In August of 2000, three year old Damion was suffocated after several attempts by his five-year-old sister and her six-year-old friend to kill him. When the police talked to the two girls, they concluded that it was an intentional murder, but under California state law, "children under the age of 14 can be charged only if there is 'clear proof that at the time of committing the act... they [knew] its wrongfulness." With no witness to the crime, the police only had the girls' word and consequently, there wasn't enough evidence to charge the two girls with murder (Murr 32).
By law a juvenile is anyone under the age of eighteen. Juvenile justice is the part of the criminal law that deals with juveniles, because they are not old enough to be held accountable for their own actions. This normally means that their parents would be charged with the crime (Schonwald). But in case of Damions' murder, California also decided that the girls were just too young, and since the parents weren't there to witness the homicide, they too were not punished (Murr 32). This made it seem like the murder of a three-year-old never really happened at all.
Every state has different laws for trying young criminals as adults. The states of Vermont and Kansas provide statutory provisions for trying children as young as ten years old in an adult criminal court. In Oklahoma the age is set at seven; Nevada, eight and in Colorado, twelve (Frontline). In 1972 the United State Supreme Court struck down on every state death penalty, saying that it was "cruel and unusual punishment" and it violated the 5th Amendment. In 1976 the Supreme Court revised its decision saying that it was acceptable as long as the Co...
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... News and World Report 17 Jan. 2000: 26-27
"Juvenile Justice" Frontline 2001 17 Dec. 2001
Murr, Andrew and Springen, Karen. "Death at a very Early Age: Is it a crime when a 5-and 6-year old suffocate a 3-year old?" Newsweek 28 Aug. 2000: 32
Redding, Richard. "Juvenile Forensic Evaluation Resource Center" State Transfer Laws 2000 17 Dec. 2001 www.ilppp.virginia.edu/Juvenile_Forensic_Fact_Sheets/Fact_Sheets/StateTrans.html
Schonwald, Josh. "Juvenile deliquents respond to punishment just as adults criminals do, University of Chicago study shows." The University of Chicago News Office 21 Dec. 1998 5 Dec. 2001
Wilson, Anamaria. "Lock "Em Up!: Minority youth are more likely to face trial as adults." Time 14 Feb. 2001: 68.
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