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by Peter Moskos

February 23, 2009

11-year-old kills family

What do you do with an 11-year-old murderer? Really. I have no idea.

Here's an excerpt of the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Jordan Brown, a fifth-grader from New Beaver, Lawrence County, allegedly killed his father's pregnant girlfriend, Kenzie Marie Houk, 26. Police say he used the child-sized 20-gauge hunting shotgun his father, Chris, had given him for Christmas. Ms. Houk, who was due to deliver a son in a couple of weeks, was shot while lying on her bed in the family's two-story farmhouse near New Castle. Her body was found by her 4-year-old daughter, Adalynn.

Mr. Bongivengo described the killing as "premeditated and cold-blooded." He said Jordan shot his future stepmother, put the shotgun back in his bedroom, got rid of the spent shell casing and rode the bus to Mohawk Elementary School with Ms. Houk's 7-year-old daughter, Jenessa. Jordan's father was at work at a local factory at the time of the killing.

The whole store is here. What do you now do with the kid? I don't know. Any ideas?

Of course, for starters, not giving your 11-year-old a child-sized 20-gauge hunting shotgun comes to mind! Oh, snap! Yes, I did go there. Sorry, it doesn't answer the question, but it needed to be said. Am I back sounding like a two-bit commie gun-hating liberal again?

Next year little Jordan is getting a lump of coal for Christmas, that's for sure.

3 comments:

tim said...

I'm noncommittal about the gun issue. I do have to ask about the idea of charging him as an adult. Go with me here:

1. Why do we have a juvenile justice system separate from the "adult" system? I'm not the one with a criminology background, but I presume (given the majority opinion in Roper v. Simmons) that there is an assumed truth that juveniles are less capable of foreseeing the consequences of a given action than adults, and thus we hold them to a lower standard of rational behavior than adults.

2. Murder is the most irrational (or, put better, most contrary to established standards of human behavior) action a human being can commit.

3. Thus, by syllogism, a human being already assumed to be less-than-fully-capable of rational decisionmaking who then commits an irrational decision should be punished with these assumptions in mind. Yet our justice system is more likely to sentence a child who commits a crime as if he/she were a "rational" adult the more heinous or "irrational" their crime.

This contradiction has bothered me since I was myself a juvenile. It is impossible to form a logical argument that there should be a separate juvenile justice system if you are going to then argue 11-year-olds who commit murder should be charged as adults. If you argue that children are fully capable of understanding the implications of any given action (i.e. that children ought to be able to be charged as adults) then you MUST support extending the other rights of adults to children (the right to vote, the right to drink alcohol, etc). Choosing to vote or drink is far more rational a decision than that to murder another human being.

PCM said...

I think we have a juvenile justice system because we want to believe that kids are different and should be held to lower standards of rational behavior.

We want to believe that criminal tendencies can be "cured."

But these beliefs come largely from failed 19th-century ideas--the same ideas that gave us prison in the first place.

Deep down I think we know that we don't have answers. And kids can be just as "bad" as adults.

I think the only argument that really works in favor of a juvie system comes from the possible benefits in keeping a person (any person, but particularly a young person) out of the adult system.

It's not like the juvie system is much better, but by not labeling somebody a felon there a chance (albeit a small chance) that they might be able to get a job and live a somewhat normal life.

If it were up to me, I'd keep a juvie system, but lower the age, perhaps to 14 or 15.

But this still doesn't answer what to do with an 11-year-old murderer.

DJK said...

"Of course, for starters, not giving your 11-year-old a child-sized 20-gauge hunting shotgun comes to mind! Oh, snap! Yes, I did go there. Sorry, it doesn't answer the question, but it needed to be said. Am I back sounding like a two-bit commie gun-hating liberal again?"

Not exactly. This actually makes sense. I have no problem with buying a child a shotgun to take hunting with me. But, when we're not hunting, it should remain my my custody, not my child's.

AT LEAST keep the ammo away from him. He might want to shoot the birds from the wire in the front yard or ......kill the family.