Children our greatest resource or are they? From the elite to the destitute the evolution of children is not just of infant to adult, the hallway in between is a force to be reckoned with. From baby contest to adult pageants; from little league to the All Star game parents have thrived on the ability of their child to excel. Where other parents thrive on ensuring their child has the latest Jordan sneakers and an opportunity to pay their way with an entry in the NFL. On the dark side there are the children who fall by the wayside, are pushed off the beaten path or merely have an acute sense of curiosity that will catapult them to make what may appear to be adult decision.
As I watched a law case on television, the case was about a teen who had obtained her learner’s permit we’ll call her, Cynthia. The permit allowed Cynthia to drive as long as there was a passenger in the vehicle with a “valid” license. The teen was out driving and according to her, she became tired and allowed her friend (Dorothy) to drive. An accident occurred and Dorothy’s father sued Cynthia’s mother. You see Dorothy did not have a valid license and no one in the vehicle did either. The mother was angry and thought the father had no reason to file a claim. The Judge asked the Cynthia’s mother if she was aware that Cynthia was driving the car without an adult who had a valid license in the vehicle. The mother said yes, I was appalled she said Cynthia was a good driver and she let her drive all the time without someone with a valid license. The judge proceeded to explain to the mother why children cannot obtain a license to drive until they are of age. That is because the states feel at a certain age the child is able to make good decisions while operating a car, i.e. they can read and comprehend the rules of the road.
Sure, this story is about driving and the inability of a parent to follow the law and teach her daughter to follow the law. But then there’s the other side or is it really another side. A teen boy is driving and kills 4 people the defense attorney claims that not only did the boy suffer from “Affluenza – a psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy young people, symptoms of which include a lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation” but that his parents should not be held accountable either for the death of the 4 people.
Juveniles and the Justice System
The law had defined separate rules for juveniles and adults when it comes to crimes as we may be aware of. In William Blackstone’s book on the Laws of England, he states for a person to be able to commit a crime they must first have a vicious will and be able to carry out their desire to commit an unlawful act. Children between the ages of 0 and 13 could not be convicted of a felony because they could not understand their actions. One of the Juvenile Justice systems’ progenitor was the Stubborn Child Law by the Puritans of Massachusetts in 1646 it reads:
The progression of the Juvenile Justice system (making procedure in juvenile courts look more criminal courts) lands in Cook County, Illinois with a compassionate judge by the name of Julian Mack in the first juvenile court stated:
[The child who must be brought into court should, of course, be made to know that he is face to face with the power of the state, but he should at the same time, and more emphatically, be made to feel that he is the object of its care and solicitude. The ordinary trappings of the courtroom are out of place in such hearings. The judge on a bench, looking down upon the boy standing at the bar, can never evoke a proper sympathetic spirit. Seated at a desk, with the child at his side, where he can on occasion put his arm around his shoulder and draw the lad to him, the judge, while losing none of his judicial dignity, will gain immensely in the effectiveness of his work. Julian Mack, “The Juvenile Court,” Harvard Law Review, vol. 23 (1909), 120.]
Equally the progression of violent crimes by youthful offenders and increased and become darker. Starting with a 14-year-old Kent, whose crimes were B&E and purse snatching to Erin, who killed her entire family over the inability to go out with her boyfriend to the extreme children killing in schools
|Feb. 2, 1996
Moses Lake, Wash.
|Two students and one teacher killed, one other wounded when 14-year-old Barry Loukaitis opened fire on his algebra class.|
|October 24, 2014
|Jaylen Ray Fryberg, a popular freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, opens fire in the cafeteria, killing two students and critically wounding three others before turning the gun on himself.|
The Eighth Amendment provided protections against excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments; it wasn’t until Betts v. Brady that due process must include a court appointed attorney for those that cannot afford one. This was deemed necessary as a result of the case against Gerald Gault (a white male) in 1967 was a 15 year old sentenced to six years until he turn 21 (an adult would have received a $50 fine) for a prank phone call that was considered obscene. This case was interesting as the mother was not involved, i.e. she never showed up to court, until after the boy had been sentenced. The Fourteenth Amendments prevent or should prevent states from enforcing any law which would infringe on the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, or deprive any person life, liberty without due process of the law.
