Social Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Should children as young as 12 be tried as adults?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (25308points) May 5th, 2010

An 11 year old boy shoots his father and his father’s pregnant fiance, execution style, with a shotgun. Now 12, the boy is being tried as an adult. This story has generated a huge debate locally. Is 12 too young to really understand the weight of his actions and to potentially spend the rest of his life in prison, or were his crimes adult enough in nature that he should face the consequences like an adult? What do you think?

details on the story can be found here

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32 Answers

thriftymaid's avatar

No; that’s too young.

tranquilsea's avatar

No, no and NO! A twelve year old cannot understand the gravity of his actions. I’ve followed a few cases of children being tried as adults and been sickened by it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Ohh… why won’t it let me edit my question? The boy did not kill his father, I must have had a brain fart when I typed that. So just to clarify, he did not kill his father.

Cruiser's avatar

No! And IMO special consideration should be afforded all youths till the age of 19. (long story for that reasoning) I do though support some sort of liability or responsibility for a child’s actions should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the parent(s) and or guardian of the child!

lillycoyote's avatar

If we want to lower the voting age to 12 then sure, go ahead. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t have a say in how we run our country, our society and our justice system should be tried as an adult. No one under 18 should be tried as an adult. There’s a reason that we don’t let anyone under the age of 18 vote, drink, enter into contracts, etc. There’s a reason that states are moving to graduated driver’s licenses for those between 16 and 18. And that reason is that kids don’t have the maturity, the cognitive development, the judgement of an adult. They just can’t fully understand the consequences of their actions and be held responsible in the same way as adults.

Factotum's avatar

The US law assumes an either/or approach to which side of eighteen a criminal is and then grants exceptions depending on how outrageous they feel the crime is. This does not serve us well.

Certain crimes committed by youth should have lasting repercussions (not to mention permanent and available records), not the same as crimes committed by adults but not subject to the expunging and ‘only-a-lad’ assumptions our current laws have.

Or to put it another way, no, this kid shouldn’t be tried as an adult but we need to have serious punishments for those who would attempt to murder even if they are twelve.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Factotum Great answer. I agree. I was going to add something similar, that there need to be changes made to the system, rather than trying kids as adults, but couldn’t seem to get it expressed well. You did a nice job. You’re absolutely right, the “either or approach” doesn’t serve us well. And there is no particular reason it has to be the way it is now. There needs to be better tracking of juvenal offenders when they are released from the system. And some changes need to be made regarding how juvenal criminal records are handled. Of course, something bad or stupid you did when you were 15 shouldn’t haunt you the rest of your life. But when someone turns 18 or 21 it doesn’t magically make them an adult or make them suddenly not inclined to engage in criminal activity. Maybe, depending on the crime, probation for some length of time, years if it takes that, and at the end the probationary period the records will be sealed, but not permanently, subject to be “unsealed” if another serious crime is committed. Or don’t make turning 21 an automatic, unquestioned get out of jail free card. Or something like that. I don’t know what the answer is. There has to be a better way than putting a 12 in jail for the rest of his life for committing an act that he most likely doesn’t fully understand.

RedPowerLady's avatar

It’s too young. Or ability to reason isn’t fully developed until on average age twenty five. I even think that 16 is too young as that is often the age one can be tried as an adult. It’s not that I don’t think there should be appropriate punishment AND treatment but that I think we are kidding ourselves considering children as adults.

poofandmook's avatar

Okay, I need to weigh in on this one.

Some of you know that when I was 8, I was shot by an 11 year old kid. He took a .22 rifle, aimed it through a window at my heart, turned his head, which moved the gun enough to hit me in the arm, which was twirling a frisbee.

That piece of trash got 90 days in juvenile detention for attempted murder. He said IN COURT that he tried to murder me. He admitted it, point blank, said the words.

No, 11 is NOT too young to be tried as an adult.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@poofandmook So sorry to hear that story. It is true that when it happens to us our opinions change. If someone in m family was hurt by a 12 year old I can only hope my convictions would remain.

Do you think there is an appropriate medium? Being tried appropriately per crime vs. as an adult?

poofandmook's avatar

@RedPowerLady: It’s hard to say. I know that I am permanently F-ed. I have slept with the TV on since I was 9 because I was scared, and if I rent a place I avoid places where I would have to sleep on the 1st floor. After that happened, I was terrified and had nightmares about simple things like ADT commercials and stories on Unsolved Mysteries. I was in therapy for a long time, and I wonder how much of my GAD/PD stems from it.

While I can talk about it and not feel anything anymore, and it doesn’t bother me, there are things now hardwired into my brain that wouldn’t be there otherwise, and even if it seems like small things, they will continue to hinder my life probably until the day I die, and that’s not fair.

