Friday, 29 July 2011

The "Seven Deadly Sins" can get a minor tried as an adult

by Allen Carter 
  http://bit.ly/ooiF4H
ALBANY, GA -- Sandra Cawthon is still pretty new on the job. She took over less than 3 months ago as the director of Albany's Regional Youth Development Center.
“They come in for anything to shoplifting to heinous crimes. It's just a variation of different crimes,” said Cawthon.
On Thursday she met up with the Gang Task Force, updating them on the efforts the center is making to rehabilitate teens in trouble with the law.
Typically the 30 bed facility houses juveniles for about a month.
“We encourage kids to do good behaviors, we encourage kids to follow the rules. We encourage kids to be respectful; we encourage our kids to just be kids that do the right things,” said Cawthon.
Law enforcement officers want juveniles to know, that committing a crime won't necessarily get them a free pass to the RYDC. If those crimes are serious enough they'll be tried as an adult and they could end up here, at the Dougherty County Jail.
“What they do not understand, when serious violent crimes are committed. It doesn't matter if your 13, 14, 16 male or female, you will not go to RYDC. You will go to the Dougherty County Jail,” said Brian Covington of the Albany Police Department Gang Unit.
“There are certain crimes we call the seven deadly sins. If a person is 13 years or older, if they commit any one of those crimes, which are the most serious violent felonies anyway, then they are automatically sent to the superior court to be tried as an adult,” said Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards.
Those seven crimes deemed the deadly sins are; murder, armed robbery with a gun, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, rape and voluntary manslaughter.
And those crimes could net some serious jail time, even for a child.
“For instance on armed robbery. That would be 10 years without parole. So that would be a mandatory minimum, and most of those offenses could go up to a life sentence,” said Edwards.
Officials say often adults will try to convince kids to do crimes like armed robbery, thinking the minor will get a lesser sentence. But if the juvenile gets tried as an adult, that just isn't the case.

Read more: Local, Crime, Sandra Cawthon, Regional Youth Development Center, Albany YDC, Minors being Tried as Adults, Kids being Tried as Adults, Teens being Tried as Adults, Dougherty County Jail, Brian Covington, Albany Police Department, APD, Albany Police Department Gang Unit, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards, DA Greg Edwards

Unmeasured Justice Study Reveals Shocking Stats on Measure 11's Racial Impact


OREGON'S MEASURE 11 turned 16 this spring, but a new study released last week reveals the unequal impact of the law.
The voter-approved mandatory minimums measure went into effect statewide in 1995 and revolutionized how Oregon's justice system works. The law hands down stiff mandatory sentences for certain property and violent crimes and tries juveniles over age 15 as adults.
Since it passed, Oregon's prison population has doubled to 14,000 inmates, and will cost $1.36 billion over the next two years. The measure has also cut back the role of judges: Over 90 percent of sentences for youths convicted of Measure 11 crimes are decided through plea deals with attorneys, rather than in a trial.
But that's old news. Here's what's new: An extensive study by the Campaign for Youth Justice and the Partnership for Safety and Justice of 3,274 juvenile Measure 11 cases shows that kids of color are more likely to be punished under the law, and often wrongly. See the charts for their major findings.
Governor John Kitzhaber's office pushed to reduce the role of mandatory minimums in the legislature this year. But the effort failed when bills that would have suspended the implementation of Measure 57, 2008's "tough on crime" act, never got to a vote in the legislature ["Tough Luck," News, June 23]. A law keeping kids out of adult jails before their pretrial hearings did pass, however.
Just this month, Governor Kitzhaber took another stab at reworking Oregon's justice system. He appointed former-Governor Ted Kulongoski to a commission that will look into reforming Oregon's sentencing laws.

Pointing to the past: Charging a child as an adult



http://www.actionnewsjax.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoid=2702853
by: Catherine Varnum
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a case that has divided Jacksonville. Should a 12-year-old boy be charged as an adult for the murder of his 2-year-old brother?

He looks like a little kid, but at 12 years old, Cristian Fernandez is facing serious adult charges in the murder of his brother. His case is drawing a lot of criticism from the community.

There have been protests from the Black Panther Party, and petitions asking State Attorney Angela Corey not to charge him as an adult are circulating. While Corey can't talk about the Fernandez case she says there are other cases they reference before making a decision. "We keep the Griffin case on the forefront of our minds," said Corey.

She's talking about Reggie Griffin. He was just 13-years-old when he helped his then girlfriend dump the body of another teenager she had murdered. Griffin was charged as a juvenile, under the former state attorney. "Those of us in homicide think yes he should've," said Corey when Action News asked if he should've been charged as an adult.

After spending just a short time in jail, two years later Griffin was in trouble again. "He had a gun, and decided to shoot at two police officers," said Corey.
    
Griffin was charged as an adult and is now serving a 30 year jail sentence,  but his case is one reason Corey says they take a hard look at all juvenile offenders who commit serious crimes. "The Griffin case is a lesson we all learned from," said Corey.

Action News did talk with former state attorney Harry Shorstein about Griffin's case, but he didn't remember the specifics. Shorstein did say he has volunteered to help with Cristian Fernandez's case. At 12-years-old, Fernandez is the youngest person to be charged as an adult with murder. He'll be in court again in September.

