Are 12 Year Olds Adults?

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IMG_6652Can you believe this article that is in the Topeka paper today?  This article says that a judge in Michigan ruled that two 12-year-old girls, “MUST stand trial as adults” for an attempted homicide.

First off, I know nothing about this except what this article says.  But, I don’t need to know anything else.

I can’t think of a situation where a 12-year-old person should be, or in this case, must be, tried as adults.  Both girls?  That is even more insane.

What is the matter with this judge?  Actually, if you read the article, what is the matter with the district/or states attorney that decided to charge these girls with attempted first-degree intentional homicide?  He must have known that they would be tried as adults.

What is the matter with our legal system if we can’t take better care of our children than this? The article says that they could each receive a sentence of 65 years if convicted.  What?  Only 65 year for sacrificing a classmate for a fictional character.  Fuck that.  Let’s just hang them.

There is nothing that a child can do in our society that should mandate that.  Especially they shouldn’t lose their whole lives for trying to kill another 12-year-old  for a game.

Obviously, these children had some issues if they did what they are charged with.  But they didn’t kill anyone, which, in my opinion, doesn’t really matter.  I don’t care if they did kill someone.  They haven’t lived enough to make decisions properly yet.  They need help, but  losing their whole lives isn’t correct.  They get a get out of jail card here.  And that card is-

They are kids.  12 year olds.  In 6th grade, elementary school.

Come on, our society is lost when we legally treat our children as adults.

34 thoughts on “Are 12 Year Olds Adults?

  1. Rod

    Put your child in the place of the one who was stabbed then make a judgement call. Yeah, I know you don’t have one, but most of us who do wouldn’t say the attackers deserve a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

    Bad call.

     
    1. Steve Tilford Post author

      Rod-They are 12. Okay, let’s switch your scenario around a little. Place your child in the place of the girls who stabbed the other 12 year old and what would your stance be? What would you hope that our justice system would do?

       
    2. Andrew Ross

      Who wrote anything about “get out of jail free?”

      Debate the facts or lose all credibility.

       
  2. Rod J.

    The full article says the Wisconsin law states that they must stand trial as adults. The judge
    is following the law of the state.

     
    1. Steve Tilford Post author

      And you think that is right? What good does that do our society? Think it shows other 12 year-olds they shouldn’t be trying to kill their classmates? Hardly. It is wrong on so many levels.

       
  3. Rod J.

    “Both girls face a count of being a party to attempted first-degree intentional homicide, which automatically places them in adult court under Wisconsin law. They each could face up to 65 years in the state prison system if convicted. Both defendants and the victim, Payton Leutner, were 12 at the time of the stabbing.”

     
    1. Pepsi Frank

      This video is a must-see. A judge had to determine if they would be tried in juvinile or adult court based on the prosecution’s justification. The problem with trying them as juviniles is that they are automatically released at age 25. Being tried as adults allows for longer sentances in this case. I have to agree with how Wisconsin is handling this case. These girls need some serious help before they earn the right to walk free in society again.

       
  4. Duane

    Sorry Steve. Agree/enjoy 99% of your posts, but not this time. Old enough to kill (or try to), then old enough to face consequences. I feel society has hit an all time low and is headed down the toilet primarily because people don’t take/face responsibility for their actions. “Get out of Jail Free Cards” are handed out like candy now-days. Agree that “up to 65-yrs” is ludicrous when you see rapists/murderers in some states receiving a slap on the wrist and back on the streets in a few years, if that – but something’s gotta give when it’s obvious these girls have serious issues that should remove them from harming those around them, no matter what the age.

     
  5. Mike

    Somebody needed to post agreement- amen, Steve!

    This is a blog post comment, not a grad school paper, so I’m not going to provide citations for what I’m about to say…y’all can use google yourselves.

