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Opening Arguments

Adult crime, adult time?

The Associated Press isn't being very helpful:

WARSAW, Ind. — A judge ruled Thursday that a 15-year-old boy and his 12-year-old friend should be tried for murder as adults in the shooting death of the older boy's stepfather, saying the state's juvenile court system wasn't equipped to handle such serious cases.

[. . .]

The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes.

Sheriff's Detective Jonathan Tyler testified that the boys and two of their friends, who didn't take part in the actual slaying, plotted for at least a month to kill the 15-year-old's stepfather, 49-year-old Phillip Danner, so that they could run away to Arizona.

Once they've been waived into adult court, doesn't the policy of withholding their names become pointless? The question of whether the publicity might adversely affect their lives certainly seems moot. Anyway, the names, which are all over the place in other news accounts, are Colt Lundy, 15; and Paul Gingerich, 12.

I have mixed feelings about the general policy of waiving kids into adult court. A lot depends on whether they are soulless little monsters or whether this was a one-time crime motivated by impulse or partly  explained (not justified) by circumstances, and that's something we can't know casually, just from reading the news stories. I do know that many states took a more draconian approach to youth crime in the wake of several horrific and well-publicized incidents, and that there was a big debate and some second thoughts after research showing that teen brains (which only one of these two has achieved) are not as well developed as adult ones, especially when it comes to things like judgment and restraint.

Especially worth thinking about is the fact that Indiana law allows children as young as 10 to be tried as an adult. Isn't that too young?


Fri, 04/30/2010 - 11:42am

I don't understand the point of the juvenile justice system if 12-year-olds are to be tried as adults based not on their maturity, but on how offensive we find the crime.
If a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old decide to do something inadvisable, it's pretty obvious which one of them made the decision.
This is just pandering to the law-and-order bunch. They're either old enough to understand their actions, or they aren't. It doesn't make any difference what those actions were.