Murderer, 19, given 141-year sentence

http://t.co/8UG379S

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Before he was sentenced, Dennis Holt told the victim's family, "I didn't kill your loved one."
Before he was sentenced, Dennis Holt told the victim's family, "I didn't kill your loved one."
Dennis Holt was a juvenile when he participated in a string of armed robberies, one of which turned deadly.
His entire adult life will be spent behind bars.
Holt, 19, was sentenced yesterday to 141 years to life in prison by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard S. Sheward.
Holt looked a bit dazed and barely shook his head when Sheward asked if he had any comment after the sentence was announced.
With credit for the 843 days he has spent in jail, Holt would be eligible for parole after serving nearly 139 years.
Sheward didn't comment on the sentence during the hearing but said afterward that he was influenced by the number of victims of the armed robberies and concerns that Holt would be "a time bomb" if released.
"I don't think he should be on the streets. Period," the judge said.
It was the longest sentence imposed by Sheward since 2008, when he sent Richard Enyart to prison for 365 years to life. Enyart was convicted of raping at least six little girls in the basement of his North Side home.
Last month, a jury convicted Holt of murder in the death of Daud Osman, a cook who was shot at a Somali restaurant, as well as eight counts of aggravated robbery and eight counts of kidnapping in connection with four armed robberies in 2009.
It was Holt's second trial on the charges. The first ended in a mistrial when he filed lawsuits against both his attorney and the judge.
Although his accomplices told investigators that Holt shot Osman, the jury wasn't convinced that he was the triggerman, finding him guilty of murder rather than aggravated murder. Jurors also found him not guilty of one count of aggravated robbery because they didn't think prosecutors proved that he was the one who rifled through Osman's pockets after the shooting.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Basnett urged the judge to take that into consideration in sentencing Holt, who was 17 and living on Atwood Terrace in North Linden when the crimes were committed. A Juvenile Court judge transferred the case to adult court.
Before the sentence was imposed, Holt turned to Osman's friends and family in the courtroom and said, "It's sad that the family has to go through this, but I didn't do this. I didn't kill your loved one."
None of the family members or friends spoke in court or reacted to the sentence.
Assistant Prosecutor Jimmy Lowe asked for the maximum sentence, speaking of "the callousness" of the crimes in which gunmen burst into businesses and threatened to kill customers and employees.
Osman, 38, was shot in the chest when he grabbed a knife and chased one of the robbers from the kitchen of the Iftin Restaurant, 4191 Cleveland Ave., on March 12, 2009. The other robberies were committed at a Shell station on Hudson Street on March 7, a United Dairy Farmers in Whitehall on March 12, and a UDF on Karl Road on March 19.
The murder conviction carried a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life. Sheward also imposed the maximum sentence on the other counts and ruled that they must be served consecutively. He added six of a possible nine years for gun specifications, resulting in a combined sentence three years shy of the maximum.
The three co-defendants, all of whom reached plea agreements with prosecutors, received sentences ranging from eight to 23 years.
But prosecutors have filed a motion to void their deal with Carlos D. Cox, 21, who is serving the 23-year sentence, because he refused to testify during Holt's trial. If Sheward agrees during a hearing on Aug. 16, all of the counts against Cox, including aggravated murder, will be reinstated and he will face trial.
jfutty@dispatch.com

Monday, 25 July 2011

Woman interested in case of Jordan Brown


photo
Jordan Brown
By Mary Grzebieniak
news@vindy.com
http://t.co/UG1Ziwd via @vindicator 
NEW CASTLE, Pa.
With only weeks remaining until Jordan Brown’s next court hearing, the message boards and Internet web pages are buzzing about the case that has drawn national and international interest.
Jordan, now 13, is accused of two counts of homicide in the February 2009 murder of his father’s fianc e, Kenzie Houk, and his unborn half-brother in the farmhouse where Jordan lived. The case has languished for over two years while courts struggle to determine what to do with the boy who would be the youngest in this country ever to be sentenced to the mandatory life in prison if he is tried and convicted as an adult.
One of many people who have taken an interest in the case is a 33-year-old New Hampshire mother of two who has spent many hours researching Jordan’s case since learning about it in January.
Melissa Higgins of Merrimack, has established a website with detailed information about the case, and it can be accessed at http://www.justice4juveniles.com or at http://www.freejordanbrown.com. The website lists a recap of the case as well as links to related articles, and a link to a Facebook member page about Jordan she has established.
There are also links to other websites that include commentary about the case, court documents, a time line and a request to electronically sign a petition to the Pennsylvania attorney general asking him to “uphold his oath and recognize Jordan’s constitutional rights” including right to a speedy trial and the right against self-incrimination. The petition can be found at Change.org: http://www.change.org/petitions/justice-for-13-yr-old-jordan-brown-2.
Amnesty International also is raising questions about whether Jordan’s prosecution as an adult would violate international law. The website can be accessed at http://www.amnesty.org.
Higgins said she was drawn to the case by Jordan’s age, 11 at the time of the murder. Investigating further, she became convinced that Jordan could be innocent. She questions how thorough a job police did investigating the case and whether there aren’t other possibilities besides Jordan’s guilt. 
A writer for a digital magazine, Higgins even made and posted a short video about the case on the website. She said she is happy that an appeals court ruled Jordan’s consitutional right against self-incrimination was violated by the common pleas court ruling that he should be tried as adult because he was not amenable to rehabilitation since he had not admitted guilt. She pointed to the circumstances of his initial questioning by police without his father present and what she believes is sparse physical evidence as other factors that make her question Jordan’s guilt.
She commented that she would like to see a law enacted requiring that police questioning of juvenile suspects or witnesses be electronically recorded.
Regardless, she believes that even if Jordan is guilty, life in prison without the chance of parole is too harsh a penalty for a then 11-year-old. Although she believes Jordan is innocent, she said that if he is proved to be guilty, the juvenile-court penalty of imprisonment until age 21, is acceptable if he is placed in a program geared toward rehabilitation.
Evidently there are many who agree with Higgins. The petition has drawn 2,027 signatures from all over the United States and the world. A California resident posted on July 19, “It is shocking … that a minor who isn’t allowed to vote, isn’t allowed to drive and isn’t deemed to have the cognitive ability to enter into his own contracts is being tried as an adult.”
Higgins said that when she first put up the website, the reaction was mostly negative and against Jordan. She said some of the comments were “surprising” in the “hateful” sentiments they expressed toward the boy. However, she said the comments have been becoming more supportive of Jordan as she builds the website and adds more information to it.
She also believes Jordan’s rights have been violated by the length of time that he has been awaiting trial. She pointed out that when Jordan’s case finally comes to court, those who will judge him will see him as a 14-year-old, (he will turn 14 Aug. 30) not as the 11-year-old he was when the murder took place.
She wonders about a jury, too. “We are supposed to be judged by our peers,” she said. “Will Jordan be judged by children his age?”
Higgins said she will continue to follow the case and hopes to attend the Aug. 5 decertification hearing in common pleas court here that will determine again whether he will be tried as a juvenile or adult.

Please Show Support For Davontae Sanford



Please Show Support For Davontae Sanford & Family No Justice No Peace !

Free Sara Kruzan


                                                                     HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIM

                                                  


She was raised in Riverside by her abusive, drug-addicted mother. Sara met her father only three times in her life because he was in prison.

