Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Boy, 14, gets life in prison.
March 9, 2001 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Boy, 14, gets life in prison.
posted by crushed (64 comments total)

 
Hmm... I guess yahoo! with their stock dropping and all can't afford to write articles or buy letters, one ap staff photographer tries his best though.
posted by tiaka at 11:00 AM on March 9, 2001


This is so disturbing. I realize this child should be punished, but life in prison without parole? What is the point of that? Is this going to teach a lesson to all the other 14 year old murdering wrestlers out there? Is this really a deterant? I'm very disturbed.
posted by Doug at 11:04 AM on March 9, 2001


He was 166lbs. She was 48lbs.

He was 14. She was 6.

She had a fractured skull, a lacerated liver, and 30 other injuries.

She is dead. Gone.

Who's the victim?
posted by owillis at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2001


Florida strikes again!
posted by OneBallJay at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2001


I'm sorry, but 12 is old enough to know better than to bludgeon your baby sister to death. It's not like he was provoked into the violence and was standing up for himself. No... this was his 6 year old harmless sister who he decided to batter for the sheer enjoyment of it. He deserves everything he got. When you kill someone, you no longer have the privilege of being a functioning member of society, regardless of how old you are, unless of course you kill someone in self defense or if it's some freakish accident (which obviously this was not).
posted by fusinski at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2001


Words escape me. The kid was 12 when he did it. The judge called it "cold, callous and indescribably cruel". I can't believe for a second that the boy knew he was going to kill the little girl. Whether he thought she'd bounce right back up like they do on TV I don't know, but to imply that this was cold-blooded murder is way off.

It's just sad. So sad.
posted by jpoulos at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2001


He deserves everything he got

What world do you live in, fusinksi?
posted by jpoulos at 11:16 AM on March 9, 2001


The prosecutor in the case did not want such a severe punishment either. The family of the boy was offered a very generous plea bargain and it was rejected.

Instead the pursued the stupid "TV made him do it" idea. Perhaps there is some validity to the argument (if it is ever valid, it is valid for children) but it has never done well in the courts. Even the mother of the killed girl encouraged the boy's family to accept the plea agreement.

All in all, a very sad case.
posted by obfusciatrist at 11:19 AM on March 9, 2001


I live in a world where you don't murder people. When I was 12, I sure as hell knew better than to beat my sister to death. The thought would never have crossed my mind to do that to ANYONE. You want to wrestle? Fine. Wrestle with your friends. Don't pick up your 48 pound baby sister and slam her on the ground repetitively until she stops breathing.
posted by fusinski at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2001


I'm sorry, but 12yr. old kids simply can't fathom that they have the personal power to destroy someone that way. I don't believe for a second that he intended to kill her, and when I think of all the ACTUAL cold-blooded murderers who walk away with three year sentences, it just infuriates me.

I thought prison was meant for rehabilitation and to make inmates productive members of society?
posted by annathea at 11:21 AM on March 9, 2001


"A few days after her death, Lionel told police that he picked Tiffany up and accidentally hit her head against a table. In a videotaped interview with a court-appointed psychologist, Lionel claimed to have accidentally thrown Tiffany into a stairwell's handrail and a wall while trying to throw her onto a sofa.

The defense's own experts conceded that Lionel's story would not have accounted for all of Tiffany's injuries, which one prosecution expert said were comparable to falling from a three-story building."