So frankly, I think he should’ve been locked up for the rest of his miserable life. And so should the man who left him alone with guns and ammo for hours after teaching him how to load and shoot. I, at the age of 9, had to sit in court and listen to a kid say he tried to murder me. If at 9, I knew enough to be terrified about it, he knew at 11 exactly what he was doing.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@poofandmook That is an honest and fair answer. Also brings up a good point about prosecuting the adult as well.

Thank you for sharing your story. It is certainly enough to make someone think twice.

wonderingwhy's avatar

If the intention is to kill and it is demonstrable that the person understood, at the time, the weight of the action and the risks involved in committing it, yes. Should the punishment be the same? Each case must be weighed on it’s own merit there is no one-size fit’s all and a judge has to have the ability to provide a range of mix-and-match options at sentencing to fit each defendant. Possibly with the aid of court psychiatrists. With kids I am much more in favor of psychiatric care, rehabilitation, education, and conditional incarceration/release/reintroductions programs. Age is not some magic number that when reached enlightenment, calm, and humanity suddenly appear, nor should it be treated as such.

poofandmook's avatar

I completely understand everyone here who says no. But really, unless you’ve been in mine or my parents’ shoes, it’s hard to fully grasp the concept.

Factotum's avatar

btw, I think court psychologists’ predictive success rate should be a matter of public record as should a judge’s recidivism rate – that is to say, how many of the people who go in for X crime come out quickly and do it again.

Simply put, judges are not accountable for their judgments, an odd state of affairs since everyone except judges is so accountable.

lilikoi's avatar

Trying a 12 year old as an adult makes no sense.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it should be done on a case by case basis. What one child is capable of understanding at 12 can be very different than another child’s capability. I think an evaluation should be done and they should weigh the child’s intentions with the motive and with their understanding. If the child says something like, “I didn’t know the fiance would die, I just didn’t want daddy to have another baby” and is really remorseful of the situation, then that should be taken into account. But if instead he says something like “Yeah I meant to kill that “B” and her baby and I’m glad they’re gone”, that needs to be taken into consideration and deserves a harsher punishment than the first one.

Also from my understanding, when they try someone as a juvenile, the punishment usually ends at 18, no matter what the crime. Trying a child as an adult instead allows the punishment to go past their 18th birthday. (I could be wrong on this, but this is the way I understood it.)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Well the big issue here seems to be that the judge doesn’t think that the boy will be rehabilitated by the time of his release, at 21. So, I guess the real question is: why aren’t there laws in place for situations like this? It seems like such a dramatic stretch to make ends meet. Either the boy is tried as an adult and likely spends his entire life in prison (starting at age 12) or he gets out at a certain age without any certainty that he will be rehabilitated. Kind of extreme either way. 11 is old enough to have a grasp on the difference between right and wrong.. but I’m not sure that an 11 year old really understands how permanent the consequences can be.

poofandmook's avatar

@Seaofclouds: That’s my point. The kid that tried to kill me was tried as a minor and got three f-ing months for attempted murder. He should have been tried as an adult. He admitted he wanted me to die and he got three months because he was an f-ing minor. That is the biggest load of horse shit I might have ever witnessed in my life.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@poofandmook I agree. It sounds like he shoud have been one of the cases where he was tried as an adult.

YARNLADY's avatar

No, I believe that is a travesty.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Well 3 months seems incredibly minor, yes, absolutely. But I believe the average sentence for attempted murder is something like 3–5 years. (i could be wrong about this, though, i just pulled that out of my head.. so it might be inaccurate)

I just wonder if in situations like this, these kids shouldn’t be held in some kind of psychiatric facility until they are 18… then re-evaluated and go from there.

poofandmook's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie: I think he should’ve been locked up until he was 21, not 18. Actually I would’ve liked to see him rot for the rest of his life in a cell, but I would’ve been happy with 18 too. That’s a heck of a lot better than 3 freakin months.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Just to clarify juveniles can be in detention until age 25. At least where I live.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Right, I think that may vary by state. The local story that I posted in the original question seems to insinuate that they boy would be held until he is 21 if tried as a minor.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie Good point. I did not read the whole story. Thanks for that.

6rant6's avatar

We punish people to:
Reeducate them (Not in California anyway)
To prevent them from perpetrating more crime
To punish the criminal
To deter others from committing crime

So will punishing a 12 year old prevent crime? I’d guess that whatever drove him to kill at 12 is not going to go away for most of the 12-year-old murderers, so yeah, it’s probably a good bet that the 12-year old will do more; probably more than a 60 year old murderer. If you execute him he won’t. If you put him in prison for a finite time, “Society” won’t have to deal with the criminal for that fixed time. Whether he’ll do more crime or less as a result of that incarceration when he gets out, I can’t even guess.