Since the age of 9, Sara suffered from severe depression for which she was hospitalized several times. At the age of 11, she met a 31-year-old man named G.G. who molested her and began grooming her to become a prostitute. At age 13, she began working as a child prostitute for G.G. and was repeatedly molested by him. At age 16, Sara was convicted of killing him. She was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life despite her background and a finding by the California Youth Authority that she was amendable to treatment offered in the juvenile system. This year after years of work by many parties Sara's sentence was commuted by Governor Schwarzenegger from Life in prison without the possibility of parole to 25 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole....and so our fight continues until Sara is served the justice and freedom that has eluded her throughout her entire life.


http://www.freesarakruzan.org
http://www.twitter.com/freesarakruzan

 
Kim Deanna - Advocate for Sara Kruzan - Best Friend

Sara Jessimy Kruzan (born January 8, 1978), convicted of first degree murder, is a victim of human trafficking and inmate of Central California Women's Facility, Chowchilla. In 1994, at the age of 16, she was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole after being convicted of murdering her alleged pimp, George Gilbert Howard. On January 2, 2011, Kruzan was granted clemency by outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who commuted her sentence to 25 years with the possibility of parole.

Early life

Kruzan grew up in Riverside, California with her drug addict mother, where she was an honor roll student at school. During her childhood she met her father only three times because he was serving long prison terms. Since the age of 9, Kruzan has suffered from severe depression, being hospitalized because of the condition on a number of occasions.
At the age of 11, she met 31 year old Howard, calling himself "G.G.", who, it is alleged, began grooming her for a life of prostitution. By the age of 13, Kruzan became a victim of human trafficking, forced to work as a child prostitute, and subjected to sexual abuse.

Murder of George Gilbert Howard

A week before the killing she had moved into a house in the Rubidoux area belonging to convicted felon and suspected drug dealer, James Earl Hamilton. Kruzan arranged to meet Howard on March 9 for a date and agreed to spend the night with him. On March 10, Kruzan shot Howard in the neck at close range in a room at the Dynasty Suites Motel. She then took $1,500 from his wallet, as well as the keys to his Jaguar car and went to meet Hamilton and her then boyfriend Johnny Otis in a local supermarket. Her identification card and purse had been left in the motel room and were later found by the chamber maid who discovered Howard's body. Kruzan told the police four days later and admitted her guilt on the defense stand. During her trial she told the court that she had killed Howard because Hamilton had ordered it and had threatened to kill both her and her mother if she did not carry out his orders.

Arrest and trial

Kruzan was arrested in Pomona on March 14 as a result, Defence Attorney, David Gunn, told the court, of information provided to the police by Hamilton. Neither Hamilton nor Otis were charged with the crime due to a lack of legally sufficient corroborating evidence to support Kruzan's statement.
After her arrest the District Attorney of Riverside County opted to ignore the pleas for extenuating circumstances surrounding Kruzan's actions, and sought to have her tried in an adult court for first degree murder. An evaluation by California Youth Authority concluded she was amenable to treatment in the juvenile justice system. However, a local judge, at the urging of the prosecutor, Tim Freer, transferred her to the adult court. In his closing arguments at her trial, Freer cautioned jurors not to be swayed by the appearance of an attractive, petite teenager who may not fit their image of a murderer.
On Thursday May 11, 1995, a Riverside Superior Court jury of seven women and five men found her guilty of First-Degree murder affirming two special circumstances - that Howard was murdered during a robbery, and that Kruzan had been lying in wait to kill him - to justify a no-parole life term. Judge J. Thompson Hanks described her crime as 'well thought out', stating that 'what is striking about this is the lack of moral scruple' before sentencing her to life without parole.

 Controversy

Some campaigning groups have suggested that Kruzan was suffering from Battered Person Syndrome, a physical and psychological condition that often results in victims of abuse murdering their abusers.[5] The US has been criticized by judicial reform groups, such as the National Center for Youth Law, for the frequency with which it sentences juveniles to life without parole, with Kruzan often mentioned as an example of the need for greater compassion. In February 2009, Human Rights Watch released a viral video featuring Kruzan on YouTube to highlight their campaign for a ban on sentences of life without parole for juveniles in California. Michelle Quann of change.org said that the state has the highest racial disparity rate in the US in this area of juvenile justice,[6] and in November 2010 change.org began a petition to then-current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant Kruzan clemency before leaving office. [7] In reaction to this case Democratic Senator, Leyland Yee of San Francisco stated, "Life without parole means absolutely no opportunity for release... It also means minors are often left without access to programs and rehabilitative services while in prison. This sentence was created for the worst of criminals that have no possibility of reform and it is not a humane way to handle children. While the crimes they committed caused undeniable suffering, these youth offenders are not the worst of the worst.

References -


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Liliana, Segura. "16-Year Old Got Life Without Parole for Killing Her Abusive Pimp -- Should Teens Be Condemned to Die in Jail?". www.alternet.org. http://www.alternet.org/rights/143635/16-year_old_got_life_without_parole_for_killing_her_abusive_pimp_--_should_teens_be_condemned_to_die_in_jail/. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  3. ^ a b c Kataoka, Mike. "Girl Sentenced to Life Term Without Parole for Killing". Newsbank. http://sarontay.com/Documents/sarakruzan.pdf. Retrieved 2010-02-03.[dead link]
  4. ^ Macallair, Daniel (2008-01-20). "U.S. among harshest for sentencing children - SFGate". articles.sfgate.com. http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-01-20/opinion/17151250_1_life-sentences-political-culture-harshest. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  5. ^ Kelley, Matt. "Life Without Parole Is Not The Answer". criminaljustice.change.org. http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/life_without_parole_is_not_the_answer. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  6. ^ Quann, Michelle. "Support Freedom Of Trafficking Victim Sara Kruzan". criminaljustice.change.org. http://criminaljustice.change.org/actions/view/support_freedom_of_trafficking_victim_sara_kruzan_2. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  7. ^ Kloer, Amanda. "Ask Gov. Schwarzenegger to Release Human Trafficking Victim Sara Kruzan with Time Served". change.org. http://www.change.org/petitions/view/ask_gov_schwarzenegger_to_release_human_trafficking_victim_sara_kruzan_with_time_served. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  8. ^ "Senator Leland Yee, Ph.D. -- New Life for Youth Sentencing Reform". dist08.casen.govoffice.com. http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=B_PR&SEC={EFA496BC-EDC8-4E38-9CC7-68D37AC03DFF}&DE={8E4B633D-0E22-4E48-912B-BBA8F52FCB3B}. Retrieved 2010-02-03.