    Modern neuroscience has all but proven that the 12-year old brain is in incapable of understanding the long-term consequences of actions. Trying children as adults is holding them to standard that their brains are simply not biologically equipped to understand.
    Furthermore, although its been months since I read any articles about this case, these girls clearly had significant mental health needs. Our society does NOT provide anyone, especially children, with the mental health supports to prevent issues like that. We need to focus on preventing events like these, not punishing them. That is the only long-term solution.

     
  6. Glenn

    I think the thing that gets lost here is that these girls’ moral compass was never calibrated for them. I was taught in Sunday school about the 10 commandments and fear of God. While I agree 65 years may be a bit much for a 12 year old to face for an attempted murder. What if they did murder him?

    What do you propose would be appropriate Steve? The juvenile system is flawed and only breeds more contempt. How do you reconcile this to the real problem that we have in this country, which is that parents and teachers do not teach children what is right or wrong. The media glamorizes murderers (Goodfellas, etc…) and the Kim Kardashian lifestyle.

    This article is just a symptom. How do you find the root cause and then fix it?

     
    1. mark

      Anyone who has spent time with a 12 yr old knows the correct answer. The science is clear, and the moral test is clear. Mentally ill, developmentally disabled, children, I do not believe other countries incarcerate/execute like we do here. Vindictiveness, puritanical self-righteousness? 12 years old is a child.

       
    2. Steve Tilford Post author

      Glenn-I don’t have an answer. But a wrong answer isn’t better than no answer. The juvenile system is flawed? I suppose I agree with this, but don’t know enough about that to really say. But sending two elementary school girls to jail for 65 years, no matter what they did, is just not right. What if the girls were 8? Or 6. Where do we draw the line?

      I’m really not sure we have a root cause problem here. This isn’t common. Way more kids are killed by handgun accidents per year. I think I saw a statistic saying 450 kids under kindergarden age have died from handgun accidents in the last 10 years. That is a problem.

      These two girls need help, obviously. But the cost to society, something like $45,000 a year average, to keep them in jail, isn’t good for anyone. Not for the girls and not for society.

       
      1. Ocho

        So you agree with his assertion of the juvenile system and in the same breath admit you know nothing about it. Two sentences later you say you “think” you remember seeing a statistic about hundreds of kids being killed by handguns and then make a moral judgement call on it. Sounds credible to me.

         
  7. Brandon Cavnar

    Because giving them a “get out of jail card” sets an example that you don’t have to be accountable for your actions. If you had children, you’d understand. You lack a little perspective here. If they did stand trial as children, the punishment should be harsh and they should have to live with the consequences. That’s how life is. Our lives are the summation of the choices we make. Violence, in particular, mandates more gravitas. They weren’t stealing candy bars. Sorry bud.

     
  8. Ron

    I’m not sure what to make of this whole debacle? No, I don’t think they should be charged as adults but I’m not sure what really needs to be done here? These kids are fucked up. When I was 12 I knew not to do shit like that. Those kids have been let down by their parents. It’s like, when I see these teen kids with piercings all over their faces and dressed in their goth garb, I wonder how in the fuck their parents stand by and watch that shit happen. Even had I had a desire to dress like that as a kid I wouldn’t have because of the way I was raised. I wouldn’t have embarrassed/disrespected my parents like that….Anyhow, I don’t know what to do with those 2 girls.

     
  9. Rod Lake

    Another Rod weighing in–might be a blog record. Having worked in a big city school district, I have seen some 12-15 year olds who terrified me. Many of the kids lived in houses where the parent/parents were hard-core gang members. The kids were scary and seemed to have no morals. I’m not saying 65 years is the answer but I know I wouldn’t want them living any where near me.

     
  10. Andrew Ross

    “Get of of jail free” seems a common refrain, though no-one has proposed that, and jurisdictions which don’t treat children as adults don’t do that. If you want to be taken seriously in debate, you have to meet the opposition where they are, not where you want to pretend their position is. I know contemporary politics exists to caricaturize an opponents position as a straw-man and then eviscerate it, but that shouldn’t pass middle -school rhetoric class.

