As we mentioned in our Sept. 10 blog post on Michigan’s juvenile court system, when a serious crime is involved, prosecutors can win the right to charge a minor as an adult. This sometimes leads to young children being convicted with crimes like homicide, as happened to a 13-year-old Michigan boy earlier this month.
The boy, who was convicted of killing another boy with a knife when he was 12, is believed to be the youngest person ever convicted of murder in Kent County. WKRN-TV reports that he will be held in a juvenile facility until he is 18, at which point a judge will decide whether to impose an additional sentence in adult prison or set him free.
During trial, the boy’s defense attorney argued that his client has a mental illness, perhaps due in part to abuse at the hands of his mother and stepfather. His stepfather has been convicted of child abuse, and his mother is currently awaiting trial on similar charges. Expert testimony suggested that the boy picked the victim out at random specifically so that he, the defendant, would be convicted and sentenced to the death penalty. He reportedly has attempted suicide several times since being taken into juvenile detention.
But the jury rejected the boy’s insanity defense, failing to agree that he even has an illness.
In terrible cases like this one, there are likely no winners, no matter the verdict. This result shows that, in some cases, the law may not take the age of an accused child into consideration. A child charged with a serious crime needs an attorney to defend his or her rights and determine a legal strategy.