Children under 18 years old are committing more and more major criminal offenses, and video games like Grand Theft Auto cannot be to blame. On October 11, 2013, an 11 year old boy in Washington state was found guilty of conspiring to commit murder against a 10 year old girl. His reason for planning to stab the 10 year old girl to death? Because he found her to be “really annoying.” The judge in the case called it the most serious case he had ever come across in his career. Defense counsel attempted to present evidence that the boy could not separate fact and reality from fantasy, a theory which was ultimately rejected by the judge. However, they were able to successfully present some evidence that the boy suffered from bipolar disorder. Still, the fifth grader was ultimately found guilty of the crime and acquitted of criminal tampering. He was tried as a juvenile because of his very young age and faces sentencing in early November 2013.
Even closer to home, juvenile Macyo January is accused of committing a string of burglaries throughout Colorado Springs and El Paso County in Colorado, and during one bust he unexpectedly came across homeowners, a young newlywed couple, and allegedly murdered them. Evidence presented in pretrial proceedings revealed that the wife, Whitney Butler was pregnant when she was shot in her head and killed as she kneeled over her dying husband, David Dunlap in a scene and image that will be forever etched into the minds of jurors, should the case go to a jury trial. While January could have been tried in juvenile court because of his age at the time of crime, a judge determined that he would be tried for murder as an adult. Courts may consider several factors in determining whether a Colorado juvenile will be tried in juvenile court or adult felony court, including the severity of the crime, how close a child is to the age of 18 at the time of the offense, and the child’s mental capacity or emotional maturity. In the case of January, he was four month’s short of turning 18 when he committed the offense and documents from the Division of Youth Corrections in Colorado reveal that Macyo January self-reported that he would have no problem committing murder if he “knew he could get away with it.”
Cases like this are certainly alarming, and for the most part, prosecutors do not feel overwhelming senses of victory when a very serious case involving a child ends. In cases of conviction victims and their families may feel that some justice was served, but overall there are larger societal and cultural concerns at play. Whether its a serious case or a minor juvenile offense, consider consulting an attorney with experience in Juvenile Court before you commit to any plea agreement. Attorney Marika Frady in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has years of experience handling juvenile court cases, including misdemeanors, felonies and sexual offenses. She also spent two years as the deputy district attorney in charge of determining which charges to file in the approximately 1500 cases submitted by law enforcement agencies annually. While the juvenile court system in Colorado is designed to mimic the penalties and procedures of the adult justice system, there are key differences that you need to know and scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer is the fastest way to get those answers.