One Life Lost, Another Ruined, and I’m Out of Hands

A twelve-year-old kills an 17-month-old toddler, allegedly because she was crying while he was trying to watch cartoons.

Normally I completely avoid stories like this. Ever since becoming a mother I cannot stand to watch or read news stories involving harm to children. It hurts me to my core.

This story, though, is all anyone is talking about here. It’s all over the news, the radio, the supermarket. Moms were talking about it when I dropped my son off at school, the people at the table next to us were discussing it, loudly, as my family and I shared a meal at a local restaurant.

So, I’ve been thinking about it.

On the one hand

On the one hand, should a twelve-year-old boy be charged as an adult for a crime like this? Can his brain have formulated the intent to kill? Did he understand that by beating Shaloh Joseph with a baseball bat she would likely die? Did he think that, like in many of the cartoons he is so fond of, death isn’t permanent? Was he just so indifferent to life that he didn’t care?

Should his life be over at twelve?

My mother’s heart says to try him as a juvenile, and give him a chance to have a life. I think of my own son, but just can’t imagine that he would ever do something like this.

I’ll bet his mother didn’t think so, either.

On the other hand

On the other hand, some crimes are so grave they go beyond what the juvenile courts can really address. We had a case a few years ago when another twelve-year-old, Lionel Tate, killed six-year-old Tiffany Eunick.  That boy was convicted as an adult. After an appeal he was released and given a second chance, which he blew within months. Lionel has been in trouble ever since, and is now back in jail.

On the other hand, Shaloh Joseph’s life is over after seventeen short months. Her little personality didn’t have a chance to fully develop. She’ll never go to school, ride a bicycle, get married. It’s over for her.

Over.

Can any punishment really bring justice?

A tragedy waiting to happen

The boy was alone with the girl and another child when this happened. The mother insists he wasn’t babysitting, but either way is a twelve-year-old child responsible enough to care for two younger children?

My sister and I stayed alone when we were eight and ten. We were latchkey kids – a common occurrence when we were growing up. Today parents get arrested for doing what our Mom did.

Still, I wonder how this could happen. I wonder if he’s saveable. And I wonder if he deserves that chance. I think of another case I commented on, involving a seven-year-old who was charged with a felony after a fight, and I wonder where he’s headed.

I wonder, and I worry.

And I’m glad I’m not the one whose hands his fate is in.

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4 Responses to “One Life Lost, Another Ruined, and I’m Out of Hands”

  1. Kayla Says:

    That is so so sad 😦

  2. scienceesl Says:

    This is such a sad commentary on todays world. I am with you and not sure how this should be handled.

  3. Kate Says:

    On the one hand, no, of course this 12-year-old isn’t capable of forming full-on criminal intent. On the other hand, 12 is old enough to understand the difference between words and actions, between frustration and rage, between life and death. How do you make someone respect human life, if they haven’t developed a healthy respect for it by age 12?

    Answer: you don’t. So you find a place to lock him away for the next many years, and then you reevaluate and see. Sometimes they can be released and live lives that, if not productive, are at least not harmful to others. Other times, you find a bigger lock.

  4. Lisa S. Says:

    I’m pretty firmly against the whole notion of trying juveniles as adults, especially for the more severe crimes. I can see exceptions being made for especially heinous crimes by 16 and 17 year olds, but I loathe the trend of seeing younger and younger kids being tried as adults. If these kids weren’t already broken, surely wringing them through the adult justice process is the final nail in that coffin.

    The juvenile justice system exists because of a belief in protecting children, and hopefully rehabilitating them. Sure, cases come along that might make us question that logic, or feel vengeful, but children are still children and are worthy of, at the very least, not being thrown to the wolves when they are 12 years old.


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