External links


Friday, 22 July 2011

I killed my mom


After a life of abuse, Terry Payton, 16, is charged with murder

By Patrick Yeagle
 http://twitthis.com/99qyi9
 


By all accounts, Terry Payton is a quiet, shy 16-year-old with a brilliant mind and a penchant for Pokémon. Family, friends and neighbors in the Edgar County community of Paris say Terry is meek, eager to help and never says an ill word against anyone.

So it was a shock to them when Terry was arrested for allegedly murdering his mother, Kathie Payton, 53, on June 23.

“He’s a very quiet, gentle, intelligent, well-spoken laddy,” says Terry’s paternal grandmother, Maureen Lye, who flew to Illinois from England with her husband, Terry Lye, as soon as they heard about the incident. Maureen Lye says Terry is a straight-A student and three-time spelling bee winner.

“He’s not like other lads,” she says. “He doesn’t like fighting; there’s no violence in him. That’s what’s so surprising. It’s like we’re in a dream. That’s just not Terry.”

Terry Payton is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.




Allegations of abuse

There is a back story to this death, according to people who knew Terry and Kathie Payton. They say Kathie was an abusive alcoholic who constantly beat and humiliated Terry. If Terry did kill his mother, his family says, it was likely in self-defense. Now, Terry’s family, friends and community are rallying around him to provide a level of support they say he never had before.

Terence R. Payton lived with his mother in a Paris public housing development full of small brick duplexes. Terry has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism characterized by impairment in social interaction and restricted patterns of behavior, interests and activities. Neighbors recall that Kathie seldom left the house, instead sending Terry out to hang laundry, take out the trash and more. Though they rarely saw Kathie, they heard her often.

“She was drunk a lot, and she would scream at him all hours of the day and night,” says Valerie Scales, a neighbor who lives right across a common yard from Kathie and Terry’s apartment. “One-thirty in the morning, she’d still be screaming at him. I never heard him say anything to her, but I heard her screaming at him. I don’t know what it was about.”

Sandy Chapman, another neighbor who lives in the apartment building adjacent to the Paytons, reports hearing Kathie yelling at Terry numerous times in the two years that Chapman has lived there. Chapman says she and Kathie used to work and party together several years before they became neighbors.

“Kathie was a very heavy drinker,” Chapman says. “She drank Jim Beam by the gallon. She was very abusive to him. She drank and always cut him down, made him feel low-life. He acted like he was scared and afraid to open his mouth. He’s a good kid, but she verbally abused him a lot.”

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, says the abuse sometimes went beyond words.

“One day we saw her with him in a headlock, beating him on his head,” says the neighbor. “They fought a lot. He’s had the cops out here quite a few times, and they’ve never done anything about it. I thought he was a nice, polite kid.”

Several neighbors report seeing Kathie passed out drunk on the sidewalk, while Terry tried to pick her up and move her back inside. Kathie also locked Terry out of the house on multiple occasions, Scales notes.

Once, while Terry was locked out for a period of about a week, he stayed with neighbors Shanna and Kevin Lawrence. Shanna Lawrence recalls Kathie taking Terry’s birthday money, which was sent to him by his grandparents in England to pay for new clothes, to buy alcohol for herself.

“Even after she kicked him out, he never had anything bad to say about her,” Shanna Lawrence says. “I just hope he gets the help he needs.”

Terry’s father, Stephen Lye, lives in England. Lye says Kathie Payton often changed phone numbers to cut off contact between him and Terry. Money that Lye sent to Terry for school fees was used to change Terry’s last name from Lye to Payton, Stephen Lye says.

“This was extremely hurtful to both Terry and myself and was a coldhearted attempt to sever the bond between father and son,” Lye wrote to Illinois Times in an emailed statement. Lye says he tried to get Terry to come live with him in England after realizing the extent of the abuse he allegedly suffered, but Lye says Kathie wouldn’t sign the paperwork necessary for Terry to obtain a passport.

“It is breaking my heart that I cannot be with Terry at this time,” Lye says, adding that he is working in England to raise money for Terry’s defense. “Terry is, and will always remain, my clever, sensitive, loveable and wonderful son. No child should have to endure what my vulnerable son has had to cope with throughout his short life. We all look forward to the day, hopefully in the very near future, when it is recognized that Terry is the real victim here.”



“The system failed him.”

Sabrina Cooley, Terry’s 17-year-old half-sister with the same father, says Terry’s family, friends, neighbors and teachers called the police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services repeatedly in the months prior to Kathie’s death.

Staci Garzolini-Skelton, a counselor at Paris Cooperative High School, contacted DCFS after a phone conversation with Kathie, in which Kathie threatened to cut off Terry’s legs with an electric knife while he slept. Kathie also told the counselor that she would slit Terry’s throat if he stole her medicine. It’s unclear what kind of medicine Kathie may have been taking.

DCFS visited the Paytons’ apartment on at least two occasions in March and April this year, but Kathie refused to talk with DCFS caseworkers in person or over the phone. The caseworkers spoke only to Terry, who denied having been abused or threatened by Kathie, and DCFS concluded that Terry was in no danger.

Jakob Shumaker, one of Terry’s close friends, says he counseled Terry to seek help from authorities after Terry told him the full extent of the alleged abuse. Shumaker says Terry likely denied those same allegations when asked about them by DCFS caseworkers because “he was scared of his mom.” The repeated ineffective visits by police and DCFS caseworkers on Terry’s behalf show that “the system failed him,” Shumaker says.

“They took him back so many freaking times to her,” he says. “Of course, at some point, you’re going to be scared because you know you’re going to go straight back.”


“I’m a monster!”

Terry told police that he woke up around 10 a.m. on June 23 to find that Kathie had already begun drinking. He says his mother was mad at him for leaving the door unlocked the previous night, and the two began to argue. The fight lasted into the afternoon, and at around 1:30 p.m., Terry says he was pouring Kathie’s alcohol into the sink when she cornered him and threatened to kill him. Kathie reached for a knife, Terry told police, so he grabbed a different knife and stabbed her in the chest and neck seven times.

An autopsy later revealed that Kathie’s skull showed signs of head trauma, and in a second interview with police, Terry said that he had struck Kathie’s head on the kitchen floor several times before stabbing her.

