August 11, 1998The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
Two boys were convicted of murder charges in the Jonesboro school shootings, and earlier this week, two boys were accused of murdering an 11-year-old girl. How should the legal system handle these difficult cases? After this background report, a panel discusses the possible options.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
August 11, 1998:
A panel discusses the possible options for the juvenile justice system when dealing with youth accused of murder.
May 22, 1998:
Three experts debate recent rash of school shootings and other violence.
March 26, 1998:
Discussing the rise of youth violence.
March 25, 1998:
A shooting at an Arkansas school leaves 5 dead.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of youth.
SPENCER MICHELS: The two boys who went on a shooting rampage outside their Arkansas school last March were convicted and sentenced today in the murders of a teacher and four students.
Today was Mitchell Johnson's 14th birthday. Under Arkansas law, he and 12-year old Andrew Golden were tried in juvenile court--where a judge sentenced them to the state youth justice system, which will determine how long they will serve. They could be incarcerated until they are 21. Police say the boys lured their victims outside by pulling the fire alarm, then shot them from a wooded area near the school.
But juvenile criminal laws vary greatly from state to state. In Springfield, Oregon a 15-year-old boy who killed his parents and two of his classmates last May is being tried as an adult and could face life in prison. Kipland Kinkel sprayed a school cafeteria with gunfire after being suspended for having a gun in his locker.
Two Chicago boys face murder charges.
And this week, authorities in Chicago arraigned two of the youngest boys ever accused of murder. The boys, aged 7 and 8, have been accused of killing 11-year-old Ryan Harris. Police said the girl was sexually molested. The boys allegedly wanted the new bicycle the girl had been riding. According to Illinois law, because the boys are not yet 13, they cannot be tried as adults. If they are convicted, Illinois has no provision to incarcerate anyone under 10. On the judge's orders, the boys are being held at a psychiatric hospital for in-patient evaluation, while the state sorts out how to handle this unusual case. They could be made wards of the state and held until they are 21-but just where for such young children is unclear to authorities.
Police say the youngsters confessed to the crime after first claiming to have witnessed part of it. Their lawyers say questioning of the boys by police was done without parental consent, and the boys were never told they had the right to remain silent.
A increasingly tougher stand against juvenile crime.
According to the most recent Justice Department numbers, in the mid 90's about 3000 juveniles a year were charged with murder in the United States, triple the number from just a decade earlier. Between 1992 and 1995, 41 states toughened their laws to make it easier for children to be tried in adult criminal court.