As more minors are committing violent crimes, the question of whether they should be tried as adults is on the rise. Children as young as 13 or 14 are committing….
Tried as Adults
At the age of 17, Robert Acuna was convicted of killing two elderly neighbors, James Caroll and Joyce Caroll. The young teenager shot them “execution style” as prosecutors described it (Liptak 1). Should this young man be tried as an adult? Why yes, of course he should be tried as an adult. It is because of devastating events like these why teenagers should be tried as adults when they commit violent crimes such as murders, rape, or robbery.
Regardless of their age, a murderer is a murderer, a rapist is a rapist, a thief is a thief, and they should be tried for the violent crimes they commit. To say, “Hey, they’re only kids. ” (Lundstrom 5) doesn’t take away a teenager’s “brooding and volatile adolescent demeanor” (Liptak 2). If an adolescent criminal weren’t to be tried as an adult, they would later be released back into the society knowing they just got away with murder. Knowing this, it would make them think that if they did it once, they can do it a millions times.
According to Adam Liptak, a journalist for The New York Times, “Crimes committed by teenagers are often particularly brutal, attracting great publicity and fierce prosecutions. ” For example, Lionel Tate was twelve when he savagely beat to death a six year old girl but didn’t get tried and convicted as an adult until he was fourteen (Lundstrom 13). Some argue that “the adolescent brain is not fully developed” to understand or be capable of being tried as an adult (Liptak 6).
This is a foolish argument because if Tate, at the age of fourteen, were to be tried as an adolescent and later released, it is very unlikely that his brain would develop for him to become a productive member of society. “And in examining 1,400 males and females in four jurisdictions, researchers concluded that age and intelligence- not gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors or even prior run-ins with the law- were the most significant factors in determining a youth’s ability to understand the judicial process. (Kirkorian 3) From my own personal observation, I’ve spent time with people that have spent almost half of their life incarcerated and have noticed that they aren’t very well developed. Someone would easily be able to notice this by just simply having a conversation with them because their sentences are so elementary-like with such a small vocabulary range. In order for a brain to develop properly, a person needs to go through day to day life like go to school, make friends, work, and experience new things.
Doing these things would be a little difficult if the person was locked in a tiny little cell all day, only getting about an hour of direct sunlight, and doing this everyday for years at a time. With this experience, it would only seem reasonable as to why one would not want to let an adolescent murderer or rapist be tried as an adolescent. It would be too much of a risk to take to let a murderer back out into society. It would be too much of a risk to have a criminal of a violent crime be charged as a minor because they could later be released which could result in “more lives, lost,” (Lundstrom 3).
According to Chart 2: Juvenile Arrest Trends on murder, “The 20% growth in the number of juvenile murder arrests between 2004 and 2005 increased the number to 1,260 arrests…” People do not understand the serious threat that these criminals really are until they have had a bad incident involving these criminals within their own life. For example, if someone were to get raped by one of these criminals the victim would have to live with that for the rest of their life, and therefore would cause them problems of their own. From their perspective, the age of their rapist would not make a difference to the prosecution the criminal deserves.
Once they have committed the crime, what’s done is done. They have taken lives away; they have taken moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and possible relative or friend away from this world. Many see it as “an eye for an eye” meaning that because they took a life, their life should be taken as well. “Mr. Acuna’s youth should have been counted in his favor” (Liptak 1). This statement is preposterous. There is no reason to kill innocent people, especially the elderly. Not only did he kill them, he decided to steal their car and think he was actually going to get away with it.
That’s insane! Mr. Acuna should deserve to get convicted on multiple charges and a life sentence without parole. The judge who prosecuted Mr. Acuna noted that, “He was very nonchalant,” and that, “He laughed at inappropriate things…”, “He didn’t quite get the magnitude of everything he did. ” How could someone who laughs at a murder they committed be even given any signs of sympathy or remorse. There should be no distinction for age, race, religion, sex, social status, occupation, and language, even hair style when being tried for a violent crime such as murder or rape.
Marjie Lundstrom, a journalist from The Sacramento Bee, might say that, “They are not adults,” but state in the same article that “We’ve created this image that teenagers are something to be feared,” “And the bigger the crime, the more eager we are to call them adults. ”(Lundstrom 5, 15, and 16). Although they are not adults yet, these criminals know right from wrong. According to Teresa Kellerman at FAS/E and Conscience Development, children begin to understand at the school age level how to “Do the “right” thing to avoid punishment. and grow the “desire to be a “good girl” or “good boy. ” It is almost certain that these criminals thought about what they were about to do before they did it. Some kind of thinking process had to occur before these crimes were committed; therefore these criminals intentionally murdered, raped, or stole knowing it was the wrong thing to do. Whether they thought they would receive punishment or get away with it, they knew that it was wrong so should be tried for the magnitude of their crime regardless of their age.
When on trial and being convicted, someone would debate that the adolescent criminal “may be incompetent to stand trial because they are emotionally or intellectually unable to contribute to their own defense…” but do these criminals take into consideration the victim and how they were most likely “emotionally or intellectually unable to contribute to their own defense,” (Kirkorian 1). It is not reasonable to why a judge or jury would be sympathetic, remorseful, compassionate, or considerate of the murderer’s or rapist’s feelings when they were not sympathetic, remorseful, compassionate, or considerate of the victim’s feelings.
Why should people think about this criminal’s feelings and future when they, the criminals themselves, were selfish and merciless when they raped or murdered someone, without thinking about the damage they could cause? When one person carries out a crime for instance a rape, it causes an enormous domino effect, a downward spiral effect that has an effect on more than one person. On almost all occasions like this, they have an affect the victim’s family members and close friends. It could cause depression within members of the family.
Being a victim of a rape could lead to later on drug abuse. Becoming a convicted rapist could ruin a marriage, the possibilities are endless. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network reports on their website that, 46% of rapists who were released from prison were re-arrested within 3 years of their release for another crime. It’s because of statistics like these why it is dangerous to jeopardize the society by letting the adolescent criminals get tried as minors because they will later be released and risk the possible chance of this statistic going up in the later years to come.
Due to the fact that some people who do understand the magnitude of this hazard is why progress has been made. For example, “…nearly every state has moved to make it easier to charge kids as adults…” (Lundstrom 18) and “Government statistics, researchers said, show that 200,000 juveniles each year are tried as adults. ” (Kirkorian 11). “…report follows a decade of state efforts to make it easier to try children as adults. Between 1992 and 1999, every state except Nebraska passed laws making it easier to for juveniles to be tried as adults…” and that, “Twenty-three states have no minimum age…” (Kirkorian 12).
While many may debate that these crimes committed by adolescents should only be given adolescent punishments and might say “they’re only kids”, or “they are not adults,” but these are not excuses to minimize the prosecution of a murderer or rapist. They were heartless and inconsiderate of the damage they were causing to multiple people, so when being tried and thinking about their sentences, the judge should be just as heartless and inconsiderate of the criminal because even though they aren’t adults yet, they know right from wrong.