One day after 19th birthday, Cristian Fernandez released

Teen's case changed how juveniles are prosecuted in Duval County

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Monday marks the release date for Cristian Fernandez, the Jacksonville man who made national headlines when he was prosecuted at only 12-years-old in the beating death of his toddler half-brother.

The release date comes five days after prosecutors and a circuit judge agreed to temporarily suspend certain special conditions of his probation because he could not fulfill them.

Fernandez, 19, has been in custody at a state-contracted Department of Juvenile Justice facility since 2013, when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated battery charges. He is due back in court next month as part of his delayed probation period that was to begin with his release Monday.

It’s unclear exactly which terms of Fernandez’s probation his attorneys wanted to be placed on hold, citing recent developments that made them “unrealistic and problematic.” But a copy of Fernandez’s probation order indicated he was supposed to hold a job, be enrolled in school on a full- or part-time basis, and have limited or no contact with family or minors.

The high-profile case changed the way juveniles are prosecuted in Duval County, inviting national attention due to Fernandez’s age and the decision to prosecute him as an adult.

Fernandez was just 12 years old when he was arrested in March 2011 and charged with first-degree murder in the death of 2-year-old half-brother, David Galarraga.

Galarraga died of blunt force trauma to the head two days after a beating at the hands of Fernandez. Prosecutors said the toddler’s head was slammed into a bookshelf.

At first, Fernandez was represented by Public Defender Matt Shirk. But Shirk later stepped aside, paving the way for a high-powered legal team to step in and secure a plea deal.

Fernandez’s defense included now-State Attorney Melissa Nelson. Incidentally, Nelson ran again Angela Corey, the prosecutor who decided to charge Fernandez with first-degree murder, and won.

It remains to be seen how long the conditions of Fernandez’s probation will be suspended.

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