If you treat him as an adult, do you punish him “More”? Seems to me that punishment is first something that is appreciated most by those close to the victim. My sense is that there are two camps among that crowd. There are those who will be satisfied with nothing less than execution and those who express compassion. Obviously if you are doing it for punishment, then the bloodseekers want the child punished as an adult. The others, not so much. If we believe in punishment, maybe we should ask the loved ones what to do? I think to some degree that happens (at least from watching Law & Order – where I get most of my crime knowledge – they do).

Will punishing children as adults deter others? Punishment isn’t a deterrent in crimes of passion in general, and I imagine it isn’t any different for 12 year olds. I don’t think this example is likely to dissuade other 12 year olds with murder on their minds regardless of the severity of punishment. Murder for gain is different. Capital punishment does deter in these situations. We see this here: gangs recruit underage members who are assigned to commit murders. The underage members expect to be treated as juveniles and not subject to the death penalty. In this case, I think we should treat the child as an adult to deter not just the 12 year old, but also the gang leader.

Before you get all up in my face about my appearing to favor the death penalty for a twelve year old, let me save you typing. I oppose the death penalty for any garden variety criminal because I think that the administration of justice is so poor. Too many innocent people are found guilty. And the Foxconn managers, and the BP managers and the Wall street bankers retire in Aruba.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction, it is when we start thinking of adult crimes and non-adult crimes is where the problem starts. There should be just crimes, because we have two tier crime system and society compassion for ”the poor lad or lassie” things get pretty much hinked up. There is hardly a crime where most people want to see SOMEONE pay for it than murder. Murder takes someone away from somebody forever. A mother loses a son, a brother his sister, a child his/her parents, there is a loss. Once that bell is rung it can’t be unrung, there is nothing that can be done to bring back the dead. With that people feel the only way to even the score is the person who murdered the other should not be able to enjoy anymore of his/her natural life if they don’t lose it with a needle in the arm.
I say if as a society you are going to say in 90% of all other areas if you are under 18yr you can’t speak for yourself if some kid uses that loophole to get over then you change the law to close that loophole. It is when some minor uses that loophole to inflict carnage on society or a person that people want to try them as adults because they don’t want them to get away with it or get off easy,

justice/vengeance has to be equal or more weighted on the side of society.
The case of @poofandmook points out the folly of this. Society want to think that teens or preteens are too ignorant to know the full gravity of what they are doing, yet we allow them to sail the world on their own, travel the world alone in many cases, and do all sorts of other thing. Society wants teens to be mature and responsible when it suits society and in a way it suits society. When money is to be made a teen is seen as an adult so they have to pay adult fare or ticket price. When we want to control sexual access to them they become to ignorant to understand they want to boink the hot collage librarian intern, but should they kill anyone they automatically become smart and cunning and thus need to be tried as adults. It is basically the chickens coming home to roost because society want to be namby pamby about how they want to treat minors and when to do it. If you say Xyrs and lower are minors, then live with it even if the actual application is misdiagnosed. If you want to close the gap less anyone exploit it than figure a different system.

6rant6's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central We have many laws that discriminate on the basis of arbitrary measures because our intuitive sense is that at some point things are different.

For example, 5 miles over the speed limit is one thing, but at some point it’s murderously dangerous and becomes a different crime. A single pill may be a misdemeanor, but having thousands evinces intent to sell and is a different crime.

So it is with age. We generally agree that prior to some level of maturity children cannot understand the consequences of their acts. Age limits are an admittedly imperfect way to assign children to the “completely culpable” and “less culpable” pools. There are often hearings and evaluations that assist that process. It’s imperfect, yes. It’s sometimes arbitrary and sometimes misused. But even saying that, what is a better way to sort the errant lambs from the young wolves?

The irony is that the more precisely we try to specify how to one is to be judged copas mentas to be tried, the more the process becomes arbitrary and subject to manipulation – by people with political clout or money. So an age limit, wickedly flawed as it must be, has some merit of fairness.

josie's avatar

Is a 12 year old an adult? Of course not.
Can a 12 year old be a menace to society? Perhaps.
I say give the 12 year old a fair trial, establish guilt or innocence, then use young age as a mitigating factor in a sentencing hearing.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@6rant6 Age limits are an admittedly imperfect way to assign children to the “completely culpable” and “less culpable” pools. There are often hearings and evaluations that assist that process. It’s imperfect, yes. It’s sometimes arbitrary and sometimes misused. But even saying that, what is a better way to sort the errant lambs from the young wolves? To set a standard and live with it. Either go by biology or ideology, not try to straddle the fence between both. When it comes to sex, there is one set standard no matter how involved or willing the minor partner was. Not pass the legal age, a crime has been committed and no hearings, exams, or anything is conducted to establish how well the minor knew the law or was culpable in the act. Does that allow precocious youth to be promiscuous with those over the legal age Scot free, sure; but the standard is held hard-line, so do the same with age.

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