LOS ANGELES - Under the guidance of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a man who was a month shy of his eighteenth birthday will be judged in juvenile court. Donato Cruikshank is accused of shooting two sisters, ages 16 and 27, to death before setting their Westchester neighborhood apartment on fire.
"With all due respect, your honor...this is not justice," Daniel Souvinette said as he addressed a juvenile court judge in Inglewood on Feb. 24. Souvinette’s daughter, 27-year-old Uniek and her 16-year-old sister Sierra Brown, were shot multiple times in their West LA apartment that the killer also set on fire, according to investigators.
Cruikshank, Sierra's boyfriend at the time, was arrested for the murders. On Wednesday, prosecutors, under the guidance of new LA DA Gascón requested that any consideration that he be tried as an adult be removed from consideration. Kathy Cady, a former deputy DA, who has been representing victim’s families as a Marsy’s law attorney, attempted to ask the judge to at least agree to a hearing to decide if the case should be heard in adult court. She also requested the DA to be removed from representing victims in this case.
But the judge refused, explaining that Gascón has a right to give guidance to his prosecutors in this manner, although he did have some issues with dismissing some of the special allegations that could be added to the charges. Some of the allegations include allegedly planning the murder and attempting to hide it by burning the apartment.
However, regardless of rulings, officials said Cruikshank will be tried in juvenile court. If convicted, he could face as little as seven years. He has already served two years while waiting for the case to go to court. Cady said she is representing several families in the same situation and that they are all devastated.
"How can Gascón disregard the individual merits of each case with a blanket decision?" she asked.
Daniel Souvinette adds that Gascon’s blanket guidelines are not justice.
Gascón said he stands by the following statement issued through his office earlier this week:
"District Attorney Gascón met with the victims’ family last month for more than an hour and was deeply moved by how this tragedy has affected them. Our office will provide trauma-informed services to the family to help them with their journey to becoming survivors. Meanwhile, we remain committed to ensuring that the scales of our criminal justice system are balanced. Incarcerating youths for decades before they fully develop their cognitive skills significantly increases their chances of committing future offenses."
Court officials confirmed off-camera that what happened is happening several times a week. Prosecutors requesting, under Gascón's orders, to remove enhancements and adult court consideration. A DA in court in another case, asked not the be identified when saying that it’s a shame the families are being victimized, first by the criminal acts and then by the system that is supposed to represent them.
Gascón believes that his decision will change the system, by giving incarcerated youth a better chance for rehabilitation.