CHARGING A CHILD AS AN ADULT
October 23, 2011
When should the justice system regard a child as an adult?
True, in most misdemeanors and felonies, 18 is the age arbitrarily chosen by the laws and courts at which a minor emerges as a person who can make all of "life's decisions" (except in cases of abortion). But it is truly questionable whether a 12-year old has arrived at the age of accountability, especially in cases of murder. It's hard to say.
Now Florida, and the death of one of its children, has yet again jumped into the international spotlight. This time it's David Fernandez, a two-and-a-half year old toddler who lost his life because he was allegedly slammed twice into a bookcase by his 12-year-old half-brother, Christian. Afterwards, Christian called his mom, Biannela Susana, who came home right away.
Instead of calling 911, Susana conducted searches on the computer for information on "knocked out," "unconscious" and "concussions" while her baby lay unconscious nearby. The computer log also showed music downloads, searches for screen savers and even YouTube clips. Finally, after all that, there was a search of St. Luke's Hospital. Did she finally call 911? No way, she put the unconscious child in the car and drove him to the hospital.
Florida State Attorney, Angela Corey, is proceeding with prosecuting the boy as an adult and Christian at the age of 12 is facing life in prison if found guilty. Corey claims she's going strictly by the book. Turns out, Florida leads the nation in trying children as adults. In 1995, prosecutors sent over 7,000 children to adult court, almost as many as the rest of the nation combined.
So the question here is exactly what constitutes justice for David? The brain of a 12-year-old child is not equivalent to the brain of, even a 16 year old. Their logical thinking isn't as refined, decision making is still developing and impulse control is limited. This fact alone is enough to say that there is never a justification to place any 12-year-old boy in prison with violent men. And there is never a justification to try any 12-year-old as an adult, with the possibility of life in prison if found guilty. But the evidence here is even more overwhelming that Christian needs help, not prison time.
Christian had, by no means, an easy life. He was born when his own mom was 12, and suffered severe emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather. If that's not bad enough, Christian witnessed his stepfather shoot and kill himself, rather than be charged with that abuse. All he knew was violence and dysfunction in his sad life. So, if we’re looking for justice here we need to focus squarely on the mom.
A St. Luke's physician says that if she had immediately called for help, little David would most likely be alive today. Who is responsible for this child's death? The parent who conducted searches on the computer and never once called 911, or the child who had a warped sense of what really constituted right from wrong. If someone deserves to face life in prison why not her?
It’s high time we as a society start holding parents accountable for the acts of their minor children. Violence is running rampant, parents barely know where their children are and many take little time or effort to teach right them right from wrong. The answer is, oh so simple. If you want to have a child, you are responsible for the behavior of that child -- period. That would clearly serve as more of a deterrent then trying a 12-year-old for murder.
There are already laws on the books for parental liability for a minor under 18. If a child destroys someone's property, the parent must pay for the repair or replacement. That liability is in place, regardless of whether the damage was intentional or accidental. Why should that not apply to injury and murder? Isn't that more serious than vandalism?
Parenting is said to be the hardest job, and it truly is. Susana knew her son had previously hurt her baby. She knew he was facing his own demons, and was prone to violence. These children were living dangerously; this was a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. Christian needs help, and desperately so. Intense counseling, therapy and learning how to like and eventually love would be in his and society's best interest. In the end, the responsibility for little David’s death rests squarely on the mother and she should pay the price.
We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.