How do authorities determine charges in tragic child death cases?

Circumstances, instances and condition shed light on criminal activity.

The past couple weeks have seen some horrible tragedies involving young kids.

A 5-year-old in Avondale found a gun inside a bedroom and accidentally killed himself. A 6-year-old was killed when he flew out of the truck bed during a crash. Then in Peoria a 5-month-old died after being eft inside a hot car for several hours.

The three incidents are different and yet in all three the child died.

"Parents are not making the right choices,” said Arizona State Senator Katie Hobbs. “We as legislators need to step in to help make the right choices.”

In Arizona it is legal for a child to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.

The rules for fences around pools vary from city to city and in many cases are not required.

Arizona is one of several states that don't require guns to be kept locked or in a safe.

The question for prosecutors is determining when to charge someone when a child is seriously injured or dies.

The former prosecutor says it almost always comes back to the standard of determining if the parents or caregiver was "reckless" or if there was "criminal negligence."

Black says he would probably not charge any of these recent cases if he was still a prosecutor.

Peoria police did, however, decide to charge two people for leaving the 5-month-old in the car. The couple admitted they accidentally left the child in the car for at least three hours. The couple is charged with child neglect.

"It does appear to be a double standard," said Black.

A case could be made that they were the only adults who did not knowingly put the child at risk.

There was no gun lock or gun safe in the home where the boy shot himself and the 6-year-old who died in the car crash was allowed to ride in the bed if the pickup truck.

Others will argue that in all three scenarios and one involving a child drowning, the only certainty is a child will die if left inside a hit car for several hours. In the other three situations there is no guarantee the child will be injured at all. 

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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