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NBC12 INVESTIGATION: Juvenile court's mission at heart of Cobb suspect's history


After NBC12 uncovered Mairese Washington's violent rap sheet, many Richmonders are now asking how the 16-year-old accused of killing little Marty Cobb may have gotten so many second chances.

The mission of the juvenile courts system is at the heart of this debate. For kids wrapped up in criminal courts, the goal is rehabilitation, unlike the adult system, which more often than not serves to punish offenders.

Despite safeguards, it is possible a child with what appears to be a propensity for violence is allowed back on the streets, according to criminal attorneys with decades of experience.

"Sometimes the court does everything it can do," attorney James Nachman said.

The court came into contact with Washington four years before he allegedly beat to death Marty Cobb and strangled Cobb's 8-year-old sister. It was all those years ago that he was supposed to have gotten treatment.

Washington was ordered to Liberty Point in Staunton after he bludgeoned a 3-year-old boy with a hammer in 2010. According to its website, "Liberty Point treats male residents ages 13 to 22 with cognitive, emotional and behavioral issues." Treatment includes therapy and behavioral plans. At this point, we don't know how long Washington was a patient there. 

Nachman said judges in the juvenile system aren't just going to let somebody go without any sort of deliberation.

"Most judges are going to make sure that they're getting a lot of feedback from mental health professionals, saying that they've made progress and that they're not going to be a danger to society," he explained.

Now the question on many minds is whether or not rehabilitation works for these kids. We asked Nachman if there are lessons to be learned here.

"That the system's not perfect, that I think we all strive to do justice and to do what is right and to do what we can do to protect the public," he responded. "Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't."

After 2010's hammer attack, there is nothing on Washington's record until 2013, when the case was dismissed because Washington complied with the court. But that same year, he pops back up in the criminal system with other violent charges.

We reached out to both the director of Liberty Point and Mairese Washington's father Tuesday, but we have not heard back from either of them.

Click here for full #PrayersForMarty coverage: http://nbc12.com/marty

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