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Petitioner ) JUV. CASE NO. 1605005854


vs. )


Respondent )


Petitioner ) JUV. CASE NO. 1605005875


vs. )


Respondent )

Petitioner ) JUV. CASE NO. 1605005879


vs. )


Respondent )


This sad case from its beginning in April, 2016 has touched the lives of
many in this community and evoked many emotions. This is understandable. I do
however ask those in the courtroom today to please curtail any emotional
outbursts as my decision is issued, out of respect for the memory of Amy Joyner-

On the morning of April 21, 2016, Amy Joyner-Francis entered the Howard
High School of Technology for another school day, much like any other school
day, expecting to attend class, hang out with friends and return home to her
family that afternoon, much like she would do on every other school day. But as
the evidence has shown, this was not to be normal school day and she would not
return home to her family.

Trinity Carr is charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide and Conspiracy

3 Degree in the death of Amy Joyner-Francis. Zion Snow and Chakeira Wight are
charged are each charged with Conspiracy 3rd Degree .

The State alleges that Trinity Carr committed Criminally Negligent Homicide
in that on the 21st day of April, 2016 in the County of New Castle, State of
Delaware, she did with criminal negligence cause the death of Amy Joyner-

Unlike a trial in Superior Court before a jury, in the Family Court, the judge
must not only determine the law applicable to the case, but also act as the fact
finder making the findings of fact and apply those findings to the law as to
whether the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the
individuals charged committed the offense and thereby rendering a decision, the
Courts verdict. To this end, I have carefully taken into consideration all the
evidence in this case, both testimonial exhibits, although I may only touch on
some of the evidence today.

I will therefore turn first to the law applicable to this case.

11 Del C. 631 Criminally Negligent Homicide; class D felony . A person is

guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, the person
causes the death of another person.

11 Del C. 231(a) defines criminal negligence as follows: a person acts with

criminal negligence with respect to an element of an offense when the person
fails to perceive a risk that the element exists or will result from the conduct. The
risk must be of such a nature and degree the failure to perceive it constitutes a
gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would
observe in this situation.

Trinity Carr - Criminally Negligent Homicide

On the charge of Criminally Negligent Homicide, the first question the Court
must answer is whether the death of Amy Joyner-Francis was caused by Trinity
Carr. Dr. Sekula-Pearlman, the Deputy Delaware State Medical Examiner
established the immediate cause of death as sudden cardiac death due to large
atrial septal defect with a contributing cause of emotional and physical stress due
to physical assault.

Amy's congenital heart defect, atrial septal defect coupled with pulmonary
hypertension created the dangerous condition known as Eisenmenger Syndrome,
a condition where the avoidance of physically and emotionally stressful situations

are medically recommended when that condition is diagnosed. Respondents
expert cardiologist, Dr. Ringel, did not dispute Dr. Pearlman's conclusion that the
stress from the attack on April 21, 2016 was a contributing cause of Amy Joyner-
Francis's death. A criminal act in a case as this was complete when a respondent
sets in motion with the required state of mind, the chain of conduct and events
resulting in the death of Amy Joyner- Francis. For there to be criminally negligent
homicide, the death must be the natural and probable consequence of the
unlawful act and not the result of intervening causes. The natural and probable
consequence of a physical attack on an individual is physical and emotional
trauma which may, depending on the particular circumstances of the victim,
result in varying degrees of physical harm, up to in its most severe degree, the
death of the victim. While it may be true that Amy Joyner-Francis, due to her
condition would have died from a multitude of stressors, until such an event
occurred, if at all, she had a right to live one more day, one more week, one more
month or year, until her time, without a contributing cause of another. In this
case, the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the death of Amy-
Joyner Francis was caused by the action of Trinity Carr.

Next, it must be determined whether Trinity Carr , in causing the death of

Amy Joyner- Francis acted with criminal negligence, that is, did she fail to perceive
that her conduct created a risk of death and that her failure to perceive such a
risk was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person
would observe in this situation. The attack on Amy Joyner-Francis, had known
potential consequences, risks. I purposely use the word "attack," because that is
what the evidence established; not a fight between two teenagers squaring off to
settle some mutual grievance, but rather, an act of violence initiated and carried
out by Respondent Carr over a perceived slight on social media. She struck the
first blow without warning, carried on the relatively brief, but clearly violent
attack, which included closed fist punches to the upper torso and face to the a
kick to the face while Amy's hair was being pulled and had to be to be pulled off
her victim who throughout the altercation tried vainly to protect herself. A
physical assault on another carries with it intended consequences that is to injure
the victim. What other purpose does a physical assault have other than to inflict

injury? While the extent of that injury may not specifically be intended or
contemplated, the risk nevertheless exists. The attack carried out by Trinity Carr
in the close confines of the school bathroom stall posed risk of potential
catastrophic physical harm including death by virtue of the tile floor, walls and
fixtures. Had a death resulted from internal bleeding after striking her head on
the floor would that result in any way changes the risk that the assault itself
created? Clearly this question must be answered in the negative. It is within the
realm of contemplation that a physical assault intended to cause injury could in
fact result in death; that is death was clearly a risk of respondent's conduct.

