Monday, February 23, 2009

11-year-old Charged with Premeditated Homicide

The Lawrence County case of an 11-year-old boy charged with shooting his father's pregnant girlfriend raises questions: Is someone that age as answerable for his actions as an adult? In Pennsylvania, homicides are automatically tried in criminal court, yet Melissa Sickmund, researcher at the National Center for Juvenile Justice, says someone that young would not be able to make any legal decisions for himself--couldn't vote,smoke, drink, drive or be in the military.

Another question is where to hold the boy before his trial. He's been alone for two days in a county jail cell, but Sickmund says he should be in a juvenile facility if he has to be incarcerated. In 1989, a 9-year-old boy in Monroe County shot and killed a 7-year-old girl riding on a snowmobile. He stayed home with his parents until he was found guilty in criminal court.

Sickmund would not expect the 11-year-old to end up in the state penitentiary even if he's found guilty. When the 9-year-old was found guilty, the judge sent the case to juvenile court for disposition, and the boy was put in a treatment facility until he turned 21.

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