On Tuesday, August 27 Judge Candice Bates-Anderson handed down a sentence of juvenile life for Lynell Reynolds – the exact result that his family, teachers, and local juvenile justice advocates had been hoping to avoid.
Reynolds was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder in July 2019 for a March shooting that left the victim paralyzed from the waist down. At the sentencing hearing, a group of Reynolds’ teachers spoke on his behalf, creating a portrait of a brilliant young man and star student who has faced unimaginable trauma and violence in his life.
According to Reynolds’ aunt and legal guardian Wanda Solomon, Reynolds’ watched as his uncle murdered his older brother and sister and then kill himself. Two years later, Reynolds witnessed his mother’s murder and saw his father get shot in the head.
“Lynell’s been going through a lot,” Soloman told Fox 8 in an interview. “I have to go to school for him all the time. He’s very smart. He’s sweet. That’s why this is like, to me, a separate life he lives.”
“Lynell’s case signifies that there’s something really, really wrong with our system that we can’t do more for a kid with so much potential,” Reynolds’ former kindergarten teacher Jess Bialecki said. According to Dr. Denese Shervington, clinical professor of psychiatry at Tulane, the trauma that Reynolds has experienced places him in the top 1% of trauma victims – even in New Orleans. She recommended against juvenile lockup, hoping that he would instead be placed in court-ordered treatment in a psychiatric facility.
Unfortunately, the judge did not agree, and handed down the juvenile life sentence, which requires Reynolds to be held in a state juvenile facility until he turns 21. There is a possibility of an early release at 17 if he graduates high school and obtains certifications such as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).
Shortly after Reynolds was found guilty, District attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued a statement, saying:
“There are no winners in a case as tragic as this. There never should be 13-year-olds in our society using guns to rob and shoot people, and one surely hopes that the Office of Juvenile Justice can successfully rehabilitate this teen during his time in custody. But we also must recognize that his time in custody is well deserved. His violent actions left a young man paralyzed, unjustly robbed of full mobility and complete health for the rest of his life. This crime was life-changing for the victim and his family, now cast as caretakers. And that damage is not rendered any less real or permanent by this juvenile gunman’s age.”
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_