell said she has asked the legislature to do two things: move the jurisdiction of a juvenile offender’s sentencing to the courts, and allow for more time that violent juvenile offenders can spend in programs.

“We have to work to change the jurisdiction of our juvenile system so that we can extend the time and the purpose and increase the intensity of the programming so that we can truly make a difference in the lives of these young people,” Worrell said.

To date, no state lawmaker has filed a bill regarding changes to the juvenile justice system. The annual Florida Legislative Session starts March 7. Final drafts of bills are due March 3.

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Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.