    Now Steve, to your substance: “I can’t think of a situation where a 12-year-old person should be, or in this case, must be, tried as adults. Both girls? That is even more insane.”

    So girls should be held to a different standard of justice? Sexist much?

     
    1. Brandon Cavnar

      Agreed Andrew. What will the punishment actually be, child or adult? The goal should be that the punishment be appropriate. I think Steve’s “get out of jail” position is the main catalyst for the debate. The article never says that though. Let’s be real, they won’t do 65 years and shouldn’t. Girls and boys need to be treated the same.

       
  11. LD

    I find it ironic that we think 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds are too immature to legally drink alcohol, yet we find a 12-year-old to be mature enough to stand trial as an adult. And don’t get me started on why it’s OK for an 18-year-old to join the military and put themselves in harm’s way and potentially kill enemies, while they are still deemed too young to consume booze for another 3 years.

    We as a society have not figured out where we stand on the issue of when young people become responsible enough to choose and be accountable for their own course of action. This case is a prime example of that.

     
  12. Luca Fagundes

    As an defense attorney I hear judges at sentencing hearings mention 3 different factors (these are the standard throughout the land) when issuing a sentence: protecting the public, proper punishment given the criminal act, and the character of the offender.

    This is black and white to me.

    The issue here is not whether these 12-year olds could know the long-term consequences of their actions (hell, there a lot of adults that live their lives not thinking about consequences), the issue here is that you have 2 individuals who were rather easily influenced by a mythical being to go out and nearly kill someone. Protecting the public, that’s what’s at play here. Who is to say the next time they don’t actually finish the deed, and kill the person.

    Some individuals, as sad as it is to say, need to be warehoused. That is a term I hear in court as well. Some folks are simply too dangerous to live free lives in our society. It’s that simple.

    It should be noted that there is protocol in place, and it happened in this case, to evaluate the defendants and screen for mental illness. No one here can say with any level certainty whatsoever that these kids do suffer from mental illness TO THE POINT where they didn’t know right from wrong (insanity defense).

    You can say till you’re blue in the face that you THINK these two are mentally ill, but unless you are the professional(s) who interviewed/screened them, you are merely providing your uninformed (and emotional) viewpoint.

     
    1. LD

      I don’t think the issue is whether these 12-year-olds are mentally ill; the issue is that they are children and their brains are still maturing. Most science now says a brain doesn’t fully form until age 25.

      Steve raises a good point – at what age would you declare that a child really is a child and shouldn’t be held to an adult’s standards of conduct?

      Should the toddler who pulled a loaded gun from his mom’s purse in Idaho and killed her be prosecuted?

      If you say no to the toddler being responsible, but yes to the 12-year-old, then you must have a sense of the point when a child becomes responsible? Tell us what that age is – 5, 8, 10, ???

       
      1. Luca Fagundes

        See the second-to-last paragraph from my post. There’s your answer.

        Professionals follow protocol to analyze the defendant(s). It’s not for you, or me, or anyone else to draw the line. There are 40-year olds that would plea not guilty by reason of insanity. And a Court would deam them insane/incapable of forming the mens rea to commit a criminal act. And there are 12 year olds that know exactly what they were doing, know it was wrong, and did it anyway (that’s the result of the analysis they went through). Case by case analysis.

         
    2. LD

      Nope, you’re missing the point here: the issue is not insanity, it is whether a 12-year-old can be considered capable of adult decision-making. Whether they are or are not insane is irrelevant because the question is whether a 12-year-old (ANY 12-year-old) shall be considered to have the responsibilities of an adult.

      That IS something for society as a whole to decide; that’s why we have rules that prohibit people under 16 from driving, under 18 from enlisting in the military, under 21 from drinking, and under 25 (in some cases) from renting a car.

       
      1. Luca Fagundes

        “That IS something for society as a whole to decide; that’s why we have rules that prohibit people under 16 from driving, under 18 from enlisting in the military, under 21 from drinking, and under 25 (in some cases) from renting a car.”