Life in prison is a little harsh for a 14 year old. But, from the end of the article, it doesn't look like it was just a wrestling accident.
posted by jennyb at 11:21 AM on March 9, 2001


You people are under estimating 12 year olds. 12 year olds are not stupid. 12 year olds are out there having sex regularly nowadays. These are the same kids that come up to you on the playground and talk shit to you now. They know right from wrong. They understand what it means to kill. These are not 4 year olds who are just getting a grip on life.
posted by fusinski at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2001


Fusinksi and Owillis: You don't think, even if the kid MEANT to kill the girl, that there's no way he could be rehabilitated? Is "justice" just about blood-lust?
Plus, as Obfus... said, the prosecuter was willing to plea bargain for 3 years. So the state was willing to give the kid that, but a MISTAKE has effectively ended his life.
He was 12. I made some big mistakes when I was 12 that could have, but thankfully didn't, end up in someone getting hurt.
posted by Doug at 11:25 AM on March 9, 2001


Sure, a mistake may have ended his life, but what you're forgetting is that his intention ended a little girl's life.
posted by fusinski at 11:29 AM on March 9, 2001


Fusinski, the victim was not his sister, it was his cousin. Try reading the article before you post.

I find this ruling extremely disturbing. First-degree murder? Manslaughter certainly seems right, but doesn't first degree imply premeditation? I can't imagine a 12 yr old boy sitting in his bedroom thinking, "I'll play wrestling with my small cousin and kill her by imitating The Rock's moves."

Also troubling was the rejection of the plea bargain by the boy's mother. What's her level of education? Who counseled her to go to trial on a first-degree murder charge rather than accept three years of probation and a year of house arrest? I want to know who her lawyer was.

What appears criminal to me is an apparent failure to counsel the defendants and a life sentence in an adult prison for a child.

The American justice system isn't about rehabilitation, it's about revenge.
posted by megnut at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2001


Oops, I didn't mean three years of probation above, I meant three years of juvenile detention.
posted by megnut at 11:39 AM on March 9, 2001


Don't pick up your 48 pound baby sister and slam her on the ground repetitively until she stops breathing.

No shit, sherlock. You must have one of those "everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten" posters. The idea that he's going away for the rest of his life is just plain sad--and to not recognize that is (I heard this somewhere) "cold, callous and indescribably cruel". I don't claim for a second that the child shouldn't be punished, but I don't see how destroying a second life is going to help the dead girl, her family, or society as a whole.

Please excuse the sarcasm, but I'm incensed by people who think with this neanderthal "him bad, him go jail" mentality.
posted by jpoulos at 11:41 AM on March 9, 2001


Hmm... I don't know what went on in the head of the boy. But let's break it down.

A 12 year old has judgement, when I was 12 I knew better and I'm sure you did too. Sure we might have done dumb stuff but I doubt you ever believed that you could bounce a baby.

A 12 year old would have no motive to kill a 6 year old, there was no sinister plot here. Was there a point of the girl upsetting the boy somehow? Children can be annoying, especially to other children. If so he could have acted in haste and did it in rage. Is he responsible? I would think so. But who's really responsible? Parents. If no such thing happens then he was trying to have fun, a game. Wrestling, and here there are several options, one is that he really did not know children could die, or anyone could get hurt due to wrestling (however, if he was following the TV, whenever someone is hit with a chair, they fall and they fall hard, of course take minutes to recover) or that he did know that she could get hurt but tried to be gentle and hurt he by mistake, like twisting the elbow at the wrong moment while falling.

However she had a lot of injuries which leads you to belive that he continued on after one or two serious ones. I don't think, again he had any motive and thus did not notice anything because he thought everything was fine, just like it is on the TV.

Ofcourse We are back to the starting point and I picture the boy knowing that the girl could get hurt but did so by an accident? or several? Some of the injuries were internal and he could not have noticed them.

Is the judgement fair? I don't know... doesn't sound like it would serve much purpose though parents could be more careful in the future when their kids even think about watching wrestling.

Btw, did anyone comment on where the parents were? At the time and every time (raising)?
posted by tiaka at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2001


Ok, so I screwed up on the relationship between the boy and the girl. Does it matter? A 6 year old girl is dead, regardless of who she was. And just because you can't imagine a boy thinking that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. Can you imagine a mother killing her kid by purposely running her car into a brick wall? No, neither can I. But guess what, it happened.

