Until recently he was the presiding judge of the Juvenile Court of Santa Clara
County, a division of the California Superior Court and presided over Shawn's
case. He heard between 300 and 350 cases a month.
Why should we treat a 14 year old offender differently than a 24 year old
It depends on many, many circumstances. But very generally, the 14-year-old
does not have the level of maturity, thought process, decision-making,
experience, or wisdom that a 24-year-old presumably has.
Secondly, a 14-year-old is still growing, may not appreciate the consequences
of that type of behavior, and is susceptible to change, at least to a higher
degree than a 24-year-old is. . . . I think we have a real shot at trying to
straighten out the 14-year-old, and even the people who are a little bit
hard-nosed in the system, such as your average prosecutor, will sometimes
grudgingly admit that, with a 14-year-old, given the proper level of
accountability and the proper types of programs to change their behavior, we
have a chance at salvaging these kids.
But with a 24-year-old, I think the whole consensus of opinion is, "You've had
your chance, you're now an adult, you've made a bad decision, you've hurt
somebody, you've done it. Now you pay the price."
Until recently she served on the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, where she
heard both juvenile and adult cases. A state court trial judge since 1982, she
presided over Manny's fitness case.
If the 14-year-old engages in criminal conduct, and it's the same kind of
conduct that the 24-year-old engages in, I don't think the response of society
. . . should be to look only at the fact that they engaged in the same
behavior, so treat them both the same as adults. That does not make any sense
on its face. They have different life experiences that got them to that point.
If the 14-year-old who got to that point can still benefit from having some
kind of services to treat this person, to help them better have a life because
they're only 14, then we ought to do it. . . .
. . . The problem is that we're taking 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds,
16-year-olds, and we're giving up on them. We're saying, "You've committed a
crime, and we're just going to give up on you. You're out of here, society has
no use for you." We're throwing away these kids. And I have found, in my own
experience, that there are salvageable young people who have committed some
very horrible kinds of crimes, who are able to get their lives together and be
productive members of society. I think it is a mistake to just carte blanche
give up on these young people just because of the nature of the conduct, when
there is so much more that goes into why that person got there at that point in
time so young in their lives. . . .
I have had these young people come into my court charged with committing some
violent acts as serious as murder, but they had not gone into the adult system,
because it was a decision I made as a result of a fitness hearing that this
person indeed was amenable to treatment. And in some cases--not all, but in
some cases--I have been proved right. So I know that this can happen. Lives
can be turned around. . . .
Former supervisor of the juvenile division of the Santa Clara County Public
Defender's Office, she represented Shawn at his disposition.
I think the community understands, or should understand, that the younger a
person is, the more likely it is that they can change. And the best way I've
heard it put is from a victim in a very serious case, in a shooting case where
this person had been maimed for life. He had indicated to this young person
that shot him or was alleged to have shot him that he would rather meet up with
this person ten years down the road as a graduate from a college versus a
graduate from a penal institution. Because he had the wherewithal to
understand that this person was eventually going to get back out and be in our
community. They don't go away. They come back. And the younger they are, the
more likely it is that they are going to come back into our community. So I
guess as a community we have to decide what is it we're willing to get back in
the long run. . . .
For further discussion of whether a separate justice system for juvenile offenders is necessary, or feasible, see these two articles from the special juvenile justice issue of Criminal Justice Magazine, published in Spring 2000 by the American Bar Association.
Can We Do Without Juvenile Justice?
by Jeffrey Butts
Butts argues that the juvenile system as we know it is no longer necessary. He notes that modern day juvenile courts no longer deliver on the promise of rehabilitation and low stigma for those processed in the traditional juvenile justice system, and are largely indistinguishable from the adult system. He calls for the development of an integrated youth justice system.
What of the Future? Envisioning an Effective Juvenile Court
by Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr
Burnett believes that the ideals of the original juvenile court founders--personalized sentences geared towards rehabilitation rather than punishment of juvenile offenders--can still be realized. He calls for more resources to be dedicated to revamping the juvenile courts, while also developing better ways of determining which juveniles are not appropriate for treatment in the juvenile system.
manny · shawn · marquese · jose
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