HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- 13 Investigates has found that adults guilty of allowing children to get ahold of guns in Harris County rarely serve jail time, but that's exactly what one family is hoping for this week.
Back in October 2021, two little boys found a gun in Katina Smith's car, and one of them wound up dead.
Khalid Mendez's mother said she is still distraught and in constant pain over what she describes as the murder of her firstborn and only son. She always insisted that someone be held accountable for his death, and that may be what makes the difference in court according to a legal analyst.
"The only thing I want is justice. That's all I want them to give me," Chelisee Simon said two weeks after her son died in 2021. Her sentiment has not changed over time. Mendez never got to see his 11th birthday, because court documents show Smith left a readily dischargeable firearm in her car with a round chambered. Two little boys found it, and Mendez was killed.
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Steve Shellist is a legal analyst and said, "In a case like this, a lot of it is going to depend on the victim's family. If they are pushing very, very hard against the district attorney's office to do something, it will play a factor."
Smith was charged with making a firearm accessible to a minor last May and pled guilty as part of a deal last month.
Simon sent Eyewitness News a statement saying, "I am fighting every day to prove the truth about what happened to my son. I have faith in the justice system. Please do your jobs. I also think every young person should hear this story and learn from it."
Shellist said during sentencing, the court will consider the impact Mendez's death has had on his family. Simon and her young daughter both plan to testify. "The defense, in turn, is going to get up and put on a heavy mitigation case," he said, "It is going to be all the good things about the person charged, the defendant."
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Smith's attorney did not respond to ABC13's request for comment, but court documents show they declined a one-year sentence as part of the deal. A judge will ultimately decide to be sympathetic or send a message during sentencing about the consequences of what families suffer after unintentional shootings involving children.
The maximum punishment for this misdemeanor is one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
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