And by the way, I read the article. Let's go ahead and make this personal, shall we?
posted by fusinski at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2001


Fusinski...I hope you don't think I'm being a prick by doing this, but this is from your website: "a tragedy, but they're dead now. Charles has to live the rest of his life in prison--he has to live in a cage for some 60-70 years, mulling over and over what happended to him as a child, all because some children decided that it would be funny to put the skinny kid through hell at one of the most important times in a young man's life." What you've exhibited in this passage is compassion. Why not try to have some of that for this child? Why so eager to give up on this kid, at such a young age?
posted by Doug at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2001


jpoulos, would you prefer the "him bad, let him go anyway" mentality? Just curious.
posted by fusinski at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2001


Beating the crap out of someone else at the age of 12 to the point of death is no mistake, it's criminal intent. Compounded even worse with him lying.

I was an 11 year old around my 7 year old cousin. We used to play "WWF" for hours upon hours, laying the smack down on each other. We knew which moves to do, which were insane. You know when someone is in pain, even at 12.
posted by owillis at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2001


Ok, one last post to defend my position and you guys can flame the hell out of me all you want. As I just responded to Doug in email:

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you threw down a 6 year old and they didn't bounce back up just like in wrestling and were crying in pain, would you throw them down again? This girl didn't get 30 injuries, a fractured skull, and a lacerated liver from one little wrestling accident. This obviously went on for a while and the boy didn't care whether or not he was hurting her."

Yes, I still believe this is a tragedy, but I also believe that this was no accident. Yes, he might be able to be rehabilitated, but if you want to let this kid out, you had better be damned sure he's a changed person. And even then, don't let him around MY kids--I wouldn't trust him.

Happy flaming.
posted by fusinski at 11:55 AM on March 9, 2001


Here is one reason why I don't believe children should be tried as adults. They truly do not process thoughts and emotions like adults.
As for rehabilitation, it has become an afterthought in the American legal system. The public seems to be more concerned with punishment and retribution. Politicians are afraid of being labeled "soft on crime." Most people today believe that crime is worse than ever, despite statistics to the contrary. They vote accordingly, and we end up with a brutal criminal justice system.
I feel horrible about what happened in this case, but I feel that the tragedy is only worsened by the legal outcome.
posted by gimli at 11:56 AM on March 9, 2001


I'm not sure what stance I take on the boy getting life. But I do know what stance I take on this:
I'm sorry, but 12yr. old kids simply can't fathom that they have the personal power to destroy someone that way.

12 yr olds many years ago might not have but 12 year olds today, except maybe the ones who are so babied by their parents that they act about 6, can fathom it. Children and teenagers are much more intelligent and aware and grown up than most people give them credit for. 9 and 10 year olds were having discussions about things like suicide, heaven and hell, abusive parents, murder, and many other "grown-up" things several years ago when I was in school.
posted by crushed at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2001


This one has bugged me deeply. The justice systems seems severely broken in this instance (not that it is any better any other day). The kid was 12, may or may not have know right from wrong, but kids know guns kill but TV wrestling moves people live from. The US penal system rarely rehabilitates those in it, it usually produces individuals that are unable to do what the rest of society *calls proper*. The outcome is that the justice system is throwing this kids life away. (I know the girl lost her life and there is no changing that, but vengeance is a sad way to continue living - IMHO).
posted by vanderwal2 at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2001


This story, originally posted by aaron in this thread, is one of the most interesting I've read on the subject of rehabilitation. The contrast between how this case from 1978 was handled and how it would likely go today is mind-boggling.
posted by gimli at 12:39 PM on March 9, 2001


Gilmi, thank you thank you thank you for posting that. I've been looking all over for it...Yes, of course, most of us at 12 weren't nearly as stupid as this kid, but didn't we also know some really, really stupid kids in our 7th grade classrooms? (The average IQ is 100; there are a lot of people below that.)Meg, you've got a very good point about the mother's representation. I'm having drinks with my defense-attorney friends tonight, I'm interested in their take.
posted by mimi at 12:40 PM on March 9, 2001


Also troubling was the rejection of the plea bargain by the boy's mother.

