Children charged with murder… should they be tried as adults?

As recently reported in the media, an 8-year old boy has been charged with the premeditated double murder of his father and another man.  The third-grader may even be charged as an adult for the crime. 

Reports indicate the father taught his son how to use guns.  Since the family members are avid hunters, the father specifically taught his son how to use a rifle to shoot prairie dogs.  The boy apparently used a .22-caliber rifle in shooting his father and the other man.  While many in the town are reacting to the news with shock and concluding a child that young could not have known what he was doing, police believe abuse may have triggered the boy to plan to kill his father and the other man. 

Juvenile offenders can be tried as adults in criminal court by being “transferred” to adult court from the juvenile justice system.  Upon transfer to adult court, juvenile defendants lose their legal status as minor children and become fully culpable for their behavior. If convicted as a minor, the 8-year old boy in this case could be sentenced to juvenile detention until he reaches the age of 18.  If charged as an adult, he would face the same punishment as an adult would for first degree murder (i.e. life in prison, with or without parole depending on the outcome).   While the death penalty is an available punishment for adults in Arizona (where this case occurred), if a juvenile defendant was under the age of 16 when the offense occurred the death penalty is not available under the case of Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 US 815 (1988).

So, should an 8-year old be tried as an adult?   

According to the CDC on child development, 8-year old children are developed enough to “… dress themselves, catch a ball more easily with only their hands, and tie their shoes…”  Further, the National Network for Child Care reports that children at this age “…are beginning to see things from another child’s point of view, but they still have trouble understanding the feelings and needs of other people…” and they are just starting to “…learn [how to] to plan ahead and evaluate what they do.”  Finally, the American Psychological Association reports that “…the part of the brain that is responsible for good judgment and the control of impulses—the pre-frontal cortex—is still immature; consequently, children of this age-period …. don’t have yet the capacity to fully control their impulses.” 


So you tell me – can an 8-year old child really premeditate and plan the murder of two adult men?  Even if you conclude that an 8-year old has this ability – should an 8-year old be charged in the same way that an adult would be charged with a similar crime? From: Law Info


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I think the criminal justice system in America is rotten to the core. Putting a kid this age in prison will accomplish nothing except a huge cost to taxpayers. With counseling, he might come to realize the consequences of what he did, and work to fight abuse in the future, saving other children from finding themselves in the same situation. In prison, that won't happen, and he will make new friends who thing it's pretty cool he did hard time for murder so young.

Exactly my thought as well! A HUGE COST TO TAXPAYERS!

Totally agree. Locking up people in this country is simply a way to void the reasons for violence and criminal activity. 

I have just never understood as long as I live how a kid can be tried as an adult. Makes zero sense to me. 

Perhaps an 8-year old child can premeditate and murder.  Do they truly understand what they are doing and the consequences that will result?  Are they competent enough to own the responsibility of their actions?  I'd say probably not. 

Sounds a bit too barbaric for my tastes. To me it seems as if this child should be given intensive psychological treatment and careful follow up by mental health professionals at least the next 15-20 years to deal with the trauma and consequences of his actions.

On the other hand, his mother should be sterilized as the is obviously unfit to rear children.

So you would kill an 8 year old if he had killed someone which didn't "deserve" to be murdered? Also, how does one make oneself deserving of being killed?

But what does "deserve" entail? There needs to be a specific legal definition behind such an opinion, otherwise it's a slippery slope.

Also, to avoid hypocrisy, any punishment you would vote for metering out must be a punishment you are yourself willing to meter out. Which begs the question, could you look an 8 year old child in the eye while killing him? Seems to me like you should as it is the logical consequence of your opinion...

"...Could you (or the majority of Americans) hold someone as a slave for decades?  That logic is flawed."

I couldn't, which is why I'm opposed to slavery. Neither could I kill someone in cold blood, which is why I'm opposed to the death penalty. You, however, have said you are not. If you are in favor of a punishment you can't yourself administer, then you have a disconnect between your conscience and your opinions. As you act as your conscience allows, this is therefore a cognitive dissonance.

"I believe the punishment should be administered as a community, just as the punishment should be decided as a community."

I agree, but when the victim push for extreme vengeance, and is given the right to execute extreme vengeance by society, the victim should be responsible to meter out the punishment.

