Monday, November 10, 2008

So... what is an adult again?

This story is very sad. Details are still coming out, so it's hard to say what to think of everything, but one thing really strikes me as... well... odd. The story: A child, 8, shot and killed his father and his father's friend on Wednesday. The current report is that this was not a spur-of-the-moment thing, either, but that the child planned the attack out. There's speculation that he might have been abused, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of that yet. The part that I'm currently bothered by is the fact that the police want to charge him as an adult.

An eight year old. Charged as an adult.

Now, maybe someone has some insight into this that I'm missing... but if we're at the point where we charge eight-year-olds as adults, what is the point of having a distinction? Why not just make all murder trials "as adult" then?

Because it seems to me that we, as a society, have agreed that there's an important emotional/intellectual difference between adults and children, and we've generally placed the transition at 18. Now, that's sort of arbitrary, and that's why we recognize that there's some leeway, and sometimes we see value in charging, say, a 17-year-old as an adult. But at eight, a child is less than half the age we consider an adult--still a decade away. If that's not firmly in the realm of "child", what is?

And if the argument is that we need to more harshly punish this kid for what he's done? If we don't have a serious enough punishment to fit the crime? The solution isn't to charge him as an adult, but to fix the laws that we think are broken and need to be fixed.

It seems profoundly screwed up to me that someone as young as eight is going to be charged as an adult.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

Oh my, how very sad. The idea of charging him is an adult is so horrible on so many levels. It seems pretty clear to me that the child needs help, and a lot of it. Counseling, therapy, etc. If we want any hope that he can still succeed as a productive member of society, punishment is most definitely not the solution.

The other thing the idea of charging him as an adult makes think of is those countries that still execute juvenile offenders. Charging a child as an adult is the first step down that path...

gnaddrig said...

What do you mean by The solution isn't to charge him as an adult, but to fix the laws that we think are broken and need to be fixed? Do you propose to take away the limitations in place so children can get sent away for life or to the chair? What difference does it make to charge a child as a child and not as an adult if the sentence is the same as for an adult?

Don't get me wrong - the law makes a difference between children and adults for a number of good reasons, and there is no way an eight-year-old should ever be charged (or treated) as an adult.

Roy said...

What do you mean by The solution isn't to charge him as an adult, but to fix the laws that we think are broken and need to be fixed? Do you propose to take away the limitations in place so children can get sent away for life or to the chair? What difference does it make to charge a child as a child and not as an adult if the sentence is the same as for an adult?

Absolutely not. First of all, I'm morally opposed to the death penalty, so I wouldn't advocate the death penalty in any case.

But, my point was not that children ought to be punished as harshly as adults. My point was only if people--read: the people who are trying to get this kid tried as an adult--don't think that the punishments for children are strong enough, the solution is not to try children as adults, but to look at the laws regarding child offenders and correct them.

I'm not a lawyer, and I have no idea what punishments children face. Personally, I think children are generally the best candidates for rehabilitation, so I'd like to see that pursued.

Anyway, my point wasn't that I think the law is broken, only that there are clearly people who do.

butterflywings said...

Jeez, that is wrong.
Fucking EIGHT YEARS OLD is not an adult.