This might explain the actions of the boy, no? Parents failing to take responsibility in many situations nowadays. Granted, this isn't a typical situation, but still...

That said, kids know what is going on at age 12. We were all that age at one time, and if you claim you didn't think you could kill someone, I'm sure as hell going to be scared of you now.
posted by moural at 12:42 PM on March 9, 2001


I can conceive of argments for both positions so eloquently argued thus far. I am bothered on the issue of trying juveniles as adults, since the way this seems now to operate is to ensure a much stiffer penalty you try a kid as an adult. Either a person is or is not an adult. We decide this when we set drinking laws, driving laws, entrance into the military etc. Why, then, does it become a variable when a young person is put on trial?
posted by Postroad at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2001


If I remember correctly, the mother works for the Florida Highway Patrol (I don't remember if she just worked for them or if she is an actual police officer).

This whole thing sounds to me like everybody involved recognizes the correct thing to do (several years of punishment, many years of probation, and lots of counseling), but nobody has the leeway to do it.

The heinousness of the crime obligated the prosecutor to seek an adult, 1st degree murder conviction. The jury was compelled to find him guilty of first degree murder (there seems to be little doubt of that), and the judge was compelled (by mandatory sentencing laws) to give life in prison.

The prosecutor tried to circumvent the whole thing by offering a very fair plea agreement, but it was rejected in a very questionable decision by the lawyers and parent.

Extreme cases make for bad laws. This is definitely an extreme case. The system isn't designed to handle it well (who, really, designs a criminal system with 12-year-old children in mind?) and it didn't.

Now we are left to hope that Jeb Bush will grant the plea for clemency and reduce the sentence. Sounds like both the prosecutor's team, the defendant's team, and the victim's family will support the request.
posted by obfusciatrist at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2001


The thing that stands out in the case to me (above all else) is imagining what sounds a 6-year old little girl (like my oldest daughter) would make as she is manhandled to death by a boy more than three times her size. 30 injuries, plus a liver laceration and a skull fracture. Think she cried? Think she screamed? Think she wasn't repeatedly begging him to stop, telling him that he was hurting her? But he continued until she was dead. This was brutal. It was no accident, it was no mistake. I see no reason for leniency here at all - he may have been a twelve year old but the severity of his act obliterates considerations of age.
posted by Dreama at 1:19 PM on March 9, 2001


I think the original offer was too lenient for the crime and I think the parents/attorneys that refused it must have been on something pretty strong. But I think life in prison for someone this young never makes sense when there is so much time for them to grow into beneficial members of society. Especially when older criminals who prey on children often DO NOT get life sentences, for crimes that are just as horrible if not more brutal. If we are going to be such ruthless bastards when punishing people, I think we should at least punish people equally. Although I guess it is a nice change to be shocked by the severity of a punishment rather than the leniency.
posted by bargle at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2001


The victims own mother is saying this sentence is too severe. If she can show some compassion, and understanding, why can't you, Dreama? You don't know what happened. You don't know that she cried, and begged for him to stop. You don't know how long it took to occur.
You do know that it was done by a 12 year old. And though you may imagine that a 12 year old is as cognizant of his actions as you are, just about every authority in the world would disagree with you.
posted by Doug at 1:48 PM on March 9, 2001


So what is the appropriate punishment? I can't think of anything that would really make me happy. I certainly would never want the kid around me and mine ever again.
posted by thirteen at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2001


Also troubling was the rejection of the plea bargain by the boy's mother. What's her level of education? Who counseled her to go to trial on a first-degree murder charge rather than accept three years of probation and a year of house arrest? I want to know who her lawyer was.

I love to lawyer-bash as much as the next guy, but keep in mind that the client always has the final say in these decisions. The lawyer could be Johnny Cochran and the mother could be Marilyn vos Savant, but if she's got an emotional obsession to take it to trial, the lawyer must comply with her wishes.What appears criminal to me is an apparent failure to counsel the defendants and a life sentence in an adult prison for a child.

