AZ Police Want 8 Year Old Charged as Adult for Murder

An 8 year old boy in Arizona allegedly shot and killed his father and another man yesterday. Police want him charged as an adult.

As if an 8 year old has the mental capacity to understand the act of murder? It hasn't stopped Arizona prosecutors before:

Earlier this year in Arizona, prosecutors in Cochise County filed first-degree murder charges against a 12-year-old boy accused of killing his mother.

In the 8 year old's case, there are indications he may have been abused. Others say no reports are on records. Then, there's the interrogation of the boy. [More...]

Melnick said police obtained a confession but the boy’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brewer, said police overreached in questioning the boy without representation from a parent or attorney and did not advise him of his rights.

“They became very accusing early on in the interview,” Brewer said. “Two officers with guns at their side, it’s very scary for anybody, for sure an 8-year-old kid.”

The child has no prior history of violent behavior:

He had no record of any kind, not even a disciplinary record at school,” he said. “He has never been in trouble before.”

Can Arizona please get smart and leave this to the juvenile courts where it belongs?

Other thoughts on Arizona and prisons from this op-ed in May, 2008:

Arizona ranks with Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as having one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States, including particularly high rates of incarceration for women and minorities.

The same op-ed says the recidivism rate in AZ in 70%, largely because of lack of rehabilitative services.

Gov. Janet Napolitano's 2008-2009 proposed budget includes almost $1 billion for the annual expense of maintaining our adult and juvenile prison system. The state is also receiving bids for the construction of facilities to create 3,000 additional prison beds to ease prison overcrowding. The standard construction cost is $110,000 and up per bed.

Arizona, in 2003, had one of the highest rates of teen suicide (pdf) in the country.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, in my view, is another terrible potential choice for Attorney General. But I hope she has the sense and decency to weigh in for this 8 year old and stop the farce of trying to charge him as a adult.

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  • Display: Sort:
    how many children in the U.S. are (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by kempis on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 04:47:43 PM EST
    currently in adult prisons? Where can I find stats on this topic? I'm having my developmental English students write about the notion of "adult time for adult crime" and am grateful for any good background info. The little bit I've learned thus far has been pretty horrifying. Something like over 400 kids in Florida alone are incarcerated with adults? Can this be true?

    see this report (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 05:46:54 PM EST
    from March, 2007, it has what you are looking for.

    thank you! (none / 0) (#25)
    by kempis on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 05:22:22 AM EST
    I remember Arizone was (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by mg7505 on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 05:13:51 PM EST
    known for Miranda ... and now it's come to this. How frightening and despicable.

    Gee, when an 8yr old kid (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by nycstray on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 05:55:38 PM EST
    starts killing people 'out of the blue', seems the last thing we should be looking at is trying him as an adult. Seems like the immediate (and only) conversation should be what happened to the kid to cause this. I'm surprised at the jump to charging him as an adult right away. Scary and sad.

    This nasty trend (none / 0) (#14)
    by JamesTX on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:30:04 PM EST
    toward trying kids as adults is really making us look like animals. It needs to stop. It is a symptom of what is wrong with criminal justice reasoning in general -- Reagan conservatism gone mad. Children are not adults, and we are animals if we treat them as such, regardless of how angry their actions make us.

    This is telling . . . (none / 0) (#20)
    by nycstray on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 11:51:49 PM EST
    In a sign of the emotional and legal complexities of the case, police are pushing to have the boy tried as an adult even as they investigate possible abuse, Melnick said. If convicted as a minor, the boy could be sent to juvenile detention until he turns 18.


    WTF?! Hello! They have NO clue as to why he did it. Common sense and facts say there's something wrong with this picture. He's not some adult. He's a child and children don't do this. Period. We fear for children not because we think they will hurt us, but because someone will hurt them. The 2 most likely options here are abuse and/or psych issue. AARRGH!


    Yes, it is sad and scary (none / 0) (#21)
    by BrassTacks on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 12:03:25 AM EST
    An 8 year old kid probably doesn't fully understand what killing someone does.  He couldn't have pre meditated any crime.  At 8 years old, it's amazing he could shoot and kill someone.  And with a .22 no less!   Sounds impossible, unbelievable.  I am shocked that he's being held with adults!  

    Where is the child's mother?  

    This whole story sounds very fishy to me.  They need to get that child out of jail and get him some psychological help.  He will be devastated when he realizes that his dad is really gone.


    I wonder why Dad had full custody (none / 0) (#22)
    by nycstray on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 12:16:10 AM EST
    The mother is there now, from what I gathered in the reports. Apparently she visited the prior weekend and came back after this happened. I hope she has some good support to guide her through this. I can't imagine how her or the step-mom can deal with this situation and look out for his best interests. Especially with the cops pushing to try him as an adult while still investigating!

    So what none of these people who want (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by inclusiveheart on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 07:40:20 PM EST
    to lock these children up in the adult system can answer is what do we do with them when they get out after having been exposed to the most sinister elements of our society and have had ZERO help in addressing whatever it was that caused them to act out in the first place.

    What do we do with this kid when he gets out at age 28 or 33?  Hold his cell for him?

    Within the current jail system, he's not going to come out anything but worse than he went in.  He will have had no opportunity to have decent socialization that might actually ultimately make him a productive member of society.  All of this commentary is assuming that he actually did do what they say he did.

    What a horrible waste of a life.  Head in hands.

    These stories actually keep me up at night.  I don't fear what this kid has done or will become - I fear what we are doing to ourselves by almost ensuring that our worst fears about this kid will ultimately be fulfilled.

    He's been convicted already? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by nellre on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:32:55 PM EST
    Maybe he didn't do it at all. Has anybody thought of that?

