Prosecutor Mia Quinn faces a controversial, difficult decision in the opening pages of “A Deadly Business”. She’s confronted with the case of three fifteen-year-old boys who are horsing around on a pedestrian bridge with a shopping cart. In a matter of seconds, all harmless games turn into a dangerous circumstance: the boys lift the cart up on the bridge’s railing, it balances briefly, and then falls four stories and hits a female passerby below, sending her into a medically induced coma and nearly ending her life.
The completely innocent victim is severely injured and in a life threatening condition due to the boys’ mindless actions. At the same time, it is argued that the boys didn’t understand the consequences of their actions or know any better, as they hail from a crime-ridden community. Mia learns that the boys come from impoverished, severely troubled families and have been raised in a school system without much order or attention to their wellbeing.
As a prosecutor for the case, Mia must decide if the boys should be tried as adults or juveniles. Should the boys be tried as juveniles who did not understand the reality of their horrific actions, or as adults who had knowledge of what they were doing?
The topic of trying children as adults as opposed to juveniles has recently generated conversation on where the line should be drawn. In a recent Wisconsin case, two young girls lured a twelve-year-old female into the woods and stabbed her nineteen times, in an effort to impress a violent, fictional character named Slenderman. A vicious, faceless figure created in an online forum, Slenderman is known to stalk and haunt children.
The suspects have been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and will be tried as adults. Wisconsin, the state where the crime took place, is one of the harshest states when it comes to punishing children the same as adults. A 1995 state law requires prosecutors to file adult charges in homicide or attempted homicide cases if the child is at least ten. Many other states have similar laws, but with a minimum age of thirteen for adult charges.
Deciding to try a child as an adult versus as a juvenile is neither a clear-cut decision nor one that should be made lightly. The juvenile court system functions around the idea that children are developmentally different than adults, with rehabilitation, community protection, and therapy as the main objectives. Restrictions are placed on public access to juvenile records, and offenders face hearings rather than trials to incorporate the accused’s social background in a more wholesome review. The ultimate hope is for successful rehabilitation and integration into society, through a more individualized set of programs and treatments.
Alternatively, the criminal justice system does not see rehabilitation as a central goal. Criminal punishments are established to be equal in scope to the crime committed and defendants are put on trials, which are primarily based on evidence and legal facts. Offenders tried in court as adults are declared innocent or guilty, and then sentenced for designated periods of time. Children declared guilty when tried as adults face much harsher criminal punishments, and do not receive the same rehabilitative attention as juvenile delinquents.
Along the lines of what Mia believes in “A Deadly Business”, some kids really deserve to be treated as adults because a certain crime (or crimes) is so heinous. However, the decision must be made with heavy consideration of the circumstances, crime in question, and children involved, since placing a child in an adult correctional facility could very well ruin the youth’s chances of returning to a normal life.
What do you think of the decision Mia must confront – how should the three boys be tried?
Pick up your copy of “A Deadly Business” today to learn more about the challenges Mia faces.