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YARNLADY's avatar

Can a ten year old even be capable of murder?

Asked by YARNLADY (44898points) January 19th, 2012

In San Diego a child killed a friend. Is a child mentally developed enough to be held responsible for this?

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27 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think so. I guess I would need the specifics of a case, but in circumstances where a very young child has murdered someone I have always decided the child cannot be held responsible, but probably needs counseling. If he/she has shown a pattern of violence then I might say they need to be locked up in some sort of facility.

King_Pariah's avatar

This kid is probably going to get off with years of therapy especially with what seems to be a pre existing mental condition. Hell, I know that if I killed someone when I was ten, I’d completely have been able to comprehend what I did.

HOWEVER, I do believe that it is possible for a “child” to be mentally developed enough to be held responsible of murder or any crime for that matter. I know I was.

Bellatrix's avatar

Sadly, yes I think in some cases they can be both capable and responsible. Look at the James Bulger murder in the UK. The boys responsible were 10 years old and were charged, found guilty and gaoled. I don’t know how in such a case anyone could rule those boys were not responsible.

rooeytoo's avatar

If a ten year old saves a sibling from drowning everyone applauds and compliments the child for saving a life. I assume the child knew he/she was saving a life. But then if it is turned around some say a ten year old can’t comprehend murder. I think most ten years olds can definitely understand murder, death and life saving.

I am with @Bellatrix on this one, that case in the UK was hideous and now the taxpayers have to support them for killing another kid.

gorillapaws's avatar

@King_Pariah I don’t know how much you know about state mental health facilities, but being locked up in a psych ward is a very far cry from “getting off.”

I’ve never understood the desire people have for punishing others. Maybe, with therapy, counciling and help this kid’s life won’t be a complete and utter waste, and perhaps he can do some good in the world someday to counteract some of the horror he’s created. Fear of stiff criminal penalties aren’t going to prevent more 10-year-olds from murdering others, I can assure you that.

King_Pariah's avatar

@gorillapaws I’ve been in psych wards, locked up in psych wards in the solitary confinement equivalent. I think I can say, “getting off”

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t know the specifics of the case @YARNLADY is discussing, but I do agree with you @Gorillapaws that while a 10 year old may be capable and responsible for committing a crime, I don’t think the potential to go to gaol would be a deterrent. I suspect, and have nothing to back this up, the behaviour would fall into the reckless category. Where they are acting with little or no thought for consequences. Similar to teenagers who do things that leave us shaking our heads and wondering why? Their brains are still developing and apparently, they really can be hardwired to do dangerous things. How we respond to such behaviour is another question entirely.

gorillapaws's avatar

@King_Pariah I’ve also been in a state psych ward as a guest of my professor. Additionally, I’ve been in a tier-3 prison as part of a class in corrections. Neither place is a picknick I can assure you, but there’s nothing “getting off” about being physically confined in a facility with mentally ill people.

King_Pariah's avatar

@gorillapaws I think you don’t grasp that I was one of the looney’s in the bin.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have never been in a psych ward or prison and hope to never have the experience. But what do you do with murderers of any age. Rehabilitation sounds good but if it were so easy there would be a lot less mentally ill people. Rehabilitation requires great effort on the part of the person involved, it is the old “you can lead a horse to water” situation. You can’t make someone get cured. They just had a prison riot here because the pay tv was cut off and a couple of other equally lame excuses. Is that how we punish or rehabilitate? The kid has to be punished but I don’t claim to know how.

YARNLADY's avatar

@rooeytoo I think punished is too strong a word. The child needs to be restrained from committing this type of behavior again, but I simply do not believe a 10 year old has mental development necessary to form intent. By that I mean in the adult sense of using judgement.

Yes, a child has an animal ability to cause harm, but not the human ability to make a reasonable choice.

King_Pariah's avatar

I love how people separate themselves from animals.

partyrock's avatar

Yes I definitely think so.

YARNLADY's avatar

@King_Pariah Ha, ha. Have you had any philosophical discussions with your dog lately?

King_Pariah's avatar

@YARNLADY I thinks dogs may have it down, just live at the moment, do what floats your boat, have fun doing it, and shit anywhere you want.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have philosophical discussions with my dog frequently. Her responses are some of the most intelligent I have ever encountered!