"Child" is a slippery little term. Many people consider 17-year-olds to be children, even the ones that have been in gangs for years and committed any number of violent attacks on others. There are plenty of children - the vast majority, I would say - who are capable of the most basic comprehension of right and wrong. That they haven't hit the arbitrarily-set legalistic point of 18 years on this planet does not automatically absolve them from guilt.

The American justice system isn't about rehabilitation, it's about revenge.

Yup. Like it or not, there are some crimes so heinous that the pepetrator will be considered incorrigable. Or that society will simply decide the person's action was sufficiently horrible that he has forfeited the right to "rehabilition."

Besides, if it wasn't about revenge, or at least punishment, there'd be no real reason to have a justice system at all. "Kill all you want, we'll understand!"
posted by aaron at 1:58 PM on March 9, 2001



I would think a start would be shipping him off to a juvenile facility where he'd receive counseling and education, at least until he reaches 18, and be surrounded by his peers.
posted by megnut at 1:58 PM on March 9, 2001


Hmm... to re-evaluate, 30 major bodily injuries, there just could not be any way this could have been done in one swift move. Any links to the transcripts on the hearings? Did they boy tell his side of the story? And how long it took?
posted by tiaka at 2:02 PM on March 9, 2001


A twelve-year-old should have a developed sense of right and wrong. The extensive injuries make it hard to believe he was just rough housing. I frankly do not want people on the street who have a moral compass so twisted.
posted by fleener at 2:11 PM on March 9, 2001


Anyone remembering the Heavenly Creatures murder in NZ/Australia have any comments/insights?
posted by mimi at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2001


Whoops, that was supposed to be "New Zealand." Sorry.
posted by mimi at 2:29 PM on March 9, 2001


I see no reason for leniency here at all - he may have been a twelve year old but the severity of his act obliterates considerations of age.

Like it or not, there are some crimes so heinous that the pepetrator will be considered incorrigable.

I'd love for someone in the "throw away the key" crowd to describe a murder they don't consider unredeemably heinous.

When an adult kills someone without intending to cause their death, the sentence is usually manslaughter. Here in Florida, the average manslaughter sentence was 9.16 years as of the mid-1990s (source).

Yet Tate deserves life in prison without possibility of parole?
posted by rcade at 2:46 PM on March 9, 2001


I'm sure someone will say it's race-baiting, but damn the torpedoes:

I seriously doubt this kid would have been put away for life had he been white.
posted by bgluckman at 2:50 PM on March 9, 2001


You bleeding hearts just amaze me. Rehabilitate him, huh? And after he's been "rehabilitated," how would you feel about him as a potential baby-sitter? Or employee? Or son-in-law? I suspect that your compassion is directly proportional to the distance between him and your family... Face reality. He killed someone who was almost certainly bleeding and screaming blue murder--not much like any of the professional wrestling I've seen. But if you're confident he can be rehabbed, by all means help him out. Maybe he'll want to come live in your neighborhood after he gets out. Better yours than mine.
posted by hal_55 at 2:53 PM on March 9, 2001


Florida did the same to Joshua Phillips, who was 14 when he killed 7-year-old playmate Maddie Clifton. Phillips is white.
posted by rcade at 2:58 PM on March 9, 2001


hal: If you doubt that criminals can be rehabilitated, go read this, which was referenced in an earlier comment.

As for the remark that our compassion & his distance from our family- the victim's own mother seems to think the sentence is too harsh. I don't think you can get much closer to the family than that, but I guess she's just another bleeding heart.
posted by zempf at 3:02 PM on March 9, 2001


Maybe he'll want to come live in your neighborhood after he gets out. Better yours than mine.

Tate won't get out. He'll take up space that could have been used to house another killer -- most likely someone who killed as an adult and intended to kill their victim, since a lot of those folks are getting short sentences because they had the good sense to commit a less newsworthy murder.

