When I was 10 years old, I thought I knew everything there was to know. Granted I was only in the fifth grade. I couldnít stay up past 9 p.m. or watch scary movies or go anywhere by myself, but I thought I was on the verge of being grown up. The gifts of time and perspective have shown me just how wrong I was.
Looking back at exactly how much a personís mind develops from the time they are 10 until the time they turn 18, I have to wonder about the Pennsylvania legal system that requires all children over the age of 10 who are charged with murder or homicide to be charged as adults.
The law is currently in the news since the recent shooting of a 26-year-old woman in PA who was 8 months pregnant. The alleged shooter? Her boyfriendís 11-year-old son. Reading the story, I couldnít help but cringe as the police reported how the child had hid his youth-sized shotgun under a blanket to hide it from the woman before shooting her, or how he then went to school and the womanís 4-year-old daughter was left to discover the grizzly scene. But even with those thoughts and images in my mind, I had to wonder about the logic of charging such a young child as an adult.
My problem with the Pennsylvania law isnít strictly in regards to this case. I only know what I read in the papers, and Iím sure there are a lot of details to this case that arenít yet known. This morning I read that the child had spoken to his cousins and told them what he wanted to do. If this proves to be true, the murder was cold, calculated and premeditated. Who knows what other facts may later be revealed.
My main problem with Pennsylvaniaís system is that it addresses the issue with one blanket solution. All children over the age of 10 who are charged with murder are to be charged as adults. The circumstances for each case are probably going to vary greatly, and no matter what the circumstances are, each case should be approached individually. I say this a lot in regard to a lot of different topics, but with something as serious as this, I think the least the courts can do is approach each incident on a individual basis. Let those closest to the case decide, and maybe save a few children from wasting their lives in a prison cell.
It seems like there would have to be a lot of factors that would lead a child to go from playing with toys and having fun to becoming violent and committing murder. Until we can understand what all of those factors are, how can we determine whether to punish a child in the same way you would punish an adult?