The defense correctly points out that it is a matter of first impression in

Delaware whether the reasonable person standard used in assessing criminal
culpability should take into consideration the age and experience of the teenage
Respondent. Significant evidence was presented through the testimony of Dr.
Lawrence Steinberg, a renowned expert in the field of adolescent developmental
psychology relating to the fact that adolescents are more impulsive, myopic and
more focused on potential rewards those on potential costs of their decisions.
According to Dr. Steinberg, adolescents are less likely than adults to understand
risk, less likely to be aware of the potential negative repercussions of engaging in
risky behavior, and less likely to consider longer-term consequences of the
decisions they make when there are risks involved. Consideration of age has long
been recognized in determining what is a "reasonable person" in civil law and is a
factor recognized in this state in many areas of criminal law including amenability
to rehabilitation and competency to stand trial. The United States Supreme Court
in abolishing the death penalty for juveniles as well as life in prison without the
possibility of probation or parole recognized the propriety of taking into account
juvenile brain development and cognitional changes .It is altogether appropriate
that the court gives some consideration to a respondents age in assessing
behavior when compared to the "reasonable person" standard in criminally
negligent homicide cases.

The defense presented statistics from the Center for Disease Control 2016
Report on Youth Risk Behavior during Year 2015 regarding the small percentage
of Delaware high school students in reported fights , 15.9%, and smaller number,
2.9% of females who were injured in reported fights to support the contention
that a reasonable person of Respondents age and experience would not expect
injury much less death to result from a fight and therefore her failure to perceive
such a risk is not a gross deviation from the standard of care that such a
reasonable person of like age would observe in this situation. The beauty of
statistics lies in the eye of every beholder. Do not the same statistics support the
conclusion that 84.1% of high school students in Delaware do not engage in fights
because to do so would be outside of the appropriate standard of conduct for a
high school student of similar age? I find that to be the case.

The defense introduced into evidence the New Castle County Vocational
Technical School District parent-student code of conduct citing its provisions that
fighting may result in disciplinary action ranging from suspension up to expulsion
or referral to law enforcement, for the proposition that a reasonable student can
only be expected to contemplate that the risk of a fight is school disciplinary
action. The defense is wrong in this regard. The school district handbook contains
no representation as to what risk a fight may pose; only what administrative
disciplinary punishment may be received by the perpetrator of such conduct.

The "reasonable person" standard is a concept borrowed from civil law. A

reasonable person, according to Restatement (Torts 283) Comments c,d is a
fictitious person who was never negligent and whose conduct is always up to the
standard. Even reasonable 16-year-olds have standards. Trinity Carrs attack on
Amy Joyner-Francis and her failure to perceive the risk of death from that attack,
the evidence has established beyond a reasonable doubt, was a gross deviation
from that standard. As such, she has committed the offense of Criminally
Negligent Homicide and will be so adjudicated.

Conspiracy in the third degree

11 Del C. 511 Conspiracy in the Third Degree; class a misdemeanor. A
person is guilty of conspiracy in the third degree when, intending to promote or
facilitate the commission of a misdemeanor, a person:

(1) Agrees with another person or persons that they or one or more
of them will engage in conduct constituting the misdemeanor or
an attempt or solicitation to commit a misdemeanor; or
(2) Agrees to aid another person or persons in the planning
or commission of the misdemeanor or an attempt or solicitation to
commit a misdemeanor, and the person or another person with
whom the person conspired commits an overt act in pursuance of
the conspiracy.

The Court finds that the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt
that Trinity Carr and Zion Snow committed conspiracy in the third degree.

On April 20, Amy Joyner-Francis met with Trinity Carr and Zion Snow in an
attempt to defuse what Amy believed was a misunderstanding on the part of
Trinity that Amy had insulted her with the reference to "switching up." Zion Snow
posts pictures of her sneakers, teen parlance for preparing for a fight. She posts
on social media that "we gonna get her she's scared". The next morning, April
21 they are together in the cafeteria along with their friend, Chakeira Wright,
before class. Chakeira Wright phones her cousin asking if Amy has arrived at
school yet. Trinity Carr, Zion Snow and Chakeira Wright then leave the cafeteria
and find Amy in the hall. They follow Amy Joyner-Francis into the girls room. As
Amy and Trinity exchange words, a crowd of girls gather. Without warning Trinity
throws a punch that begins the assault. Throughout her attempt to defend
against the blows from Trinity Carr, Amy Joyner-Francis never dropped her bag.
As Trinity Carr is pulled off of Amy Joyner-Francis, Zion Snow, confirming her "we
gonna get her" statement, in the Snapchat video of the day before, kicks Amy
Joyner Francis who is on her back on the floor.

Regarding Chakeira Wright, she was present in the cafeteria with Trinity
Carr and Zion Snow the morning of April 21, and accompanied them down the
hall, engaged in whatever conversation occurred with Amy Joyner-Francis in the
hallway, and together went into the bathroom . These actions on her part can be
construed as consistent with engaging in conspiratorial conduct with the other
two respondents. They need not be however, especially where not supported by
other damaging evidence. While the evidence does in fact established that she
made the call the morning of the 21st inquiring as to whether Amy was yet in
school, nothing threatening can be drawn from that conversation and it
apparently did not raise any questions in anyone's mind. There is no evidence that
she made any threats and toward Amy Joyner-Francis. She was not dressed in a
manner indicative of one intending to fight, indeed, she never took off her large
hoop earrings. In the restroom video, unlike Trinity Carr who is the principal
attacker, and Zion Snow who is seen kicking Amy Joyner-Francis while she is
down, Chakeira Wright is shown pulling Trinity Carr off of Amy Joyner-Francis. The
standard to which the State is held in order to prove its case is "beyond a
reasonable doubt." I cannot find that the State has met its burden of proof with
regard to Chakeira Wright. She will therefore be adjudicated as not delinquent on
this charge.

` _________________________

Robert Burton Coonin, judge

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