Justin and Shelby Foss have been arrested for cruelty to children and second-degree murder after Richmond County sheriff's deputies discovered that their four-year-old son accidentally shot himself with his father's gun.
Deputies were called to the Foss' Skinner Road apartment in Augusta after the shooting, and an ambulance raced the child to the Augusta University Medical Center. The young boy was pronounced dead around 11:30am on Saturday.
Yesterday, a grand jury indicted the charges for both Justin and Shelby.
In today's post, as a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I will focus on the two charges faced by the couple and explain the law behind each offense.
Cruelty to Children in Georgia
Cruelty to children in Georgiais divided into three different degrees by the Georgia Code.
- First Degree Cruelty to Children: When a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child under the age of 18 willfully deprives the child of necessary sustenance to the extent that the child's well-being is jeopardized or when a person maliciously causes a child under the age of 18 cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(a-b).
- Second Degree Cruelty to Children: When a person with criminal negligence causes a child less than 18 years old cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(c).
- Third Degree Cruelty to Children: When a person, who is the primary aggressor, intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or having knowledge that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(d).
First-degree cruelty to children is classified as a felony in Georgia, and the penalty can include a prison sentence of five to twenty years.
Second-degree cruelty to children is classified as a felony in Georgia, and the penalty can include a prison sentence of one to ten years.
Third-degree cruelty to children is classified as a misdemeanor in Georgia, and the penalty can include a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of $1,000.
Second Degree Murder in Georgia
Murder in Georgia is broken down in two degrees. We rarely see the second degree charge brought against people because it is an oddly specific statute. The Georgia Code defines second-degree murder as:
A person commits the offense of murder in the second degree when, in the commission of cruelty to children in the second degree, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice. O.C.G.A. §16-5-1.
Second-degree murder is classified as a felony, and the penalty can include a prison sentence of ten to thirty years.
No one should be assumed guilty just because they have been accused of committing a criminal offense. Grand juries rarely skip out on indicting people, and an indictment does not mean guilt. Everyone has a presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.