Amy Inita Joyner-Francis, the 16-year-old fatally assaulted in the girls bathroom at Howard High School of Technology, did not die of injuries sustained in the beating, but from a pre-existing heart condition exacerbated by the attack.
The state Attorney General’s Office is pushing to have one of three girls involved tried as an adult, the United Press International reports. Trinity Carr, 16, seen in a video punching Joyner-Francis in the head and chest, is charged with criminally negligent homicide, punishable by up to eight years in prison.
The two other girls, Zion Snow and Chakeira Wright, will be charged with third-degree criminal conspiracy, punishable by up to one year in prison.
Investigators determined the April 21 fight was a planned confrontation in the girl’s bathroom, but only one girl - Carr - actually hit Amy, according to a statement by the Attorney General’s Office.
The fight was filmed, according to court documents, and shows Carr hitting Amy Inita Joyner-Francis repeatedly in the head and torso area with “what appears to be a closed fist.”
The video shows Carr leave and Amy try to stand up; then Amy appears disoriented and collapses back onto the floor, the court documents show. When paramedics found her, she was unresponsive and shortly after went into cardiac arrest.
Communication between the three girls showed that they planned the assault in the 20 hours prior to the attack, according to court documents. The three girls followed Amy into the bathroom and then began the assault, court papers say.
Because neither of the other two girls hit Amy Inita Joyner-Francis nor had prior arrests, they will be tried as juveniles in Family Court, the Toronto Sun reported. Snow was released on $3,000 unsecured bail and home confinement. She was also issued a no contact order with social media and the Joyner-Francis family, according to court documents.
An arraignment for Snow is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 19.
Carr was released on $13,000 unsecured bail and put on home confinement. She also received a no contact order with social media, other girls charged, the Joyner-Francis family and possible witnesses.
The state Medical Examiner’s Office played a large role in deciding on the charges, the Attorney General’s Office said. The autopsy determined Amy died of “sudden cardiac death due to large atrial septal defect with a contributing factor of physical and emotional stress due to physical assault.”
An autopsy showed she did not die of blunt force trauma.
“In layman’s terms, the Medical Examiner determined that Amy Inita Joyner-Francis died from a cardiac incident that she was vulnerable to because of a pre-existing heart condition, but the cardiac incident would not have occurred if she had not been assaulted,” the statement reads.
Dr. George Moutsatsos, a New Castle County based cardiologist and president of Delaware’s branch of the American College of Cardiology, said an atrial septal defect is a hole in the wall that separates the top left and right chambers of the heart. The condition causes freshly oxygenated blood to mix with deoxygenated blood.
“You are really sending out very low oxygenated blood to the body which under stress needs a lot of oxygen,” Moutsatsos said. “She was a vulnerable person. She fell into the wrong circumstances and unfortunately no one knew this.”
The charges are a reflection of the “maximum degree permissible by Delaware law,” according to the Attorney General’s Office. All charges were reviewed with Amy’s mother and older brother.
They come more than two weeks after the attack shook the city and state and gained national attention. Wilmington police completed their investigation Thursday and turned over evidence to the Attorney’s General Office to determine the charges. Their spokesman, Carl Kanefsky, said late Thursday the state intended to deliver charges promptly.
Judith Ritter, a professor at the Delaware Law School, said Carr’s charge is a “low-level homicide.”
“What it comes down to is what would a reasonable person have recognized about the risk of death here,” she said.
Ritter said they were probably not charged with an intentional killing because a reasonable person doesn’t believe a fistfight is likely to cause death.
“It sounds like the facts may not support proof that the assailant, or assailants, intended to kill her,” Ritter said. “They probably intended to hurt her, but she died.”
While there was an outcry for immediate and swift punishment for the three girls shortly after Amy Inita Joyner-Francis’ death, some local activists called the charges just.
“That sounds fair and balanced,” said Mahkeib Booker, who launched the local chapter of Black Lives Matter last year. Because there were no apparent signs that the girls intended to kill Amy, Booker said he would have had a problem with them being charged with first-degree murder.
“I used to jump the gun and say sentence them,” Booker said. “But I have to really look at their background and check their upbringing, who created the type of environment that would make them want to bully and beat people.”
Booker said the girls need to be punished, but it has to be an appropriate punishment.
“Throw the book is a typical response for those who act out of emotions,” said Ty Johnson, former president of Wilmington’s Interdenominational Ministers Action Council.
Johnson said he is sure the girls did not intend to kill Amy Inita Joyner-Francis.
“It’s not only their fault, we have failed,” he said. “Any time girls get into a bathroom and they begin to act out the way they did we have failed as a society. And we can and must do better.”
Opposing Views said that the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District will “follow through with necessary actions for the students involved in the incident based on the school district’s Code of Conduct,” said Superintendent Vicki Gehrt in a statement Monday.
“Our responsibility is to follow school board policy and procedures for all students involved,” she said. The school did not offer further comment.