In a series of text messages between Terry and Jakob Shumaker, Terry asks for help to make the body of his mother “disappear.” Illinois State Police investigator Lisa Crowder, the lead investigator in the case, read the texts aloud during a preliminary hearing on July 18, including one from Terry that said, “I killed el madre, need help making her disappear. I stabbed her seven times after mercilessly beating the shit out of her.”

After the stabbing, Terry also posted on his Facebook page, saying “I’m a monster!” Terry later turned himself in to police.


Investigation continues, but charges pending

The charges against Terry seem to have been filed even as the investigation into his mother’s death continues. Illinois Times spoke to five neighbors who lived in close proximity to Terry and Kathie Payton, only two of whom report having been contacted by police about the case. Those neighbors who have spoken to police were not asked about allegations of abuse, they say, but only whether they heard or saw anything unusual around the time of Kathie’s death.

During the preliminary hearing, Crowder, the ISP investigator, testified that she was not aware of the threats against Terry that Kathie had expressed to the school counselor. Crowder also said she had not received Terry’s school records or DCFS reports regarding Terry, and Edgar County Coroner William Templeton says results of tests for drugs and alcohol on Kathie’s body have not been returned. Her body has been cremated.

Terry’s attorney, Edgar County public defender Kaye Dent, declined to be interviewed by Illinois Times, but she questioned during the preliminary hearing whether there was a “thorough enough investigation” to file charges against Terry.

A woman who answered the phone at the office of Edgar County State’s Attorney Mark Isaf declined to comment, saying, “At this time, we’re not speaking to any media.”


Similar cases

This isn’t the first time a headline-grabbing murder case has happened in Paris. In 1986, newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoades were found murdered in their home, which had been set on fire. Two Paris residents, Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock, were convicted of the murders and later exonerated after both spent more than a decade in prison.

They say they were framed, and they are currently suing the City of Paris, former Edgar County State’s Attorney Michael McFatridge, and several former Illinois State Police troopers and officials for their roles in the wrongful convictions.

That case was the subject of Too Politically Sensitive, a 2009 book by former Illinois State Police investigator Michale Callahan, which details problems he found in the case against Steidl and Whitlock. Callahan was pulled off the case by his ISP superiors and told to stop investigating because it was “too politically sensitive.”

Meanwhile, a minor closer to Springfield has also been charged with murder in an unrelated case. An 11-year-old boy in Chandlerville, 30 miles northeast of Springfield, has been accused of murdering his mother, Brenda Schaad, 39. The minor, whose name has not been officially released, is charged with one count of first-degree murder.

Terry Payton’s case is scheduled for trial on Sept. 29. Mark Isaf has requested that Terry be tried as an adult, and the court has ordered that Terry see a psychiatrist to determine whether he is fit to stand trial. Terry has pleaded not guilty. He is being held at the Vermilion County Juvenile Detention Center in Danville.


Rallying supporters

Maureen Lye, Terry’s grandmother from England, says Terry felt alone because of bullying at school and cries for help that fell on deaf ears.

“All this time, Terry suffered cruelty, but nobody really cared,” Lye says. “They ignored it. … This had been going on for years, that he was totally ignored. The neighbors took him in and fed him, but the actual authorities – the system – failed him.”

But Terry is alone no longer. His case has sparked an outpouring of support in Paris and beyond – from family, friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers.

Angel Jarvis, a 38-year-old Paris native who now lives in Universal, Ind., organized a fundraiser picnic for Terry on July 16. Though she has never met Terry, she says his story resonated with her because her mother died when Angel was still young, and she had gotten in trouble with the law often.

“I know how this kid feels, with no one to turn to,” Jarvis says. “I thought ‘who is going to help this kid?’ It grabbed my soul, and I’ve poured myself into it.”

Terry’s family hands out laminated buttons imploring the wearer to “Please help Terry,” while friends on Facebook have created three separate support groups, two of which are raising money for his defense and one of which has more than 700 supporters.

Teri’s Threads, a T-shirt shop in Paris, has sold more than 40 “Support Terry” T-shirts for the Support Terry Payton Foundation, set up by Terry’s friends. Of the $20 cost per T-shirt, $12 goes toward Terry’s defense. Supporters have even created a website, TerryPayton.org, to share Terry’s story, collect donations and post updates.

“We’re not stopping the foundation,” Jakob Shumaker says. “This train’s going and it has no brakes.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

Prosecutors concerned about possible visit between Cristian Fernandez, mom Prosecutors worry about collusion in murder case against 12-year-old boy.

A 12-year-old boy charged with murdering his toddler half brother in a Jacksonville apartment might be allowed to visit with his mother.
But prosecutors are concerned about granting contact, because the mother also is in jail and the two are being tried separately for the 2-year-old's death.
Both Cristian Fernandez and his mother, Biannela Susana, were in court Thursday morning for pretrial hearings.
Fernandez is the youngest person in city history to be charged with first-degree murder. His mother is charged with manslaughter, because police say her negligence contributed to the death.
State child-welfare workers are trying to strip Susana's parental rights. The mother and son might be given a visitation as part of dependency proceedings, lawyers working on the criminal case said.
Prosecutor Mark Caliel said in court Thursday that he was concerned about collusion if the two were given a chance to meet. He said he didn't want them to have a chance to get a story together that would help them defend themselves.
The criminal and child dependency cases are subject to a gag order, meaning the lawyers are not allowed to answer reporters' questions after the hearings. Before the gag order, attorneys involved said the two would be kept apart due to those concerns.
The Public Defender's Office is trying to lift the gag order. Circuit Judge Mallory D. Cooper said she'd hear arguments at a later date.
No trial date has been set for Fernandez. His next pretrial hearing is Sept. 1.
He was being held in isolation at the Duval County jail until Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran had him transferred to a juvenile facility last month.
Caliel said as many as 35 witnesses are eligible to be called in Susana's case. Some would be expected to elaborate on medical evidence in the case.
Susana's next court date is Aug. 16.
david.hunt@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4025

