Grieving relatives of the pregnant woman stabbed to death near the Venice Sign oppose sending the accused to juvenile court

By Beige Luciano-Adams

Family and friends of Jasmine Preciado gathered outside the Inglewood Juvenile Courthouse on Monday
Photo by Ted Soqui

A dozen family members and friends of Jasmine Preciado — the young woman who was stabbed to death near the Venice Sign on Nov. 21 — gathered early Monday morning in front of the Inglewood Juvenile Courthouse with handmade signs reading “Justice for Jazzy” and “No Special Treatment for a Baby Killer.”

They’ve been coming here to watch as pretrial unfolds for the accused killer, a 17-year-old Venice native who turned herself in last December following a police manhunt and the release of security camera footage that captured the frenzied moments surrounding Preciado’s murder.

Preciado, 22, was several months pregnant when she died and is survived by a three-year-old daughter.

Now, in the depths of grief, her family and friends are incensed that the accused may be tried as a juvenile — which could mean a maximum sentence of only five years.

Since California voters approved Proposition 57 last November (less than two weeks before Preciado was killed), the power to decide whether to try juveniles as adults has shifted from prosecutors to judges.

On Monday, a hearing to decide the defendant’s fitness to be tried as an adult was continued to August.

A representative from L.A. County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment, citing the fact that this is presently a juvenile matter. Authorities have also withheld the accused’s name due to her age.

Preciado’s father, Gustavo Perez, said courtroom references to earlier traumas suffered by the defendant should not be relevant to this case.

“They keep throwing it in there, making [the court] feel some kinda sympathy for [the defendant]. … But where’s the sympathy for my daughter?” he asked.

California’s justice system continues to grapple with such questions.

Heidi Rummel, a professor with USC’s Gould School of Law, is not familiar with the specifics of this case but says Prop 57 reflects recent developments in science and case law supporting the contention that children are less culpable than adults — and, in many cases, more receptive to rehabilitation.

“Neuroscience and the Supreme Court, and the California Supreme Court, have recognized that kids are different,” Rummel said. “Their brains are not fully developed until the early to mid-20s. They’re not as culpable for their choices; they’re often products of a criminal and violent environment — of abuse and trauma that affects their choices. They’re more reckless, more susceptible to peer pressure.”

Before Prop 57, Rummel explained, a D.A. would get a file and have little to no pertinent information — whether the defendant was abused, or raised in a gang family — and make a decision based on what little they knew, typically within a few days.

Now, the D.A. still gets to present all the information they believe is relevant — but so does the defense.

The judge ultimately decides.

“I still think that many juveniles who commit homicide are going to end up in adult court, but at least it will be after someone has given careful consideration to all of the factors,” Rummel said.

Through her work with USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project, Rummel has seen first-hand the potential for rehabilitation in young adults.

“As soon as you took them out of the craziness of their life … and just even put them in jail, somewhere with a structured environment where they could get an education, they do very well and they could be rehabilitated and released and not pose a danger to the community,” she said.

While the recent shift feels like justice for reformists and advocates, for Preciado’s family it continues to be a slow, painful road to justice.

“We are hoping we would get justice and she would go to prison and be charged as an adult,” said Jackie Preciado, Jasmine’s aunt. “[Jasmine’s] life has been taken away not only from all her family, but she has a three-year-old little girl that cries every day asking for her,” she said, her eyes swelling with tears.

Lilia Perez, Jasmine’s sister, stood by the curb, encouraged by the cars honking approval as they passed.

“There are certain things in life that, if you do, there are consequences. Certain things cannot be rehabilitated,” said Perez, 39. “For whatever it’s worth we just want people to know we’re not in agreement with it and we’re not going to stop here. …This is our love for her.”

Mayra Ortiz, 22, recalled childhood walks to Venice Beach from Mark Twain Middle School with Preciado, her best friend.

“Growing up in Venice … it’s totally different, it’s a different vibe now. And for someone to do that … somewhere you think you’d be safe. Venice Beach was our backyard,” she said.

“Jasmine, she had a tough life,” Ortiz said, her voice breaking. “She faced a lot of hardships and she still managed to get through it. She had a beautiful daughter who she loved, that was the only thing that she knew that belonged to her — the one thing she could never lose. And she’s lost her, and the baby has lost Jasmine.”