So we restrain the kid from killing again. How long does this restraint stay in place? At what age is he capable of understanding murder? And upon reaching that age, just turn him loose and say don’t do it again? And what do you say to the victim’s relatives when he does it again?

There is a gang of kids ranging in age from 10 to 16 running loose in my town. They break into houses, steal cars, vandalize everything in their path. Each time they are caught, they are told to stop it and sent home. Parents are drunks but children cannot be taken away because it would cause another stolen generation and there are not enough stable people of their culture who want to take on kids like these. Now I feel sorry for them and their circumstances but I also feel sorry for the 93 year old woman they robbed and terrorized and those who have experienced loss at the hands of these kids. I think if the government stopped handing out “baby bonus” of several thousand dollars perhaps the situation would ease in time but with the current government, the bonuses are increasing not decreasing. It is a crazy world. Do you want to restrain them instead of punishing them also?

Blackberry's avatar

Of course. Use @rooeytoo‘s example of a kid saving someone’s life.

JLeslie's avatar

There was a case in FL a few yers ago, the boy was around 12, and the girl was 6. Here is the case. I don’t think that boy should have been convicted as an adult and sent to prison for life. He needed psychological help, and I don’t think he understood the gravity of killing the girl.

@rooeytoo Your example is why it matters to me the history of the behavior of the child.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I heard about this case on yesterday’s news. This 10-year-old kid really did commit murder – no question there. On what level he understands what he did is beside the point to me. As far as what to do with him – that is the question. Anyone with that volitile of a temper and that little self-control obviously can’t be trusted not to hurt or kill someone else. Therapy, medications, committed to a mental ward, maybe. If he were put in jail, I would fear for the other inmates. Regardless of what they decide to do with him, I really hope that they put the safety of others above the rights of this kid.

geeky_mama's avatar

If you’ve ever met a young sociopath (and I have) it seems very plausible that a 10 year old is capable of murder. Not a mentally healthy neuro-typical 10 year old…but one with significant mental health issues and perhaps a lifetime thus far filled with physical/mental/other abuse.

I’m not suggesting a child should be tried as an adult or incarcerated with adults..but from the first hand experience I’ve had I can certainly imagine there are some people (who may still be under age 18) who need to be locked up FOREVER.

newtscamander's avatar

I haven’t read the other responses, short on time.
In my opinion there are some cases where murderers can not really be held responsible.
As a child I believe you don’t understand the consequence. You don’t understand death.
And then there are just cases in which it is a one-time, albeit huge and not excusable, maybe in some ways understandable, accident. Like when a former classmate of mine killed another former classmate of mine. In some ways I feel very sorry for the culprit, and I just wish it had never come this far, and I think he can’t be held responsible. So no, don’t think ten-year-olds can be held responsible. Sorry for rambling, tough subject I think !

OpryLeigh's avatar

Yes, I believe a ten year old can be capable of murder. If this boy just pushed his friend into a lake for a laugh without thinking of the possible consequences then I would consider that a sad accident. However, this ten year old stabbed the other child. That’s not an accident!

YARNLADY's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Yes, I have met a young sociopath. In my opinion, a person who is incapable of reason cannot be held responsible for his actions, no matter how deliberate.
@Leanne1986 here is no question the child carried out an act that caused a death, but if he is not capable of reason is it murder.

Ask yourself, a wolf kills another wolf, or a cow, or a person. Is it murder? Without the ability to reason, how can it be?

OpryLeigh's avatar

@YARNLADY I know enough ten year olds to know that the majority of them are capable of reason, certainly more so than animals who tend to kill for survival reasons. All the ten years olds I know are aware of right and wrong and know what murder is. Some of them may be so carefree that they don’t think before they do something potentially dangerous but I believe that pulling a knife on someone doesn’t come from being just a little to carefree. Stabbing someone seems a little to calculated even if it was committed by a ten year old.

saint's avatar

The point is, if they are capable of wanton killing in a social context, they are dangerous. That is a fact regardless of your psychoanalysis.

gorillapaws's avatar

Just so my position is perfectly clear, I’m not advocating releasing dangerous people into society. I think people with severe mental disorders (it’s hard for a 10-year-old that has stabbed someone to death not to fit into this category) should be put in facilities where they are not a threat to themselves or others, but where they can receive humane/compassionate counseling, therapy and treatment with the goal being release back into society only when a team of qualified professionals think it’s completely safe to do so.

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