POLK COUNTY, Florida -- When the Polk County Sheriff's Office released personal information about a 14-year-old girl accused of choking her newborn son to death last week, they knew some people would be shocked or outraged about her photo and home address going public.
Sheriff Grady Judd says he met with the case detective and others for hours, determining the best way to release such sensitive information about such a young girl.
But under Florida law, when someone is charged with a felony, even if he or she is a minor, the name, photo, and address of that person are all public record
"I would have been real happy not to have had to follow the law on this occasion, but that's not how the system works," says Sheriff Grady Judd. "Can you imagine, for one moment, when you have something as horrific as a 14-year-old murdering her newborn baby, us trying not to release that information when the law says we have to? We'd be in a lot of trouble."
The information would not be required to be released if the 14-year-old was raped, or was found to be the victim of another crime. In this case, there's no evidence that points to that.
When the news broke, many media outlets chose not to broadcast the teen's name. Nearly a thousand comments filled the Sheriff's Office Facebook page, some saying children should give up the right to privacy when they commit adult crimes. Others expressed surprise or disgust over the release of her photo across the Internet.
"On one hand, we're all so angry we can't see straight over her murdering her baby just as soon as it was born and checking pulses to make sure the child was dead," Sheriff Judd says. "On the other hand, our hearts break because there's a little 14-year-old girl who should have never been in that circumstance to begin with."
The 14-year-old is still in custody, as a decision is made on whether she will be taken to a juvenile facility or, because of the severity of her first-degree murder and child abuse charges, be taken to jail.
If anything, the Sheriff's Office hopes the information released can help other families prevent these kinds of tragedies in their own homes.