The third time was the proverbial charm for Jabreria Handy's defense attorneys, who secured permission Monday to transfer their client to juvenile court for sentencing, after a judge accepted her plea of guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 69-year-old grandmother.
Another judge, Timothy J. Doory, denied the same plea agreement in August, saying it would have overruled yet a third judge's earlier determination that Handy, who is now a week shy of her 18th birthday, must be tried as an adult. Doory said the deal amounted to "judge shopping" and sent off the case for a new trial date.
But Judge Shirley M. Watts, who took up the issue Monday, apparently saw no such conflict. She accepted Handy's tearful plea and transferred the case to juvenile court for its disposition, with the recommendation that Handy be committed to the Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp. in Pennsylvania or a similar program. Prosecutor Jennifer Rallo requested the long-term treatment facility.
According to a statement of facts Rallo read into the record, Handy was fighting with her grandmother, Eunice Taylor, over a picture that was damaged when the elderly woman, planning to paint, removed it from the girl's bedroom wall. Handy shoved Taylor onto a bed and held the struggling woman down until a relative broke them up. Taylor, who raised Handy from infancy, later complained of breathing troubles and was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, where she was pronounced dead Oct. 20, 2008.
Handy cried throughout the hearing Monday. About a half-dozen family members showed up to support her. Taylor's immediate family chose to stay away. Said Rallo: "They feel it would just be too emotionally difficult."