        Society has decided. Society elects their representatives, who in turn forms the legislature that makes the laws. They write the laws you’ve cited above, and the laws that make it so these girls, by default, are considered adults by state law. The law, in most states, also states that it’s handled on a case-by-case basis whether they can be waived into juvenile court. That’s the law written by the legislature that the constituents has elected.

         
  13. Luca Fagundes

    As a follow-up, these girls, even if convicted, will not face the 65-year maximum. Not even close. Anyone that deals with the criminal justice system knows that nearly no one ever gets the max besides those with lengthy, very lengthy, records.

    If convicted, they will likely face a long period of supervision (probation) and some incarceration, which will take place in a juvenile detention center (because of their age).

    So a lot of this conversation is all for not, since they are not going to an adult prison any time soon. I would guess they would get max 2-3 years in custody plus 10 or more years of extended supervision.

     
  14. Skippy

    Most countries have ” Juvenile Detention Systems ” for the reality , that Human Beings grow at different rates ! Every Family teaches their offspring in a different way , using their Creed & Culture to inform their ” Choices “!

    Children of Eskimos have a different set of ” Values ” to those of the children of African Pigmies ! Who can say whether Children taught in Wisconsin are more Mentally developed , than those in Texas or California ?

    You only have to look at the way the US treats the Killing by White Law Officers , of ” Coloured “! Let them Kill a ” White ” and see where they go ! Each State has a ” Set of Laws “, and rarely do they appear to be consistent with their Neighbours .

    Even the way People are treated , as a result of Killing a ” Law Officer ” is handled differently in the Civilised World !

    This case serves as a wake up call to the Wisconsin Judiciary , BUT , will they review their Laws ?

    Look at how the Judiciary treats the killing of Human Beings , that ride a Bike !

    Oops that was a SHAME !

    Shoot someone , throw away the Key ! WAIT , has the Judge any ” stocks ” in the Businesses that OWN the Jails ?

     
  15. Chris G

    Agreed. I dream of a sensibility counsel At the helm. So many things are obviously crazy: a war on drugs against people of color and rapidly expanding prison industry, shipping California’s remaining water out of the country to China in the form of alfalfa and other products, a government faking or cooperating with 911 and lying to the people about it to go to war for nefarious reasons… It’s a pretty strange time in which we live. i’m dreaming that somehow a calm and sensible methodology can be recovered. We must be aware to oppose the oligarchy.

     
  16. Mike Rodose

    12 year olds are not adults.

    These killer girls should have serious consequences for their actions, regardless of child or adult labels.

    Slenderman is possibly Rasmussen.

     
  17. JoeV

    You guys who think 12 years olds should be tried as adults are why I will never be tried by a Jury.
    Bitter, angry, righteous, stubborn “peers” deciding my fate? No, thank you. On the last jury I sat, one of my fellow clowns said, ” I don’t care if he is or isn’t guilty. If he’s not guilty of this, then he’s guilty of something else so I will always vote guilty.”

     
  18. Russell

    It’s a shame this story was leaked to the national media. Normally in situations like this we say “what happens in Wisconsin stays in Wisconsin “.

     
    1. Byron Haugh

      What I find amazing is that you only just now read about this? It has been in the national news, off and on, for what? A year or more now? Wow!!

       
  19. Marko

    Yah, it’s wrong to stab someone, and if you can’t discern that at 12, you need to go to jail. Can’t wait for them to watch the next movie.

     
  20. H Luce

    Adults in Kansas get a “hard 50” for multiple murders in Kansas, instead of the death penalty, in fact there was a recent case where such a sentence was imposed. In cases of *attempt*, usually it’s probation/supervision, unless there’s prior criminal history. And for children with “issues”, i.e. mental health problems, the appropriate and sensible thing to do is to involuntarily hospitalize them and treat the issues. Jail is absolutely inappropriate – these are children with what looks like no prior offenses.

     

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