A Detroit man who was convicted of murder aged 12 is due to be released on his 21st birthday despite pleas from the dead woman's family to keep him jailed.
DeMarco Harris, from Detroit, Michigan, was released on Monday (18 September) after he was convicted of murdering 24-year-old Trisha Babcock in 2009.
Since his conviction in 2010 felony murder and robbery, Harris has been imprisoned in a high-security juvenile facility. State law requires that Harris must be released on his 21st birthday even though he was tried as an adult.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Babcock was the victim of a robbery gone wrong. Harris was found guilty at his second trial after the first one ended with a hung jury.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Virgil Smith was tasked with deciding Harris' future and he determined that the convict should be released as he would not be a danger to the public.
The judge added two years of probation to Harris' sentence warning him that "this juvenile conviction will follow you the rest of your life."
Steven Babcock had said previously that the thought of Harris leaving custody was "excruciating," according to the Detroit News. "This crime deserves life in prison".
Harris told the court that he was a "prime example of what rehabilitation looks like" and asked for a second chance.
"I'm truly apologetic," Harris said. "Since that day, I've grown mentally, spiritually and physically."
Social workers testified that apart from one minor incident Harris had not caused any trouble and had completed high school and taken online community college courses.
However Steven Babcock described the social workers' opinion that Harris had been rehabilitated as a "love fest."
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in a statement: "In the criminal justice system, we are called upon to make difficult and heart-wrenching decisions almost every day. Our decision, in this case, to recommend that the judge forgo any further imprisonment for DeMarco Harris was no exception.
"We are aware that Ms. Babcock's father does not agree with the termination and we sympathize with him."