- Heirens – killed 3 people age 17 – Male Caucasian
- Bosket – killed 3 people age 16 – Male Black
- Kempe – killed 10 people age 15 – Male Caucasian
- Pomeroy – killed over 10 people age 14 – Male Caucasian
- Bell – killed 2 people age 11 – Female Caucasian
Which brings us to today, the case of Christopher Simmons (a white male) at age 17 committed murder, tried by a court as an adult at age 18 and was sentenced to death. Christopher and his friends went to the victim’s home, to steal and kill, used duct tape over the woman’s mouth and eyes drover her to the river and threw her from the bridge.
The State sought the death penalty. As aggravating factors, the State submitted that the murder was committed for the purpose of receiving money; was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing lawful arrest of the defendant; and involved depravity of mind and was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman. Remember Blackstone’s definition…oh but wait, there more the postconviction defense attorney states:
Simmons was “very immature,” “very impulsive,” and “very susceptible to being manipulated or influenced.” The experts testified about Simmons’ background, including a difficult home environment and dramatic changes in behavior, accompanied by poor school performance in adolescence. Simmons was absent from home for long periods, spending time using alcohol and drugs with other teenagers or young adults. The contention by Simmons’ postconviction counsel was that these matters should have been established in the sentencing proceeding.
Simmons’ sentences were changed from the death penalty to life imprisonment without the eligibility or probation. The Supreme Court of the US held it unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed for persons under the age of 18. Today – Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in Massachusetts opposing the imposition of a mandatory sentence of life without parole on a 16-year-old boy charged with murder. Juvenile Law Center argued that in light of the Supreme Court’s precedent in Roper v. Simmons, the imposition of a life without parole sentence on Mr. Powell was a disproportionate punishment under both the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions. The Atlanta Black Star reports that the 2012 US Supreme Court ruling on LWOP should be retroactively applied to youths were sentenced before 2012 which would have major implications on Black offenders.
I would be remiss if I did not include the references to murder from the KJV of the Holy Bible. Numbers 35:16 – 18 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he smite him with throwing a stone or with a hand weapon of wood the murderer shall surely die. It further states in verse 19 that the revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him. Furthermore, the Bible states the parents shall not be put to death for the murderous act, but that every man shall be put to death for his own sin. Lastly, in the O.T. the sixth Commandment – Thou shalt not kill. If we were to rely solely upon the Bible all individuals who have committed murder would be executed. Does that mean to include women who have opted for the procedure known as – abortion? If we’re going to look at the consequences of murder, we must also look at what the Bible has to say about the child which most assuredly is led by the parent. Throughout the Bible children have been slain, raised up, cast aside, they were liars and thieves, and some had great devotion to the Lord. Deuteronomy tells us we should teach our children diligently and talk to them. First Corinthians tell us how the hierarchy of the home should be built, Christ the head of every man which is the head of his wife and even the head of Christ – God. Lastly Titus gives us direction on training our young women, teaching them to love their husbands and children and to be self-controlled. If the world were to follow the teachings in the Bible relative to our children, would we have experienced the rash of killings? I would say we would not have experienced as many killings by our children. Note, the Bible gives us instructions for our children as a unit composed of not only a husband and a wife, but that of the parents who fear the Lord. I read that the enemy is always lurking around seeking whom he may devour – it does not say seeking to devour it says whom he may. That tells this writer that even the enemy has some knowledge of who is following the Lord and who is not. Additionally, we hear or if you have not heard that we are no longer under the dispensation of the law but under the dispensation of grace. If Jesus were to disagree with Himself about His commandments, then I suppose the world as we know it would never have existed. Remember He said He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill and condemns murders to hell or did He extend hatred…
In this world, there have been great debates and a massive amount of tax dollars spent in the court system over the punishment of the juveniles who commit murder. In the final analysis, this writer believes that capital punishment should never be an option if one truly believes in redemption, repentance and salvation. Should our young folks be imprisoned without the possibility of parole, perhaps – until such a time as we as a family unit to include, the trusted neighbors and our friends and extended family can come together and assist when it appears situations with our children are going awry, it just may take a village to raise our children in this century.
Avalon Law at Yale
American Bar Association
Massachusetts Juvenile Law Center
YouTube 20/20 Case of Affluence
The Culture of Affluence: Psychological Costs of Material Wealth by Suniya S. Luthar
Atlanta Black Star
Google Search Engine
King James Holy Bible