4 December 2011
Should Juveniles Be Tried As Adults
Unmoved by his mother's description of him as "a kind and gentle soul," a Harris County jury come to a decision on Wednesday that 18-year-old, Robert Acuna, should be put on a life without parole sentence for murdering two elderly neighbors in a quiet town. Prosecutors presented little elucidation for why the Sterling High School junior, who worked part time at a fast-food restaurant, shot James Carroll, 75, and his wife, Joyce, 74, execution style. "He has evil in his heart," Assistant District Attorney Renee Magee told jurors as she urged them to return a death sentence (film). Acuna was 17 at the time of the murders. The U.S. Supreme Court plans to consider later this year whether it is constitutional to execute killers who were younger than 18 when they committed their crimes. The age of 18 brings about freedom for young people in America. At 18, an individual legally becomes an "adult". An individual can now buy cigarettes or a home, enter adult-only clubs, vote, and even get married. Furthermore, from their 18th birthday and beyond, individuals are no longer tried for crimes in juvenile courts. Now, they are tried in adult courts. But, does one or two years make such a difference between sixteen year olds and eighteen year olds? Is it fair for one person, just seventeen years of age, to be tried in a juvenile court, receiving a lesser sentence for murder than an individual just six months older or more in age who committed the same crime? I think not. Many articles like “Kids are Kids – Until They Commit Crimes” by Marjie Lundstrom, “Supreme Court to Rule on Executing Young Killers” by Adam Liptak, “Startling Finds on Teenage Brains” by Paul Thompson and “Many Kids Called Unfit for Adult Trial” by Greg Krikorian show different views on this topic. But, I think trying juveniles as adults should be consistently allowed because juveniles are mature enough to that murder is wrong; it reduces crime; having consequences harsher for violent crimes in juvenile act as preclusion to the youth; and trying juveniles as adults allows society to express a simple message Maturity ought to determine culpability, not numerical age. While it is true that juveniles, as a group, are less mature and slower brain development rates and thus, level of maturity varies greatly from individual to individual. According Dr. Moin, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Alberta, “Simply because the average youth is less mature than the average adult does not mean that the particular juvenile who commits a heinous crime is less culpable. There may be very mature and calculating youth and very immature and naïve adults." Furthermore, Dr. Brian Woo of Pepperdine University Law School states that, "Rather than consider juveniles as a class in the aggregate, age alone cannot be substituted as a measure of an individual's maturity or psychological development….Rather than adopt a bright line rule, the Court should allow the jury to factor in any mitigating evidence, i.e., youth or immaturity, when determining an appropriate sentence." Thus, trying juveniles as adults allows culpability to determine the degree and severity of punishment rather than whether or not an individual committed a crime the day before or the day after their 18th birthday. Punishment is expressive and sends a clear message against crime. Trying juveniles as adults gives society the ability to express the moral outrage of certain acts. According to David Gelenter of Yale University, "we execute murderers in order to make a communal proclamation: that murder is intolerable. A deliberate murderer embodies evil so terrible that it defiles the community. Thus the late social philosopher Robert Nisbet: "Until a catharsis has been affected through trial, through the finding of guilt and then punishment, the community is anxious, fearful, apprehensive, and above...
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