Maybe that guy will come live in your neighborhood.
posted by rcade at 3:03 PM on March 9, 2001


Directly comparing the Joshua Phillips case to Lionel Tate is misleading. Phillips was also accussed during the trial of sexually assaulting his sister, though he wasn't charged with it. Plus, he attempted to hide the body, suggesting of premeditation.


posted by bgluckman at 3:06 PM on March 9, 2001


>>> hal: If you doubt that criminals can be rehabilitated, go read this, which was
>>> referenced in an earlier comment.

Well, duh... But you haven't answered my question; after he's been rehabbed, would you be comfortable with him around *your* family?

>>> As for the remark that our compassion & his distance from our family- the victim's
>>> own mother seems to think the sentence is too harsh. I don't think you can get
>>> much closer to the family than that, but I guess she's just another bleeding heart.

Neither of us has the faintest idea of what is going through that poor woman's mind. But taking into account her emotional turmoil, right now I wouldn't expect her to be thinking too clearly.

>>> Tate won't get out. He'll take up space that could have been used to house another
>>> killer -- most likely someone who killed as an adult and intended to kill their victim,
>>> since a lot of those folks are getting short sentences because they had the good
>>> sense to commit a less newsworthy murder.

>>> Maybe that guy will come live in your neighborhood.

So we should let him out so as to leave room for a hypothetical murderer sometime in the future. Great idea. Taking that a step further, let's free *everyone* now, to ensure space for future criminals. What a concept!
posted by hal_55 at 3:18 PM on March 9, 2001


Directly comparing the Joshua Phillips case to Lionel Tate is misleading. Phillips was also accussed during the trial of sexually assaulting his sister, though he wasn't charged with it. Plus, he attempted to hide the body, suggesting of premeditation.

Tate was convicted of first-degree murder. First-degree murder is premeditated murder. The cases are thus comparable.
posted by aaron at 4:03 PM on March 9, 2001



You can infer from the article that the judge had no choice but to give the boy either life in prison, or proclaim him innocent. The tragedy is that the justice system locks judges into a situation where they are forced to choose between extremes. In this case, I side with the judge. If this kid were not to go to jail at all that would be more tragic than sending him to jail - where his sentence will most likely be repealed/communted somehow.
posted by xammerboy at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2001


I did hear the sentence was mandatory. That's the problem--it's (a) mandatory sentences and (b) the public's insistence on trying children as adults.
posted by jpoulos at 5:00 PM on March 9, 2001


When "children" commit adult crimes, with full knowledge of the severity of what they've done - they should be tried as adults.
posted by owillis at 5:12 PM on March 9, 2001


All kids know that death is permanent the first time they sqaush a bug or have a favorite pet die on them. By the time you're 12, you know not to kill people. Unless he's insane or mentally incapacitated, the kid had to have known what he was doing.

That's a separate issue from whether or not he can be rehabilitated. He needs psychiatric evaluation. The judge really should not have denied the possibility of parole. I'm not definitively saying whether or not he can be rehabilitated, at this point, no one can make that call. It's just that the judge should have left the possibility open.
posted by Potsy at 5:52 PM on March 9, 2001


On NPR today, the perp's mom said that she rejected the plea offer (three years in juvenile hall, an extraordinarly generous offer by ANY standards, to say the least of Florida) because "how could I let my baby plead guilty for something he did while playing"? And this after she sat through all the forensics about the extent of the assault her son inflicted on that innocent girl.

