NEW ORLEANS -- In May 2009, the sounds of a grieving mother echoed down Flake Avenue in New Orleans East after Linda Miller learned her 13-year-old son Shaka was shot and killed by a 14-year-old he once called a friend.
"That is a child,” Miller said then. “Ain't even begin to start living his life.”
It was teen versus teen, with New Orleans police revealing that 14-year-old Joshua Tripps shot Miller in the chest after an argument.
“He had to kill somebody in order to get in the gang. And then, on top of that, he got an extra position, a higher position, because not only did he kill him but he got to rob him too,” Miller said.
At the time District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said he considered charging Tripps as an adult, making him eligible for a juvenile life sentence if convicted.
“They were pushing for 14 years, which means that he would be tried as an adult,” Miller said. “But that changed.”
He would've had to stay in jail until age 31, but the district attorney’s office offered Tripps a plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in juvenile court, which requires him to stay in the custody of the office of juvenile justice until he's 21.
“When I read my impact statement, he was looking at me like he wanted to kill me,” Miller said. "He had this evil look on his face and he still has that look today.”
Miller said counselors at the Bridge City Center for Youth have told Juvenile Judge Tammy Stewart that Tripps has been a model prisoner, while at the same time, she says they also testified that phone conversations revealed a different side to the teen – one already making plans for when he gets out.
“The judge stated that if he continues to do good, that he will be allowed, 60 percent of his sentence is over, he would be allowed to get out on weekends,” Miller said.
Out on weekends after just three years in custody, after admitting to shooting 13-year-old Shaka Miller in the chest.
“I can tell you as the mother of the victim, I'm very upset,” Miller said. “Because it's bad enough that you gave him this easy ride of age 21, but then on top of that to try to lessen it up even more, I don't see how they can legally do that.”
Stewart didn't return our phone calls seeking an answer to that very question.
Tripps' next hearing in front of Stewart is scheduled for October, when she could decide to let him go home on weekends on electronic monitoring.
When asked whether three years is a just sentence for the murder, a spokesman for Cannizzaro said, "There doesn't exist a fair outcome for them. We do the best we can with the laws that we have."
Cannizzaro's spokesman did say they would object to the release if given the opportunity to.
“I don't have much money. But I'm a hard-working person. And I loved my son. And I know I have rights,” Miller said.
Most off all, she feels she has a right to real justice for her son.
Tripps has another hearing with Stewart scheduled in October.
We requested interviews with both Joshua Tripps' attorney and his parents. They never got back to us for this report.