Monday, 18 July 2011

From Filthy Boys Prison to New Beginnings: Hill Staffers Walk a Mile in Youthful Offenders' Shoes

http://t.co/gD3eayC via @aclu

Recently, the juvenile justice community organized a site visit to the Oak Hill Youth Center and the New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel, Maryland, for key congressional staffers and staff in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), including Melodee Hanes, the office's acting Deputy Administrator.
The tour began at the now-closed Oak Hill Youth Center in order to highlight the District of Columbia's previous approach to juvenile justice that relied on punitive measures and secure confinement as a response to juvenile crime. The group then toured the New Beginnings Youth Development Center, D.C.'s new juvenile correctional facility modeled after Missouri's approach to juvenile justice. The Missouri model has given juvenile detention a face-lift, housing residents in dormitory-like settings and creating a culture focused on rehabilitation as well as accountability.
As former public defender and current Georgetown Law School professor James Foreman Jr. noted, "For over two decades, the District's juvenile justice system was a source of shame. Rats and roaches infested Oak Hill, and a court-appointed monitor found snakes in hallways and in residents' beds. Youths assaulted staff, and staff assaulted youths. Drugs, alcohol and weapons were easy to find. Escapes were common."
In 1985 the Public Defender Services and ACLU sued Oak Hill for its poor services to youth in a case known as Jerry M. v. District of Columbia. Despitethe horrifying conditions of the Oak Hill facility and the vulnerability of its residents, more than a decade passed before the battle in the courts was won. Finally, in May 2009, Oak Hill was replaced with New Beginnings, whose name signaled a new chapter in the troubled history of juvenile justice.
Under the Missouri Model which inspired New Beginnings, officials realized that rehabilitation is one of the best means of protecting the public. The new approach does not abandon personal accountability, but instead adds to the meaning by ensuring that youth take responsibility for their offenses as well as their futures, by emphasizing the need to develop skills and make positive choices. As Professor Foreman states, "By teaching juvenile offenders to address their past misdeeds, to read and to imagine a future, the Missouri system prepares them to become productive, law-abiding citizens."
This common sense approach is working. Missouri has the lowest juvenile recidivism rate in the country.
Looking at the five rows of razor wire surrounding the perimeter of Oak Hill's campus, the message could not be more clear — what we had before was a training school for kids to become adult inmates. What we have now is a rehabilitative environment where troubled youth can let their guard down and work through the problems that led them to criminal activity.
Kids can and should be held accountable for their actions while being treated with dignity and respect. Teaching youth consequences does not mean that we have to leave compassion behind, and by integrating both we just might be able to raise youth who don't just obey the law and the rights of other people, but who truly respect them as well.
Learn more about juvenile justice: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Call and Email Day Campaign for Cristian

 
Wednesday, July 20 · 8:00am - 5:00pm

Location
Anywhere, as long as you have a phone or/and a computer

Created By

More Info
Cristian's next court appearance is July 21st. So on July 20th, let's flood Angela Corey's office with phone calls and emails, demanding Cristian be tried as a child!


State Attorney's Office 4th Judicial Circuit
Honorable Angela B. Corey
...State Attorney
220 East Bay Street, 6th Floor
Jacksonville, Florida 32202
Telephone: (904) 630-2400
Fax: (904) 630-1848
Email: acorey@coj.net
Region Number: 5





Cristian's Story:

Cristian Fernandez is a 12 year old child from Jacksonville, FL. He is being charged, as an adult, for the death of his 2 year old half-brother. If convicted of the first degree murder charge, he will receive a sentence of life in prison. If convicted as an adullt, he will become the youngest person ever to receive life in prison.


Cristian has had a difficult life. His mother, Biannela Susana, had him when she was only 12. Cristian's father has never been around, partly because he went to prison on sexual assault charges after impregnating Cristian's mother. Cristian and his young mother, went to foster care together when he was 2 and she was 14. According to his public defender, authorities had found 2 year old Cristian walking around dirty and naked outside a Florida motel while his grandmother, nursed a drug habit inside. Physical and sexual abuse are well-documented in Cristian's short life. In addition to the pattern of abuse and negligent, to which he has become accustom, last October his stepfather shot and killed himself in front of the family to avoid arrest on child abuse charges.



Since Cristian's arrest, he has been examined by two forensic psychologists who found him to be emotionally underdeveloped but essentially reformable, despite a tough life.



He is a child. He has the mind of a child. He should be tried as a child. Tell Florida, children are NOT adults. This child should not be thrown away in an adult prison. He can be saved. He can be reformed. He should have the oppourtinity to become a responsible adult, because he IS NOT one now.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

'Justicefor' Demarious Banyard


LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR A CRIME HE DID NOT COMMIT AT AGE 13.

DEMARIOUS BANYARD WAS WRONGLY CONVICTED OF CAPITAL MURDER FOR A CRIME HE DID NOT COMMIT AT THE AGE OF 13. HE IS CURRENTLY SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE IN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.

(Below written by EJI on March 30, 2010)

http://eji.org/eji/node/379

The Mississippi Supreme Court granted review to determine whether it is unconstitutional to sentence a 13-year-old child to life in prison without possibility of parole, and to address claims that Demarious Banyard's conviction was tainted by racial bias and illegal jury instructions. EJI represents Demarious and, in December, EJI attorneys asked the state's highest court to review the case, which raises serious constitutional questions about the reliability of Demarious's conviction and sentence.


(Below written by EJI on March, 15, 2010)

http://eji.org/eji/node/373

EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) Challenges 13-Year-Old Mississippi Child's Conviction and Sentence to Die in Prison

EJI is seeking to overturn the conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole imposed on 13-year-old Demarious Banyard through an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. EJI argues that Demarious's trial was infected by racial bias and illegal jury instructions that required him to prove his innocence, and that his mandatory sentence to die in prison is unconstitutional.

Thirteen-year-old Demarious was playing basketball at the Jackson, Mississippi, apartment complex where he lived with his mother and sisters when 19-year-old Dennis Ragsdale confronted him, put a gun into his hand, and walked him over to the car of a pizza delivery man who Ragsdale intended to rob. When the driver did not give over money as Ragsdale demanded, Demarious handed the gun back to Ragsdale and it went off, fatally shooting the driver.

Demarious was convicted in adult court and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Because the sentence was mandatory, the judge could not consider Demarious's extremely young age, hear any mitigating evidence about his background, or consider that Dennis Ragsdale – an adult who had beaten Demarious –instigated the offense, forced Demarious to participate, and nonetheless was sentenced to a parole-eligible term.

Demarious is the only 13-year-old in Mississippi sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, and only eight other people in the world are condemned to die in prison for a crime at age 13. All but one of the nine 13-year-olds are children of color.

One of the nine is Joe Sullivan, an EJI client whose case challenging life-without-parole sentences imposed on young teens is pending before the United States Supreme Court.