I think they should give HER the life sentence for being so appallingly blind and/or shameless. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
posted by MattD at 6:14 PM on March 9, 2001


hal_55, i see your argument but some of your logic is a bit flawed. where do you get off telling the mother of the deceased that she's in shock and can't know what she wants? if anything, under the shock of this sort of a tragedy, i'd think she'd be more on the side of overpunishment. i think you've overstepped your bounds with that comment. if she wants him to go completely free, that's her prerogative. it shouldn't have a legal effect, but you can't tell her that you disagree with her and she only thinks that because she's in shock.

i'm really not sure what i think of this case. yes, he killed her. yes, it was brutal (although i notice no one has pointed out a murder that wasn't brutal). yes, he should be punished. but the logic i'm seeing here for strict punishment is not working for me. just because we want to leave some room for leniency with a twelve year old, we want to let all criminals go? hardly. that's why, theoretically, judges can give different sentences. there is a sliding scale. it's not death/life in prison or hey, go back to killing, sorry to bother you. i personally would tend to doubt that the murder was premeditated. awful, yes. unconscionable, yes. but premeditated? i guess maybe i just can't wrap my mind around that one.

what bothers me is the supposition that a twelve-year-old can't be rehabilitated. and no, i wouldn't want him around my kid. but nor would i want a rapist around my kid, even if he had been rehabilitated. and he still has the right to get out of prison. i think that life in prison is too much for this kid when from what The Media tells me, most murderers are out with parole in under 20 years (i can't back that up, and if i'm wrong, i won't be too surprised). yes, it's hard to trust in rehabilitation in these cases, but if we're not even going to try to rehabilitate, i'm not sure why our justice system is anything other than a retributive agent.

and for everyone trying to pull at the heartstrings by imagining the sounds the girl made as she died, you can go both ways and imagine this poor boy growing up in prison. yeah, there are a lot of juvenile offenders, but they usually get out pretty quickly when they're 12. imagine growing up in prison. i personally don't remember much from before i was 8 years old. imagine only having 4 years of memories of "normal" life. he absolutely deserves punishment, but the kid is very obviously emotionally disturbed. why not get him some help for that? with kids especially, change is possible. i think rehabilitation is possible. are you at all the same person you were at 12? i'm not. he should absolutely be punished, and far more severely than he would have been under the plea bargain. he should stay in juvenile detention for quite awhile. but he should have psychiatric help and a chance at parole if he becomes less of a sociopath.
posted by pikachulolita at 7:48 PM on March 9, 2001


Wow, those are some pretty harsh comments people. This is a tragic situation, but there has to be a time when we understand that just tossing someone in jail for the rest of their lives isn't getting close to the root of the issue. Why would a Twelve year old CHILD not be able to understand the reality of the act he was about to inflict on another human being? We live in a world that Lust's for violence. We pay to watch it, we play games designed around an opportunity to feel and see what it might be like to blow someone's head off? Who has given children the tools to separate what is real and what is play?
posted by poodle at 8:24 PM on March 9, 2001


Does anyone have any idea what this kid's motive for murder might have been? I mean, if this is really a first degree murder and not manslaughter or murder second or whatever, shouldn't he have had a clearly defined motive for murder? If it was an irrational spontaneous act, I find it hard to call it murder one. Unless someone can show that it was pure unbridled glee in killing someone that made him do it.
posted by donkeymon at 9:05 PM on March 9, 2001


The victims own mother is saying this sentence is too severe. If she can show some compassion, and understanding, why can't you, Dreama?

Because I reserve my compassion and understanding for people who deserve it and people who beat small children to death never make it onto that list.

You don't know what happened. You don't know that she cried, and begged for him to stop. You don't know how long it took to occur.

I've seen the list of injuries and the excerpts of the forensics reports. That level of damage was not inflicted quickly, nor without causing incredible pain. This wasn't two or three hits, this was several minutes of aggressive assault. I don't know anyone who doesn't cry out when being severely beaten, and I can't find any evidence to suggest that this small child was an exception.

Ever experienced the reaction of a six year old who has fallen and bumped their head? It sounds like the world has come to an end. How much moreso do you think that would be the case when a skull is fractured?

