Saturday, November 8, 2008

I have complained on this blog before about charging young kids, 12 and 13, with murder and trying to remove them to adult court, but this one sounds too extreme even for the most hard-core tough on crime crowd.

Boy, 8, charged in double-homicide - on 11/8/08

An 8-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the shooting of his father and another man in a rural community in eastern Arizona, authorities said Friday.from the juvenile justice system, but today's story takes the cake.

First, I'm stunned to learn that in Arizona, kids as young as 8 can be charged with crimes. In most other states I am familiar with, anyone under 10 cannot be charged even in juvenile court. Instead, the case is treated like a child in need of care case. The idea is to identify the child as one who needs intervention, therapy, and/or removal from a bad home. No state would be prohibited by law from using the court system to address the needs of an 8 year-old who commits a bad act. The only question is which part of the court system.

I do not think criminal charges are ever appropriate for someone this young. Regardless of how bad the act, the brain of an 8 year-old simply is not sufficiently developed for the child to possess the necessary criminal intent. In fact, Arizona law holds as a general rule that a child lacks competency to be held accountable for murder, but exceptions can be made. As of this moment, the prosecution is hoping to prove such an exception should be made in this case.

Even if we think there are some sociopathic kids who have no ability to sympathize and thus will always be a threat to society, I am troubled by the idea that we would give up and accept that that is the kind of child we're dealing with here rather than throw everything we've got at fixing this kid. How anyone can look at an 8 year-old and see a cold-blooded murderer is beyond me. It's a kid. And I, for one, am not ok with throwing the kid away forever. Especially in this case, where there is no sign that this child has had any behavior problems in the past. It may be hard work to make this kid healthy, but it's our responsibility as the adults to try.

Another troubling aspect of this case is the police interrogation of the boy. How can our "increasingly professional" police forces (according to the US Supreme Court) make such a basic mistake as questioning an 8 year-old without a lawyer or an adult family-member in the room? That's such an obvious no-no. I find it disheartening to know that there are still detectives who think this is an acceptable way to conduct the investigation of a juvenile defendant. It isn't. As the defense attorney interviewed in the article points out, two men with guns accusing a small boy of two murders are probably pretty scary. Anything a child says in response can't be trusted.

When will we return to a more rational approach to children who do bad (even really bad) things?

No comments:

Blog Designed by : NW Designs