EJI lawyers have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to review Demarious's conviction, which was tainted by racial bias and illegal jury instructions. During jury selection for his trial, the State insisted, and the judge agreed, that a certain number of white people remain on the jury.

An Update on Blade Reed..

by Steve Sydebotham 
I am working on getting the Writ of Habeas Corpus written, so we can get Blade back into court. That will take a little time, as, even at a reduced rate, the attorneys/paralegals writing it, will be spending many hours going over all of Blade's court transcripts (from juvenile and adult court), then writing the strongest worded document possible. So, I have to start raising funds again. I used to worry about funds being raised, but, I've realized that it's in Gods hands, and it will happen, it will just take time. I get frustrated when things don't go right, but I've come to terms with that, as were on God's timetable, not mine .

The guards have been pushing Blade's buttons again, trying to get a rise out of him, plus some of the other inmates have been doing the same too. He got into a verbal altercation with a guard a few days ago, plus was in a fight with another inmate after the other kid made a sexual reference, which upset Blade. He was placed in lockdown for 3 days, and the other kid was removed from the wing. With these things continuing to happen, that's why I get annoyed and upset, as, WVCF is not where Blade should be, and when I can't move the mountains immediately, I feel like I'm not giving him my all. I know that's not the case, but sometimes it sure feels that way.


For those of you who would like to help, please contact me via private message, or, you may send a check or M.O. made out to Blade Reed-Minor-UGMA. On the back of the document, please put for deposit only acct# 2121278267
Blade Reed Trust Fund 
C/O Ally Bank 
P.O. Box 13625
Philadelphia, PA 19101


Thanks to all of you for supporting Blade, and giving him HOPE! 









 
Blade Reed-Now I lay me down to sleep.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Juvenile dies while in detention, mother speaks out

Family suspects something went wrong

By: Rochelle Ritchie
http://t.co/I8mjmWe
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - She was supposed to be preparing for his homecoming, but now a mother is making funeral preparations for her son who died at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

The family of 18-year-old Eric Perez says he was a troubled teen, but was beginning to turn his life around. Now suddenly that life is over, just as he was set to be released from juvenile detention.

"What happened to my son, that's what I want to know," says Maritza Perez, the boy's mother.

"It hurts, it hurts, I mean I can't really explain it," says Carlos Perez, a family member.

Maritza Perez says her son, Eric, had just celebrated his 18th birthday and Monday he was found dead in his cell.

"At first when I found out I wanted to go with him. I'm not going to lie, I wanted to kill myself but I have 3 more kids," says Maritza Perez.

Perez says detectives told her that her son had breathing problems and that other officials indicated he died of a "sudden illness."

"He had no asthma, no trouble breathing. This the first time I hear of this," she says.

Family members suspect something else went wrong. They don't know what, but they are seeking the truth.

"They told me Eric had an enlarged heart and he had bleeding in his brain," says his aunt. "I just don't understand how a 17-year-old goes to sleep and wakes up dead."

"You could expect that from an elderly [person], but not a healthy 17-year-old. It's something more to the story than they're saying," says David Perez.

Perez's mother says she spoke with her son just hours before he was found dead, and he was excited about going into a Job Corps. program; a program he said would change his life.

"He wanted to go there he wanted to work he just wanted to change his life," recalls Maritza.

She says the family won't rest until they are satisfied all their questions have been answered.

"The money is not going to bring my son back I just want them to pay for what they did," Maritza said.

An investigation has been launched into how the teen died.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

This is urgent in nature. To all off those who support Blade Reed,



I have been working extremely hard in trying to find an individual who is able to write a Writ of Habeas Corpus for Blade, so that we can get him back into court, and possibly end this tragic situation for him. I have found the individual who is an attorney, who has paralegal staff who will research and write a Writ for us to submit to the Brown County, Indiana court. This individual/Paralegal staff will require around 40 to 50 hours of time to research and write the document, in proper wording and strength, as to make a difference in court. I have been given a special deal of $40 an hour to complete this. The total cost capped at $2000


I need backers, who are willing to help in this endeavor. I need to raise $1500 for this. This is not a shot in the dark, as a large portion of the Habeas Corpus petitions are. I have been assured we stand a very strong chance of getting Blade either released all together, or transferred to a juvenile facility, discreetly, until age 18, then released. We have an opportunity, to change Blade's life, and give him back his precious freedom. It's within our grasp.


For those of you who feel inclined to help, please contact me at ssteven561@!msn.com or If you would like to make a donation by check or money order ...


Please make them payable to: Blade Reed - minor UGMA On the back of your check please write "for deposit only" acct# 2121278267 and mail to:


Blade Reed Trust Fund

C/O Ally Bank

P.O. Box 13625

Philadelphia, PA 19101




Thank You so much for caring!!


Stephen Sydebotham

http://www.facebook.com/l/mAQDDOXOwAQB2eNCMBiPyjv0XM03lwFuSOS1Va0V7xAx3sw/believing-in-blade.org

Juvenile justice system fails some American teens


The United States Supreme Court is considering changing its laws for juvenile criminals. Right now the U.S. is one of the only countries where juveniles can be given a life sentence without the chance of parole if they're convicted of certain crimes. Many non-profit groups like the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana say that conditions in juvenile detention centers in the U.S. are horrendous and don't help juvenile offenders get better. Louisiana has the highest number of kids getting locked up in the country, most are poor and black.

Juvenile Justice Administration Project - Should Juveniles be waivered t...


Instead of writing a 5-page analytical research paper...