Even if this scenario started out as "playing" I find no reason to believe that he did not become aware that he was causing severe injury and that he chose not to stop. He crossed a line, and therein lay the heart of the matter.
posted by Dreama at 10:50 PM on March 9, 2001


So, Dreama...I see from your page that you are an attorney (or at least went to law school). Tell me, would you have prosecuted this kid for murder one? If so, would you have sought the death penalty? If not, why not?
posted by Optamystic at 1:39 AM on March 10, 2001


Even if this scenario started out as "playing" I find no reason to believe that he did not become aware that he was causing severe injury and that he chose not to stop.

It sounds like you have a reasonable doubt about whether he committed first-degree murder. Regardless of whether or not you feel compassion for Tate, don't you think people should be guilty of the crime they are convicted of?
posted by rcade at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2001


owillis: When "children" commit adult crimes, with full knowledge of the severity of what they've done - they should be tried as adults.

Well, that's the rub, isn't it: "with full knowledge of the severity of what they've done". The reason we even have separate systems of justice for children and adults is based on the assumption that children can't/don't grasp the severity of their actions, or the consequences of those actions. People are reacting to the horrific nature of the crime, not whether the boy actually comprehended the severity of his actions.

When I was 12, I stuck a firecracker in a frog's mouth. Sure, I "knew" it would hurt the frog--maybe even kill it. But I didn't realize until it happened how truly horrible an action it was. There was a huge gap between intellectually "knowing" what would happen, and understanding it on a deep level. After I did it (the frog was mortally wounded), it deeply disturbed me, and (obviously, as I'm mentioning it 18 years later) it made a huge impact on who I became in life. That's what we're dealing with here.

hal: taking into account [the mother's] emotional turmoil, right now I wouldn't expect her to be thinking too clearly.

that's the biggest load of BS i've heard in a long time. it's been two years since the crime. i think (hope) that, while the pain of losing my child so horribly would never go away, i would be able to think clearly enough by now to show some compassion to the boy. to assume that the woman is hysterical with grief, and her sympathy is somehow misplaced (simply because you think the kid should be screwed to the wall) is pretty simple-minded.
posted by jpoulos at 8:51 AM on March 10, 2001


Hmm, I don't really know on this one. I'd have to say blame the parents. First, they don't do the simple job of teaching their child that beating people to death is wrong. Second, they reject the offer from the prosecution. And now their kid is sentenced to life in prison.

I'm not ready to be as merciless as some - I don't want to say that this punishment is completely fair. But I don't really know a good way to solve this problem either. To say that "real" cold-blooded murderers have the chance to get out and thus this kid should too is the wrong way to approach it, if you ask me. We shouldn't be letting those people out either.

Times have changed, I think. A lot of you are underestimating the intelligence that 12 year old kids have. I know when I was 12 (barely 5 years ago), I perfectly understood that the things I saw on WWF Raw was fake, and that kind of treatment to anyone in real life was totally wrong. I probably wrestled with my friends for fun too, like many kids, but never ever even close to the point of actually beating one another. My peers and I weren't rocket scientists but we all understood (and had understood for a long time) the basic moral rights and wrongs. Killing = bad, sister screaming from pain = bad, sister bleeding from the head = bad. I find it hard to believe that this kid was clueless as to what he was actually doing. If he was, then you can only blame his parents or insanity.

I just saw the movie 15 Minutes last night - the new Robert DeNiro flick. It was interesting in how it pointed out the possible leniencies of our justice system.

This kid is messed up, and I would never want to cross his path, but life in prison may be a little harsh. It's hard to propose an alternative.
posted by swank6 at 4:12 PM on March 10, 2001


fusinski wrote:
When you kill someone, you no longer have the privilege of being a functioning member of society, regardless of how old you are, unless of course you kill someone in self defense or if it's some freakish accident (which obviously this was not).

It is too bad this logic does not apply also to our government. (p)resident Bush presided over many executions, none of which were freakish accidents, and all of which were cold-blooded and calculated...

posted by DragonBoy at 9:40 PM on March 10, 2001


« Older The gambler is everywhere!...  |  Vaccine Prevents AIDS in Monke... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments