Florida lawmaker files juvenile justice reform bill in the wake of Orlando shootings

Keith Moses, suspect in deadly shootings, had long rap sheet of juvenile crimes

ORLANDO, Fla.Body camera video shows deputies in Orange County arresting Keith Melvin Moses after he’s accused of shooting five people, killing a TV reporter and a 9-year-old girl. The encounter with the sheriff’s office on Feb. 22 was far from his first run-in with law enforcement.

“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,” said Orange County Sheriff John Mina.

Mina called out the 19-year-old’s rap sheet the night of the shooting. Eight felonies and 11 misdemeanor cases, all but one of which happened when he was a juvenile.

The deadly string of shootings in Pine Hills has led to criticism from politicians and prosecutors in the days since it happened. While speaking in Lake Buena Vista Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis said not enough is being done to keep criminals off the streets.

“You have these people when they’ve had multiple arrests, multiple times when they could be held accountable, and you keep cycling them out into the community,” said DeSantis.

[TRENDING: DeSantis ‘review’ of public records can add months of delays, newly uncovered log reveals | Car goes off Florida bridge in fatal crash with Road Ranger, FHP says | Affidavit offers new details in shootings of Orlando TV news crew, 9-year-old girl and her mother | Become a News 6 Insider]

During a one-on-one interview with News 6 Tuesday, State Attorney Monique Worrell said she stands by every decision that was made.

“I will tell you that there were no passes given,” said Worrell.

Worrell says she cannot discuss juvenile dispositions, but she can talk about the questions this case has raised about the juvenile justice system and its limitations.

“Our juvenile justice system isn’t set up to address children who commit violent crime,” said Worrell.

State Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, D-Orlando, represents a district that includes Pine Hills. She says she hears the calls for change, and she is responding to them.

“Unfortunately, the state attorney has two choices. They can move forward with that child being in the department of juvenile justice or they can move forward with the adult system,” said Rep. Bracy Davis.

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, the term of a mask risk program is a term of 18 to 36 months.

Bracy Davis says the solution is not as simple as locking kids up for longer. Her proposal in a new bill filed Tuesday suggests the court retain jurisdiction until an offender is 21.

“Let’s just say an offense happens when a child is 15, as opposed to sending the child to adult court and they get 40 years, they could stay right there in the juvenile justice system. The Court retains jurisdiction, and the Department of Juvenile Justice can give services until that child’s 21st birthday,” said Bracy Davis.

The bill also revises a number of other juvenile justice issues, including the amount of time a juvenile can be committed to a facility, and provisions related to disposition hearings.

News 6 sat down with Rep. Bracy Davis just 30 minutes after she filed the bill, HB 1273. She says it’s a start to give kids the time and resources needed to make a difference in their lives.

“What our children need right now is resources, especially those who have committed serious crimes that perhaps don’t warrant the adult system or department of juvenile corrections, but at the same time a couple months in a juvenile program is not enough,” said Bracy Davis. “It was two extremes, so this legislation will balance that so the child can get the help they need.”

When asked how confident Rep. Bracy Davis is this proposed legislation will pass; she said will do whatever it takes to get the support needed.

The legislative session starts next week in Tallahassee. Before she goes, she will be part of a town hall meeting, along with State Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, in Pine Hills. They plan to meet with the community face-to-face to discuss what else should be done.

Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:


About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.