    Have you not heard? (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by JamesTX on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:44:34 PM EST
    After the Reagan revolution, questions of fact regarding actual guilt are no longer relevant. The police have been instructed to arrest only guilty people so the courts are no longer burdened with such questions. It is much more fun, and gets much higher media ratings, to design and dole out punishments than to endure hypothetical arguments about innocence. With the current rate of media crime reporting, it would be an unreasonable burden on the system to actually entertain technical arguments about guilt and innocence of parties with annual incomes less than $750,000.

    outrage (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by txpublicdefender on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 11:41:09 AM EST
    This case is an absolute outrage and the actions of the police chief are as heinous as I have ever seen.  That guy needs to be fired immediately.  His handling of this case is beyond outrageous.  An 8-year-old child is not capable of forming the intent to commit premeditated murder.  This police chief needs to get his damn mug off of TV and do some real police work.  Then, he needs to let the people who know what the hell they're doing decide what to do with this child.  He's the police chief.  He doesn't get to decide what happens to this kid.  

    Interrogating an 8-year-old child whose father has just been killed without a parent or a lawyer present?  Who the hell does this guy think he is?

    I'm sorry this is such an angry rant, I am just so outraged by this, I hardly know what to say.

    PBS Frontline 'When Kids Get Life' (none / 0) (#6)
    by WS on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 05:59:51 PM EST
    Why did he shoot the friend (none / 0) (#7)
    by nyjets on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 06:46:18 PM EST
    One question that needs to be answered is why did he shoot the father's friends. I can understand that he might of shot his father because the father was abusing him. (Or shot the father's friend because he was abusing him and the father did nothing to stop it.)
    If the kid shot the friend for no reason whatsoever, maybe the kid should be tried as an adult. It is possible for an 8 year old kid to be evil.

    the other man shot (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 07:11:18 PM EST
    was a boarder in his father's house. Perhaps he abused the kid.  Regardless, no kid 8 years old is competent to stand trial as an adult. I doubt any 8 year old can understand the nature of the charges,  meaningfully assist his lawyer in his defense or engage in a reasoned choice of legal strategies.

    Regardless of why he did it (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by coigue on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 07:30:15 PM EST
    he should be tried as a child and given a psych eval.

    Absolutely not. (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by JamesTX on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:26:42 PM EST
    The nature of the crime is irrelevant. That is not the point. Whether or not a child is tried as an adult is not a question to be weighed on how heinous or brutal we think the crime is. That is conservative propaganda designed to distract us from the primary ethical principle. Children have neither the experience nor the mental capacity to understand their actions like adults do. It is time we start reversing this trend, and the first step is to stop dallying with this question of "it depends on how angry the crime makes me" and get back to fundamental ethical principles.

    Do they have advocates for youth (none / 0) (#11)
    by nycstray on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:03:04 PM EST
    offenders and their families? Kinda like patient advocates?

    Donald (none / 0) (#26)
    by DFLer on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:00:28 AM EST
    I was doing some research re Public defender cuts as per another diary here. One thing I found was the guardian ad litem system has also been impacted by state budget problems.

    (from 2003)

    Despite the longstanding mandates, according to Chief Justice Blatz's budget letter, "[t]oday 20 percent of the maltreated children in Minnesota still have no guardian ad litem and no effective voice in our courtrooms ... ." Additional state funds are needed to remedy this, and failure to meet the federal mandates "could result in the loss of significant federal funds."

    I'm not a lawyer. "Ad litem" is my newly learned phrase of the day.

    Also, there was a brief mention of this case is a news summary column in this morning's paper (Star Trib) from AP....no mention the eight year old being charged as an adult.


    You mentioned AZ's high incarceration rate (none / 0) (#12)
    by DFLer on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:03:42 PM EST
    How big is the prison industry in terms of $$$?

    If he did it, would he even realize what he did? (none / 0) (#17)
    by befuddledvoter on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 08:57:42 PM EST
    Would he think this was a game??  Does he really have a concept of death?  Would he be able to cognitively put this all together?  I don't mean pull the trigger but be able to appreciate that pulling the trigger may kill and that would mean that person would be dead?  

    Even with a child who is precocious, I think this is a lot for an 8 year old to understand.  

    Would a child this age be able to form the requisite intent as in deliberate premeditation?  I really doubt this.  I am not familiar with AZ law of murder but come on!!!!

    At his rate, a newborn will be charged as an adult (none / 0) (#18)
    by jumble on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 10:37:58 PM EST
    for manslaughter if his/her mother dies in childbirth within ten years.  Keep moving the line.  Younger and younger, then expand the crimes and there you are.  I am sickened by the life and pains this kid will have to endure when, one day, he understands the magnitude of what he just did.


    And the father taught the child (none / 0) (#19)
    by nycstray on Sat Nov 08, 2008 at 11:39:29 PM EST
    to use the gun.

    Ok, so because he's 8, he can be charged as an adult. I wonder how much he has matured since he was 7yrs and say 10mos? Even if this breaks down to something as "simple" as he was mad at daddy and his friend, I just don't see how he could understand the reality of what he did. "Premeditated" doesn't really mean much for kids his age, imo. I'd be really surprised if there wasn't a trigger (organic/psych or situational) though. Children get mad and act out, they don't generally shoot their parents. I hope this young boy gets help.

    Why, oh why, was he able to get to the gun. . . .

    i think they should (none / 0) (#23)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 03:40:46 AM EST
    try him as an adult (hey, he's 8, old enough to, um, do something) and, if found guilty, sentence him to death. the execution should be aired live, on public tv, during prime time. he should be dressed all in pink, and sheriff joe should be the one to push the plungers.

    by golly, that'll show the world we're tough on crime! think of the educational experience for the kids in the viewing audience.

    heck, forget lethal injection, hang him.