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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So presumably you are not able to answer a simple yes/no question.

Duly noted and will be held against you for all eternity. :)

My view may be extreme on this ... but if it's proven the father put out extreme abuse , I say good riddance.  


The boy should have serious psychiatric treatment for the next many years until he is documented as sane.  The boy seemed to do what many would like to do in such a situation where you are abused but can't control the abuser.  


For instance , if I was locked up in a house and 2 grown men were beating me daily , you bet I would do everything I could to plan to murder them to save myself from the torment.  


A child of the age of 8 could have these thoughts too.  


If the father wasn't abusive at all , but loving caring ... then the boy probably is proof Satan is real.   

   I find it difficult to believe that the boy just picked up a rifle and shot the two men. A part of me says, logically perhaps, that something triggered it. Now, what that was I have no idea, so I won't pass judgement on it.

   However, I do feel that trying an eight year old as an adult is a bit extreme. I could understand if he was fourteen or so, but eight is too young for such drastic measures. I think he needs to undergo some very rigorous psychiatric observation and treatment, and I'm sure he will. I don't think going directly to prison would be good for an eight year old boy.

   I also have to wonder why a rifle and its ammunition was available to the child. Even if his family were hunters, and he knew how to use it, that is unsafe gun practices, and only furthers the arguments of those who want to make anything that goes bang illegal in this country. I think a lot of mistakes were made on both sides of the gun.

Absolutely not! That they are even considering trying an eight yer old as an adult sickens me. This child needs intensive therapy now more than ever and is likely to need therapy for the rest of his life. Unfortunately for him though, the American justice system is more interested in retribution than actually dealing with any underlying issues and giving rehabilitation a good try for a person of any age who commits a crime.

The "rule of sevens" in Tort Law may provide some guidance (I am not familiar with Criminal Case Law regarding this, however)
Rule of sevens

Requires the court to examine a tortfeasor's age in determining negligence. Courts have long held that children under age 7 cannot be considered negligent under the law. They are not legally responsible for their actions.

Children aged 8-14 are presumed to be not negligent, but the assumption may be rebutted.

Children aged 15-18 viewed as possibly negligent by the courts.


Rule of Seven
- children under 7 are not responsible for their own welfare
- children 7-14 are partially responsible and held to doctrine for responsible children of that age
- Young people ages 14-18 are mostly responsible

I believe an 8 year old absolutely can premeditate something like this. Whether they know what they are REALLY doing (permanently depriving someone of living), nobody can ever really know. All 8 year olds are different. He definitely needs to be punished, and much more importantly treated psychiatrically and monitored.  If the abuse is the reason, I really feel bad for this kid.


What I can say with certainty is I hope 8 year olds who are/were being physically or sexually abused by priests learn how to shoot .22's as accurately as this one.  Cuz' a .22 round has to be shot from pretty close range to kill someone.


As an aside, if someone is being repeatedly abused, whether they decide to shoot someone in the heat of the moment (while being beaten), or hours/days/weeks afterward (pre-meditated) should not really matter much.  Whether it's an 8 year old or an abused wife or whatever.

Has anyone asked the child why he did it? This kid may have a mental disorder or be a victim of pedophilia.

Both of which remove him from responsibility IMO.

If tried as an adult he would stay in a juvenile home for offenders until he became 18.


999,999 out of a million kids raised in a loving environment would not think of this action. Something stinks in

adultville I'm thinkin'.

Does a child understand the consequences of murder? Does he realize (as an adult does) that the person will have no more birthdays? That someone will no longer have a brother or husband? I think those are the main things a person needs to understand to be held responsible, or am I wrong? A four or five year old might not understand that. Once you get up to 8 or 10 years of age, I think perhaps he might.


At the same time, while I can see a case like that might be beyond the expertise of the normal juvenile procedures, it'd be unproductive (not to mention totally irresponsible) to put a child into Sing Sing sing along with adult criminals.


Lawyers have a dictum: "Hard cases make bad law." I think a case such as this has to be handled as a one-off and perhaps the adult system is better for that. It refers certain offenders for treatment all the time.

If he can, he should also be able to drink, vote and drive. I'm for it.

The boy definitely needs to be in a psychiatric hospital. If he was abused by his father, that's the fathers fault and the father shouldn't have been showing him guns in the first place, I have a brother-in-law who is 15 yrs. old and is autistic, his mother lets him have toy guns and taught him about molestation. 

it's not like this kid stole $500 worth of merchandise from a store, he killed two people, which is an adult crime. So the question is, should the person be tried, or should the crime be tried? I agree he needs to be put into intensive psychological therapy, and I don't know anything about him or his upbringing, but I'm sure he can be rehabilitated and made a benefit to society in which case no death penalty should be involved or even considered.

I don't think an 8 year old should be charged for murder. If I remember correctly, the reason for the age limits for being tried as an adult is they do not have the capacity for mens rea (guilty mind) for the actus reas (guilty act) for murder. The difference between murder and any other homicide is that the act is premeditated. If the police believe that the individual was coerced into doing this act then he should have been arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter. He should also receive counseling. It seems like the age of children being tried as adults seems to get younger and younger even though most states have age limits set around 16. I wonder how many of these crimes could have been prevented if their was easier access to programs that could help the individuals and/or their families deal with psychological, financial and/or other problems that may lead to criminality?

Unfortunately the system that was supposed to protect youth from the psychological and physical damages that occur through the beginning of being under the control of the  juvenile justice system to incarceration. It seems like instead of pretending to follow parens patriae (parent of the nation, refers to the belief that the state has the best interests for child), the juvenile justice system is undoing itself. Instead of preventing crime or doing justice, they find it easier to sweep them under the rug. This abomination causes these kids to become hardened criminals, abused, and/or addicts. Also there is a high suicide rate for incarcerated children but highier for those in adult institutions.

I feel that the system can become better if they focus on prevention and rehabilitation instead of incarceration. Many times the individual has psychological, financial and/or other problems but can not receive help. By having available help in schools and communities, these individuals would be able to receive assistance before they commit a crime. The availability of help inside the institutions, including a formal education, would aid in rehabilitating these individuals so they can return to society with a lower chance of recidivism. For those that only care about dollars and cents, it would cost less for these programs than to send thousands of youths to prisons.

To conclude, the justice system is flawed especially the juvenile justice system. An 8 year old should not be tried as an adult because most children lack the capacity to commit murder. If any young child was tried and convicted as an adult, their life would be destroyed by the abuse by the system as well as inmates and the social stigma of being a convict. Public programs should be in place to aid child and their parents to reduce the chances of them committing a crime as well as in judicial institutions to prevent further ones. Some may think that these individuals are all harmful and need to be locked up. They should ask themselves "would I really want my child incarcerated in a broken system?"


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