Juvenile Delinquency is the participation of illegal behavior by a minor who falls under a statutory age limit. A delinquent is a minor who commits a crime or a status offense. A status offense is conduct that is illegal only because the child is under age i.e. smoking cigarettes (Senna 10, 20). The cases of Eric Smith, Lionel Tate, and an unidentified NJ child are similar only because, they are guilty of killing another child, but the Criminal Justice System treated and punished them very differently. In August 1993 in Savona, New York 13 year old Eric Smith killed 4 year old Derrick Robie. Smith lured Robie into the woods and strangled, beat with large rocks, and sodomized Robie. Smith was questioned by police and kept changing some details in his story. This made police believe that he knew more about the case than he was telling them. Smith confessed to his parents' that he killed Robie. Smiths' parents took him to the police. They didn't consult with an attorney. Smith confessed to police that he killed Robie and was charged with second degree murder. The prosecutor didn't offer Smith any plea deals. Under NY State Law defendants' that were 13 at the time of the crime can be tried and sentenced as adults'. The prosecutor had the discretion to try Smith as a juvenile, but instead chose to try him as an adult. As a young child Smith displayed anger problems. He would throw tantrums' and bang his head on the floor. Smith was a firebug and would kill small animals. He would hit his siblings and would punch things to let out his anger. In school Smith had a learning disability, speech problems and was left back. He was bullied a lot and it affected his self esteem. He had a very low self esteem. Smith's mother while pregnant with him took tridione to control her epileptic seizures. Tridione can cause birth defects and may have caused physical and developmental defects in Eric. Smith's attorney said he suffered from a mental disease called intermittent explosive disorder. The disease caused him to have uncontrollable rage episodes. After the episode, the person appears to be normal. Smith didn't under go a psychological evaluation prior to his trial. Smith did undergo medical test that examined brain function and hormone levels. These tests couldn't explain his violent behavior. Smith was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to nine years to life in prison. After seven years, Eric Smith finally gave the reason why he killed Robie and it was "because instead of me being hurt, I was hurting someone else" (Smith video, CBS). Smiths' form of delinquency is consistent with the trait theory. The trait theory holds that youths engage in delinquent or criminal behavior due to physical or psychological traits that govern behavioral choices; delinquent actions are impulsive or instinctual rather than rational choices (Senna 66). Smith would punch things, kill small animals, and set small fires to let out aggression. These are things he did impulsively to make him feel better and make the anger go away. Smith's reason for killing Robie shows that he acted impulsively, because he wanted someone else to hurt not him. Smith prior to committing this murder had never been in trouble with the law. Smith was calling out for help by throwing tantrums, killing animals, and setting fires. This is a psychological problem that a psychological evaluation could have been identified if it would have been administered.
In July 1999 in Pembroke Park, Florida 12 year old Lionel Tate killed 6 year old Tiffany Eunick. According to Tate, he was horse playing and he threw Eunick against the stair case and she stopped breathing. Tate said he was imitating professional wrestlers fighting. The autopsy revealed that Eunick suffered internal bleeding, broken ribs, a lacerated liver, and a fractured skull. Eunick's injuries were consistent with a fall from a three story building. Tate was charged with first degree murder. Tate had a history of...
Bibliography: www.cbsnews.com Eric Smith Case
www.cnn.com Lionel Tate Case
www.courtv.com Lionel Tate Case
Eric Smith Video CBS
Lionel Tate Video ABC
Senna, Joseph J., Larry J. Siegel, and Brandon C. Welsh. 9th ed. Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. Belmont, CA: Thomson, 2006.
O 'Neill, Jim. "Boy, 12, sent to youth home for accidental fatal shooting." The Star Ledger 29 September 2006, online.
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