"It would be best if it was automated so that no single person felt more responsible than others."

Then you have a society which is fully inept to see the logical consequence of their opinions and actions. Also, it is extreme cowardice and I have no respect for it.

"Or maybe there needs to be a fundamental change in the morality that we indoctrinate our kids with."

I believe so. I.e. never resort to violence and never forgiving it.

"There shouldn't be controversy over how to handle murderers (of the undeserving)."

I agree. They should be treated by mental healthcare professionals and educated, then released once they are deemed to no longer be a threat to society.

"Any other crime (IMO) would require (much) more consideration."

There should be a death penalty for driving slow in the left lane... ;)

"...I was talking about prison...  Are you opposed to one of the most common punishments?"

'Prison' is a misnomer. Criminal care institution is more descriptive. Rehabilitation is more important than vengeance.

"Or are you experiencing cognitive dissonance?"

No. I wouldn't kill anyone apart from self preservation or mercy killing, so I don't have to justify others doing acts I'm incapable of myself. In fact, if the death penalty is top be allowed, then the victims should be given the responsibility for the murder of the criminal if they so wish, preferably with their own hands and without implements. It would most likely lead to much fewer death sentences.

'Should the victim be allowed to hold the offender as a slave out of "extreme vengeance"?"

No. They should have the choice to either effectuate a death sentence personally or have the criminal committed to a criminal care institution for treatment and rehabilitation.

"This describes the modern system."

It doesn't. Those who push for death sentences are not given the choice of seeing their opinion carried out in action.

"This describes you."

How so?

"Remind me not to live in your society, where, as the victim, I am punished with directly rehabilitating whoever commits a crime against me."

Then you may not live in Norway in particular or most of Europe in general, places which have substantially lower homicide rates than the US. You are more than welcomed to stay in a society where your opinions are not followed by consequences, but this is not a value I welcome in my society.

"If you aren't willing to directly hold a person as a slave"

I would like to know where, exactly, I have contended that I would like to hold a person as a slave. Again, I'm against slavery and would thus never do such a thing. In fact, you are the one supporting a death penalty which you cannot perform yourself due to your conscience.

"and you seem not to have understood that I was referring to this in my last reply."

I don't. Please rephrase the question.

"you honestly believe victims work directly with their offenders to "rehabilitate" them."

It's a bit difficult when it comes to murder victims... But their friends and family should be given the opportunity to ask the perpetrator questions and access to psychological data. That's somewhat more difficult if the perpetrator is dead.

As for your question: Yes, I honestly believe that, and it is quite common in countries with low levels of violent crime. It is also part of US jurisprudence that the victimized parties get to stand face to face with the perpetrator.

"Where is the disconnect happening here?"

The disconnect happened two places:

1. I asked you if you would be willing to kill an 8 year old murderer, seeing as you are not opposed to such things. From what I gather you are for death penalties for 8 year olds, but only if you don't have to perform the death penalty yourself. Essentially, you have an opinion that you don't have the conscience to carry out yourself.

2. You somehow ascribed me the opinion that I would have a slave. I never brought up the point in the first place - you did - but I nevertheless gave you an answer - I wouldn't own a slave and I'm not for slavery.

"You think all other penalties are exempt but the death penalty?"

No, but the death penalty for an 8 year old was sorta what the discussion here was about. I refer you to your original post in which you support it, specifically in the statement "the murderer should be killed."

"If you feel one should have to be willing to (or be charged with) personally kill the accused when voting for the death penalty, then they should also have to personally hold them as a slave (instead of giving the job to prison guards and the "criminal care institution" or mental health professionals) when voting for prison/rehabilitation."

Prison is not slavery, they are completely different concepts. Slaves are tangible property and treated as such. Prisoners are condemned criminals and are treated as per the penal code. I did not state that people who sought imprisonment should be forced to do the imprisonment themselves (it is an inefficient method), though they must support the prisons by paying for it through taxes. Those who request the death penalty, which is a bit different than requesting jail time, should not expect others to kill for them. It creates a disconnect between seeking the most brutal form of punishment and actually having to face the consequences of the request.

However, you are continually evading the original question, please see my point 1 herein.


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