Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

August 3, 2010

Pint-sized criminals shouldn't get pint-sized justice

What defines the price a "criminal" must pay for a crime — the maturity of the offender or the extent of the offense committed?

Recently, with heightened youth crime rates and serious crimes becoming much more common, the matter of youth being tried as adults in court has become increasingly pertinent. Such is with the Cromwell, Ind., case of 15-year-old Colt Lundy and 12-year-old Paul Gingerich, Lundy's friend, who fired two shots, killing 49-year-old Phillip Danner, Lundy's stepfather.

At a hearing April 29 the judge ruled that the two boys were to be tried in adult court due to the circumstances involved with their crime, stating that "juvenile court is no place for a murder case."

The act itself and the decision left the community in a state of confusion, completely divided between their opinions on child criminal justice. The decision, which was decided in Kosciusko County Superior Court, has sparked controversy all over the United States.

In this modern world, children and teenagers are exposed to sex, drugs, alcohol and profanities sometimes as young as elementary age; consequently, this exposure leads inevitably to an earlier immersion into the adult world. For this fact alone, minors should be tried as adults when the crime committed is of an extreme nature. It can be assumed that any offense is enacted in full awareness and understanding of its reciprocations. There are very few circumstances that prevent proper development of common sense, judgment and self-restraint by a child's preteen years at the LATEST.

Under what circumstances should a criminal be exempt from due punishment? If someone knowingly commits an adult-natured crime, they can take the punishment as an adult. Are adults given the easy treatment when they murder, rape and harm others? No, they are sentenced justly. The judge's ruling in the Danner murder was sensible and fully warranted.

According to Gingerich, Lundy had been planning his crime for nearly two weeks, anticipating the perfect time to execute it. He then committed premeditated murder and fled the state in his stepfather's truck.

For those citizens who defend Gingerich and Lundy's actions with, "Oh, they are just children, they didn't know any better" or "They didn't realize how it could affect the rest of their lives," it is advised to view the issue from a larger perspective. In America, we do not discriminate against age, race, gender, etc., in any other environment. The court system is not exempt from this value. If they sugarcoat the issue because the criminal — yes, criminal — is too young, then their reasoning is faulty and discriminative.

This debate haggles with the issues of discrimination, child mental development and sugarcoating youngsters' perception of reality, but above all of that, it questions the morality of extreme crimes. Every person is taught, to some reasonable extent at least, the difference between what is right and what is wrong. If they commit an extreme crime under this understanding, they should shoulder the repercussions, as any adult citizen would.

Children should be tried as adults when the crime is fit for adult court.

Elyse Spencer will be a senior at Traverse City Central Senior High in the fall.

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