When should children be tried as adults?

Recently in Philadelphia a woman was stabbed to death while walking her dog by an eleven year old girl, who later walked into a beauty parlor and told the owner what she had done (holding the bloody knife in her hand). She claims to have done this because she was angry that her cousin had hit her with a belt. Another woman who has walking with her 2 year old escaped the same fate by crossing the street. This woman had no idea what the girl was doing and by the time the woman called police, the dog walker was already bleeding to death on her front porch.

Authorities are trying to decide if she should be tried as an adult. What factors should be considered?

I someday hope to become the person my dogs think I am…

Tough question there, Jen. I’m no psychologist, but I would say it’s a different story for each child. Children all mature at different ages, such that some 11 year olds (though not many, I would venture to say) might not understand the consequences of their actions. Not that they shouldn’t be punished, but if they don’t understand then the punishment shouldn’t be as severe. Therefore a set age (much like statuatory rape ages)for being tried as adults is really not the best of ideas. I mean, some 8 year olds might do the same thing and understand completely the ideas of motive and the consequences of their actions. I am quite certain that I would have been much the same way when I was young. The children at Jonesboro were very sure of their actions. But who can really say?

Yoinks! That’s a tough call. But the girl seems to have had something resembling premeditation in mind. I’m no lawyer, mind you. But that girl was angry, and she left her house (or wherever she happened to be), looking for some serious trouble. My knee-jerk opinion–try her as an adult. I think I’d have to know more about the girl, though. Any links to a story I can read about this?

I’ll see if I can find one…

I say try both the girl and her parents as adults…

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First off, children should only be tried as adults for major offenses which injure or kill others; arson, murder, and armed assault fall into this category. Something like theft, even if he stole a car, just doesn’t justify putting a child into an adult prison.

I think that anyone over 15 should be assumed to know the consequences of his actions, and should be tried as an adult. Before that age, a psychological evaluation should be performed to see if the child knew and understood exactly what he was doing.

This is the best I can come up with, though there are any number of problems with it. For instance, if a ten-year-old is able to plan and attempt a murder, he’s probably smart enough to feign ignorance of the consequences.

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.

What do y’all mean when you say “consequences”? I can buy the idea that an eleven year old may understand the idea that if you do bad, you go to jail. And I can easily see an eleven year old too pissed off to care about going to jail. The harder consequence is understanding about death. At what age do we start understanding the permanance and seriousness of death? At that age you certainly don’t believe that you yourself are ever going to die.

Here is a link to the story from last Sunday’s Philadephia paper.

Oh jeez, I just read that story. Something’s telling me now that maybe this girl should not be tried as an adult. I think she does need to go to a juvenile center, though, and it sounds as if she needs some real help. I’m going to keep an eye on this story & see what happens.

Cristi…I agree she needs some real help, but then she also knew what she did…she asked the beauty parlor owner to call the police because she had just stabbed someone…it’s the old insanity plea debate isn’t it?

Member posted 08-27-1999 08:24 PM

Well, at least we now know lack of cognitive ability is not limited to minors.

Monty - What’s your point?

Does anyone remember the murder of James Bulger from the UK? He was the two year old who was taken from a shopping mall and turtored and murdered by an eleven and ten year old. I was just wondering, since I cannot remember, what ever happened to them? Were they tried as adults?

Satan: my point is that only someone incapalbe of thinking would consider the parents to be responsible for the commission of an act they did not commit.

I seem to recall a lenghty thread about this very subject.

Sorry the above should read tortured…not the other way around (sheesh).


Well, I did not comment in the thread on the subject.

I say that if you breed, you are responsible for your offspring’s behavior to a degree.

If they look into the parents history and see they were bad parents by even the most liberal definition you could think of, I say that they should share in the blame for this.

Not when the individual is, say, 17 years old. But when a 10 year old snaps, I’d say that looking into how the parents treated their little bundle of joy should not go unaccounted for.

Example: A 10 year old is taught overt racism by his KKK parents and kills a black person.

Example: Child lives whole life around drugs, sex and violence caused by the lifestyles of the parent(s).

Example: A young boy is molested or abused on a regular basis and lashes out an another authority figure.

Of course, there are kids who, like postal workers, just snap and I am not prepared to say that every bad thing a child does is brought on by bad parenting.

But in cases where the parenting proves to be a cause or at least a starting point for the violent act committed by the child, hell yes I hold them accountable.

More so than the child in some cases…

I still say an 11 year old knows it is WRONG to kill someone, and it is WRONG to stab someone.

You do the crime, you do the time. I certainly wouldn’t want that 11 year old out in society.

Unfortunately putting her/him in jail will just in the long run make him/her a crim so there is no real easy answer. Still I say they should be punished as an adult. We don’t really have a lot of VIABLE options.

Truly a case of nobody coming out better.

I tend to agree with you…my kids who are 6 and 5 already know that it is wrong to kill…so an 11 year old should know that as well…unless they have been living in a cave

Satan: your example above does not directly tie the killing (the result) with the teaching of racism (the initial act). Good luck on getting that through the courts, though.

Monty, presume the parents routinely told the kid, “Black people are evil and they all deserve to die.” Would you still say that they bear no responsibility when that child murders a black person?

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.