WFTV's legal expert discusses how prosecutors arrive at manslaughter charge for 10-year-ol

A break-down of how a 10-year-old was charged with manslaughter

Channel 9 found out how prosecutors arrived at those charges, and what’s in store for the young boy as he awaits trial.

“It’s rare that a child this age would be charged with such a serious crime,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

A serious crime, but not a surprising charge, given the extent of 2-year-old Journee Blyden’s injuries and ultimate death.

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Investigators believe it was at the hands of her cousin, Berhaun Blyden.

“This case doesn’t look like it’s winnable by the defense,” Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer gave his tale on how the case got to this point, with Marion County seeing what may be its youngest manslaughter suspect.

It took collaboration between investigators, the state attorney’s office and findings from the medical examiner.

“Factor that into this young man giving a story that was inconsistent with the extent of (Journee’s) injuries—it all led to him being charged,” said Sheaffer.

Despite the serious charge, Sheaffer foresees the 10-year-old staying within the juvenile court system.

“He’s not entitled to a jury trial. He’s entitled to a trial before a judge,” Sheaffer said.

While Sheaffer doesn’t expect any reduction in charges, he believes there will be some sort of plea negotiation by the state.

“To get at the root of what caused this behavior, so that he has some kind of future when he becomes an adult,” Sheaffer said.

Adults with the same charge face up to 15 years in prison.

Sheaffer said for Berhaun, the focus would be on rehabilitation in juvenile custody.

“It’s incarceration no matter how you characterize it,” said Sheaffer.

He added that family history is something else that will likely be weighed when the child is sentenced by a judge.

A potential sentencing scenario that could play out is a plea deal where the child could be free by the age of 21, depending on how rehabilitation goes.

It was a lengthy process for investigators to arrive at a manslaughter charge for a 10-year-old.

The case began in June, but given the strong evidence and the Journee’s extensive injuries, investigators said the charges are appropriate. 

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