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.
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.