Upsetting and somewhat graphic content to follow!
In the past century there has been an ongoing debate on how to punish children found guilty of serious crimes, such as murder. While many children are tried in court as adults and given harsh sentences befitting the crime, other children tried as juveniles are sent to juvenile prisons where their sentences are much shorter and they are released back in to society around the age of eighteen. This differential treatment for some of the same crimes has stirred much debate and even outrage.
I believe that even children should be held accountable for their actions, especially when it comes to serious crimes such as murder. Even though an article by Duaa Eldeib from the Chicago Tribune detailed how several studies have found that children’s brains are not as fully developed as an adult’s (Eldeib), many older children are more than old enough to know that murder is wrong morally and legally, along with other serious crimes such as sexual assault. These older children who certainly knew better but still committed terrible crimes should serve time either in juvenile or adult prisons. An opinions piece by Phillip Holloway from CNN reported that 200,000 children and teenagers have been tried as adults this year alone (Holloway). However, I will leave it up to the attorneys and the judge to decide if the child should be tried as an adult or as a juvenile. Part of this decision comes from the offender’s age, their crime, the severity of the crime, and if they are a future danger to society.
While I stand by this belief, I also think that courts should take in to consideration the difference between the imprisonments of juveniles versus adults. Children and teenagers sent to adult prisons are more likely to be bullied, raped, assaulted, and tormented by other inmates. They also have a higher risk of suicide than children and teenagers serving time in juvenile facilities. However, even at corrections facilities for juveniles, they still run the risk of being assaulted and abused by other inmates and staff members. Some people, though, might see this as fitting punishment if a teenager has committed a similar crime, but I do not condone rape or sexual assault. I still believe that this decision is up to the courts to decide.
I would like to finish this post off with a list of several children and teenagers found guilty of particularly infamous and brutal murders and their subsequent sentences so that you can decide for yourself how these offenders should be treated.
- Eric Smith (13) murdered Derrick Robie (4) via strangulation, then dumped rocks on his body, and sodomized the youth with a stick. (Calin).
- Joshua Phillips (14) murdered Maddie Clifton (8). Due to his young age he did not qualify for the death penalty and was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole (Calin).
- George Stinney (14) was given the death sentence after being found guilty of murdering two girls: Mary Emma Thames (8) and Betty June Binnicker (11). He was executed at the age of fourteen (Calin).
- Lionel Tate (14) murdered Tiffany Eunick (6) via stomping on the girl, thus fracturing her skull, ribs, and forcing her brain to swell. While initially sentenced to life imprisonment, this sentence was later overturned and was realised three years later with a decade long probation sentence (Calin).
- Barry Dale Loukaitis (14) took several students and teachers hostage and killed three people during this hostage and shooting spree at a middle school. He was given two life sentences without the possibility of parole (Calin).
- Craig Price (15) murdered a woman and her two children during a suspected robbery, stabbing the three over ninety times. After his arrest, he admitted to the crime and even another murder two years prior (Calin).
- Graham Young (14) poisoned his family, resulting in the death of his step-grandmother. He was sent to a maximum security hospital where he continued to poison and kill several hospital staff members and inmates. After his release, Young only continued to poison others until he was eventually caught and imprisoned once more (Calin).
- Jesse Pomeroy (15) kidnapped and murdered Katie Curran (10) and was accused of also killing another child, a four-year-old boy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment (Cowboy).
- Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both only ten, beat, sexually assaulted, and murdered James Bulger (2) and then left his body on the train tracks to be run over by a train. The two were found guilty and imprisoned until the age of 18, when they were released, causing much controversy and outrage (Calin).
- Mary Bell (11) murdered Martin Brown (4) and Brian Howe (3), strangling Howe, stabbing Brown, skinning his genitals, and carving the letter “M” on his stomach. Mary was convicted of manslaughter, but was released at the age of 23 and given a new identity (Cowboy).
- Jordan Brown (11) shot and killed his father’s pregnant fiancé (Cowboy).
- Curtis and Catherine Jones (12 and 13) murdered their father’s girlfriend and were tried as adults. They were released in 2015 while in their early twenties. (Axelrod).
- Two thirteen-year-old girls murdered a fellow teenager, alleging that they committed the crime because of Internet creepypasta (scary stories shared online) character Slenderman. The two will be tried as adults. (Gomez).
- Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson (both 13) killed five people and wounded several others in the Westside Middle School Massacre. The two were still tried as juveniles (Farrell).
- Alyssa Bustamante (15) murdered Elizabeth Olten (9) and admitted that she had seriously contemplated killing her younger brothers too (Cowboy)
- Andrew Wurst (14) killed one fellow student and wounded three people at his 8th grade dance (Farrell).
- Shanda Sharer (12) was abducted, brutally beaten, tortured, murdered, and set on fire by four other teenage girls: Melinda Loveless (16), Laurie Tackett (17), Hope Rippey (15), and Toni Lawrence (15). Loveless and Tackett were the ringleaders, while Rippey and Lawrence were accomplices to the murder. Lawrence plead guilty to Criminal Confinement and was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years and was released on parole after serving eight years. Hope Rippey was released on parole after fourteen years. Loveless and Tackett accepted plea bargins and were sentenced to sixty years, however the two could possibly be released in 2020 (Jones).
- Kipland Kinkel shot and killed two students, wounding eight others, at his school. Several hours earlier he had murdered both of his parents (Cowboy).
- Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf (14) brutally murdered a woman after she let the two girls in to her home for tea. Both girls admitted they enjoyed the act and were eager to kill again (Cowboy).
- Christian Fernandez (12) killed his younger half-brother who was only an infant at the time (Cowboy).
- Amarjeet Sada (8) was accused of murdering three babies, two of which were his own cousins (Cowboy).
- Terilynn Wagner murdered nine people before the age of fourteen. She was convicted of several murders, but was realised at the age of eighteen, having served less than four years in prison (Whitney).
Given that this is a touchy subject, I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions in the comments.
Axelrod, Tal. “Youngest Children Ever to Be Tried as Adults for 1st-Degree Murder to Be Released Soon.” ABC News. 23, July 2015. Web.
Calin, Mirian. “Top 10 Youngest Killers.” Listverse. 14, May 2011.
Cowboy. “20 of the World’s Youngest Murderers.” Pop Crunch. 15, June 2012.
Eldeib, Duaa. “Young Killers Who Stay in Juvenile Court Take Vastly Different Paths.” Chicago Tribune. 12, June 2015.
Farrell, Nancy. “10 Youngest Murderers in History.” Criminal Justice Degrees Guide. 2016.
Gomez, Dayana Morales. “Two 13-Year-Old Girls Are Being Tried As Adults. Here’s Why That Matters.” Huffington Post. 12, August 2016.
Holloway, Phillip. “Should 11-year-olds Be Charged With Adult Crimes?” CNN. 14, October 2015.
Jones, Aphrodite. Cruel Sacrifice. Kensington Books. 1994.
Whitney, Heather. “Victims of Terilynn Wagner.” Serial Killers Podcast. 22, January 2011.