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Adult Crime, Adult Time: How Texas Fast-Tracked Kids to a Life in Prison

Hannah McBride/Texas Standard
Miguel Navarro was certified and tried as an adult after committing a crime at age 15.

From Texas Standard:

Miguel Navarro is 5’ 3’’ and small-framed. When reporters Alain Stephens and Hannah McBride speak to him, he’s in handcuffs and ankle restraints. He’s nervous and sweaty. His brown eyes well up with tears when they ask him about that night.

When Navarro was 15 years old, he went to a party with his brother. Things took a turn and a fight broke out. He and his brother tried defending themselves. But to this day, Navarro still doesn’t know why he stabbed and killed Matthew Haltom.


“I don’t know, and there’s no logical reason in my mind why I went,” Navarro says. “It’s my bro, it’s all I can say. When I went, he was on the floor and they were kicking him. I don’t … I didn’t. That’s just one thing to this day that doesn’t register. You can call it loyalty, you can call it a bond between my brother. I don’t know.”

Navarro, now 24, has been behind bars since he was a teenager. He stood trial as an adult and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. But what happened to Navarro wasn’t an anomaly – particularly when it comes to juveniles who are tried as adults in Texas.  

Between 1995 and 2015, more than 5,200 kids were certified as adults in the state.

In prison, Navarro has kept his head down, often spending time researching his case in the library. That’s where he found something to help him launch an appeal.


“I had been researching 55.02, Family Code,” Navarro says. “There’s elements, factors that had to be met in order for them to certify you. It’s a Moon case. Gave me hope.”

A Moon case – as in Cameron Moon. He’s another Texas teenager who was tried as an adult.

Using Moon’s case as an argument, Navarro could now get a second chance – with a way to get out from behind bars while he’s still alive. And Navarro’s case could allow thousands of people who were incarcerated as kids a way out of the system.

See the full investigation on Texas Standard.