29 March 2010

An 11-year-old boy is now an adult

This is criminal: this boy, who was 11 years old (that's sixth grade, possibly fifth), is going to be tried as an adult.

The judge said in his opinion: "In evaluating the foregoing testimony...the Court concludes it is not likely Defendant can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenie court jurisdiction."
He also discussed the issues of the nature of the crime and of premeditation: "The evidence presented by the Commonwealth showed that the victim, Kenzie Marie Houk, 8 1/2 months pregnant, was in bed at the time she was murdered. She was totally defenseless at the time her life and the life of her unborn fetus was taken by a shotgun blast to the back of her head. There is no indication of any provocation by the victim that led to her killing. This offense was an execution-style killing of a defenseless pregnant young mother. A more horrific crime is difficult to imagine." The judge said the evidence indicated that "the commission of the crime demonstrated a degree of criminal sophistication" on the part of the boy, and that the offense was "necessarily premeditated."

So, in seven years, this child can't be rehabilitated. Nice to know that now. What do you think he'll be like at the end of seven years in - where? - an adult facility? If this kid is convicted, he will get a mandatory sentence of life with no possibility of parole.

What this means is: this judge, these prosecutors, think this child is so severely damaged that they are willing, in essence, to discard him. To remove him from society for the rest of his life. To effectually end his life, because, let's be honest: a lifetime (growing up!) in prison isn't really life. Not life as we know it.

The unborn child rhetoric really bothers me. And frankly, I cannot see why the judge feels this kid had no provocation - no immediate, physical threat, perhaps, but it doesn't take a child psychologist OR a genius to see that a kid whose father is about to have a new child, with another woman (who he will also soon marry), is a child in a potentially very provoking situation. In a normal, happy, psychologically stable environment, kids have trouble enough with the arrival of new siblings. Throw in that the sibling is a half-sibling, child of dad's girlfriend/soon-to-be-new-wife (ie, NOT this boy's mother) -- yeah. Imagine ANY level of mental illness on this kid's part. And things don't seem so unprovoked.  Relatives of the victim said that this boy showed jealousy over the attention she and the new baby received. She also came with two daughters from earlier relationship(s??).

Not that anything can ever excuse murder. It cannot. But to declare an eleven-year-old unfit for rehabilitation? To declare that the state - the State - is ready willing and perfectly content to throw away an eleven-year-old kid? This, to me, is shocking. This is punitive law at its sharpest, not rehabilitive justice.

This is a terrible, terrible story, for everyone: for those two littler girls, whose mom is dead; for the father of this boy, who lost his fiancee, his unborn child, and - for now, anyway - his son; for that poor girl, who was only 26 when this kid shot her; and for Jordan Brown, this boy, who was in fifth grade and jealous and had his own rifle and used it to kill his soon-to-be stepmom and as-yet-unborn half-sibling.

But putting a kid in prison for the next 70 years, or however long he lives, won't correct any of that. All it will do is put a kid in prison for his entire life, and strip him of any chance to ever really recover or atone for what he's done.

It is vile, absolutely vile, to say that an 11-year-old child is, or should be, tried for murder as an adult. The penalty is too severe, the child is too young an actor, to warrant that kind of status.

It is a very depressing truism that the law and justice are often not the same thing. In this case, they are very far apart indeed.