Juvenile Justice Jeopardy


"Juvenile Justice Jeopardy"™—a game created by Strategies for Youth (www.strategiesforyouth.org/)—is aimed at teaching teens the workings of the juvenile justice system, their rights and obligations, what happens in police/youth interactions and how to interact with officers respectfully and avoid confrontations. JJJ offers teens an opportunity to explore what they think they know about the juvenile justice system and how the media portrays teen violence and criminality to them—and how much they believe it. The game can be adjusted to state law.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Shannon’s Story




 http://bit.ly/nDsN2V

Shannon reflects on what might have made a difference and reminds us that even self-confessed ‘bad boys’ can turn their lives around. Shannon’s story begs the question – did locking Shannon up in juvenile justice make a positive difference or did it just set him back?
I can’t think of what might have made a difference for me. If I’d had a father around, that might’ve made a difference. Who knows? And maybe if I’d been educated, if I stayed in one school instead of being in five different schools in a year? Maybe I would’ve been all right.
I started drugs and alcohol at a young age: nothing heavy, mainly marijuana. I moved out of my mother’s house when I was thirteen and I was staying everywhere and anywhere. Mum tried her hardest but she’s only one woman. She was a single mother trying to raise a bad boy. She couldn’t be my mother and my father at the same time and I took that out on her every day. I couldn’t understand why she was always moving us, why we were in and out of refuges, why she was always running from Dad. I didn’t know what was going on behind closed doors.
I was thirteen when I first served a sentence in a juvenile justice centre. I’d got into a bit of a fight with a bloke at the back of the pub. Stayed in juvie nine months and after that, it was just a flurry of crimes from start to finish. I was everlasting on parole with juvenile justice: just re-offending and re-offending. I did bad things but nothing real bad, you know: not stabbing people or hurting nobody. Nothing like that. The last time was mainly driving unlicensed. (I’m mad on cars, I love them).
I would’ve been about seventeen when I first went to Doorways. I had nowhere to go: I had nothing. That was the first time I ever asked anybody for help. They’re nice people, beautiful people. They got me a job out at Fletchers, the abattoirs and got me a house. I done everything right for a while: they got me in anger management counselling because I’ve got a problem with anger. And they got me relationship counselling.
In those days, I’d come in to Doorways and help out. Like they’d ring me up and say ‘We need help with a barbeque today’ so I’d come around and cook and they’d send me home with a heap of food and a couple of food vouchers and I’d be right. And then…I don’t know, I slipped back. My missus left me.  We got into a big row and she took my son and that was it, I ended up doing two years back in Wello, the big man’s jail.
My mother has been there for me my whole life. She was there for me when I was in jail and out of jail. I stopped the way I was going because she started getting sick and I thought, ‘That’s because of me, stressing her all them years.’ When I got out, I went back to live with her for a long time until I got back with my ex. And now my Mum’s doing good.
I’ve been clean and sober since then, a year and a half, and it’s time to get on with my life. I couldn’t read or write but now I’ve done a literacy and numeracy course and like, I can’t read properly but I can read the paper and read everyday things. And I can surely tell you how much I get paid every week and how they’re taxing me. I’ve got a full time job as a boner, back at the abattoirs and I’ve got to just keep going.
I’m twenty five now and so I can’t come to Doorways anymore. Too old! But I still drop in and they always ask me if I’m right, if I need anything. I live close by and I walk past every day and they’ll stand there and have a yarn.
I’ve been blaming the police and the court system for years and then I realised it’s not them, it’s me. I’m the person who makes the choices. I’m the person who went out there to kick that car over and drive around the block and get caught, just for a drink or a smoke, you know? Goes way back to the family and the environment kids grow up in. Whether they’re shown the right way: whether they’re given what they need.
My little boy makes all the difference now: he’s a beautiful kid. I need to get a house for him. He’s only five now but hopefully by the time he’s ten or eleven, he’ll have his house. He’ll own his own house. I’m on the straight and narrow and this is where I’ll stay this time. I’ve got to muscle up and be a man… for him.
Shannon’s story shows that how easily young people having a hard time can end up in trouble. To reduce the number of young people ‘just re-offending and re-offending’ it’s time to redirect resources away from detention, and into prevention and early intervention.
A good first step in making change in juvenile justice is the current review of the Bail Act in NSW. Join our advocacy community to support Burnside’s submission.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Teens and Children Twice as Likely to Falsely Confess to Crimes When Questioned

by JOSHUA TEPFER J.D.
 http://bit.ly/p75DCC
 
juvenile-justice-system_teen-with-head-in-her-hands
















The requirement that law enforcement must issue Miranda warnings to suspects in custody prior to interrogating them is well-understood and ingrained in our culture. The question of when a suspect is in custody, however, is less straightforward.
On June 16, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of J.D.B. v. North Carolina, holding that law enforcement must consider a suspect’s age in the Miranda custody calculus. As was the reality in almost 20% of its cases this term, the court was split 5-4. The majority, led by Justice Sotomayor saw no reason to ignore the “commonsense reality” that children may feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult would not. Justice Alito’s dissent was guided by the principle that law enforcement needs the clarity of a bright line rule.  
The majority and dissent did agree on one important point: juveniles are significantly more likely than adults to succumb to the intense pressure of custodial interrogations by making involuntary and false confessions.
Indeed, Justice Sotomayor noted “the heightened risk of false confessions from youth,” while Justice Alito would “not dispute that many suspects who are under 18 will be more susceptible to police pressure than the average adult.” For a court that so rarely agrees on anything, the recognition that custodial interrogation can cause juveniles to confess at an increased rate should not be overlooked.
Custodial interrogation is a systematic, intense process designed to persuade the accused that it would be in their best interest to confess. The process can be so powerful that, even when the police use these tactics on innocent suspects, it may result in a confession. Studies demonstrate that false confessions play a role in anywhere from 15-25% of wrongful convictions. When parsing the date more closely, it is revealed that false confessions are almost twice as likely when the wrongfully convicted was a teenager or child.
Two cases currently playing out in Illinois illustrate the problem of false confessions from youth. Five teenagers in the Englewood section of Chicago confessed to a brutal murder and rape of a prostitute in November 1994. Recent DNA testing has revealed, however, that the true perpetrator of this heinous crime is a serial murderer named Johnny Douglas.
And just two years earlier and several miles further south in Dixmoor, IL, three young teenagers falsely confessed to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. Their false confessions, which resulted in not only their convictions but those of two other teenagers, allowed the true killer –- a 32-year-old convicted rapist and armed robber named Willie Randolph –- to continue to walk the streets for the last twenty years, during which time he committed at least half a dozen other felonies. (To learn more about the Englewood Five and Dixmoor Five, see www.cwcy.org.)
The best way to prevent false confessions from juveniles is to assure they have counsel during interrogation. As recognized by many commentators, the J.D.B. decision may do little to curb interrogations of juveniles, as studies continue to show that juveniles lack the ability to understand or invoke their Miranda rights.
The best practice, therefore, is to not give kids the choice and require the presence of counsel. Short of that, law enforcement must videotape interviews and interrogations of all children from start to finish. Transparency in the entire process is the only way courts can be reasonably expected to evaluate truth from fiction.