How do you feel about children who are deeply troubled and at risk of
growing into violent adults? What should be done with them?
I was horrified as I watched the program "Little Criminals," particularly when the
psychiatrist said, without batting an eyelash, that the six-year old boy's violence
was the result of "genetic" predisposition. What bothered me was that he did not
make an effort to provide us with hard data (like, maybe, an in-depth analysis of
the boy's DNA). And how could he? He only talked to the boy for an hour!
What I felt your coverage provided was the real answer, mainly that the little boy's
problems were environmental. But this brings us to a deeper question: how will we
deal with our denial regarding what seems to me to be the much more serious issue?
The issue is not just one of what will happen to this six-year old. The real issue
is that males, irrespective of race, class, and socioeconomic status, are often
prone to violence. We live in a society where a child who watches television
between the ages of 3 and 18 is likely to have seen tens of thousands of acts of
violence. Moreover, we send a mixed message to boys: we tell them that fighting,
that aggression, is not appropriate, but then we get athletes, many of whom make it
into the news because they have acted inappropriately, to reinforce this messge.
It seems to me that before we allow a psychiatrist to conclude that violent behavior
is genetic, we had best look at the society we have created and realign our
priorities. Until we begin to work very hard--and here, I don't mean making light
of it on an NBC sit-com--to place a great deal of value on forms of masculinity
that hold non-violence in high esteem, we will have more of the same.
Your report has disturbed me profoundly. Not so much by the fact that the crimes
were committed by children but by the unspoken crime. The unspoken crime of the
people who were supposed to the care and protect the victims. Where was the mom of
the baby murdered in 1971 - suntanning! What was the sitter doing when the infant
was beaten to death?!
Under these circumstances the point of the age of the criminal is moot. An adult
could have just as easily strolled off with the toddler in the park or entered the
apartment of the infant.
Yes, we must be concerned with the question of how to deal with violent children.
However, shouldn't we include the role of the caretakers of the victims be included
I find it unconscionable that the prosecutor and the police involved in this case
would actually think that a six year old child is competent to stand trial as an
adult. A child is incapable of participating in any meaningful way in his/her
defense. When I viewed the taped interview with the child, I kept wondering where
was the child's lawyer, and how was social welfare involved in this case.
I also wondered if the police understood that a child's concept of time is much
different than that of an adult's. An hour of interrogation to a child is equal to
five hours of interrogation to an adult.
The other issue related to child psychology is that child desperately want to please
people in authority. A child will give the answer they think a person in authority
wants to hear.
It is most obvious to me that our judicial system failed this child. I hate to
think what would have happened had the judge in the case suffered from the same
dementia as the police and prosecutor in this case. The judge demonstrated a
greater understanding as to what would be in the best interest of the accused
For some reason we like to think that this type of behavior in children occurs in a
vacuum. It doesn't. The child may have acted out incidents that he had been a
victim of or seen another child victimized in the same way.
The solution to the problem is not locking children up at younger and younger ages.
The solution is effective intervention before children are victimized by violence.
I would also like to say that society as a whole is to blame for the problems we are
seeing today. As a society we see tragic things such as a child murdering another
child and think "boy that is really horrible", but when it comes right down to the
chase, a week after seeing the program all is forgotten and life goes on.
After watching your recent broadcast of "Little criminals",I was left with the
impression that everyone was feeling sorry for this six year old child!!! What
about the infant that will suffer for the rest of his life? Is the baby's life
Who is to say that the 6-yr. old will not attack another baby? What will society do
with this child when he turns 18? Will it take him killing someone before he is
punished for his actions?
I agree with the prosecutor, seek a trial for this boy! He stopped being a kid when
he beat that baby!!
Two tragedies were depicted in "Little Criminals" - the tragedy of children
committing violence against children, and the tragedy of a psychiatrist, on the
loose, who so despartely needs a vacation from forensic work that he now "smells"
antisocial personality disorders in six year old children.
Dr. Blinder's total disregard for research and science in his competency
"assessment" of the six year old explains his apparent ignorance of the impact of
the youngster's mental retardation (mentioned only once in your broadcast) on his
competence. His mental retardation is also likely to impact his ability to get
quality mental health treatment and services.
I am a mental health professional who has worked with distrubed youth for 13 years.
Perhaps I'm a softy, or just nasally-impaired, but I believe a six year old is
treatable regardless of the repugnance of his behavior.
At least my colleagues will be happy to learn that diagnostic assessment is not as
difficult as we have made it out to be..."in through the nose, two, three, four."
The little boy who nearly killed the baby is just one of the many developing out
there. Get ready for more of this. I think we ought to add another category when we
talk about child abuse. We now speak of molestation, physical abuse, and
psychological abuse. When a child is allowed to turn into a little wild dog because
he was left to fend for himself when it comes to values, responsibility, and
is just as abused as those in the other categories. Let's starting hauling the so
called parents before the bar of justice who allow this to happen.
Thomas J. Minter
I watched the program "Little Criminals" and I felt have to respond to what I
thought was a poigniant and tragic statement on where we are as a society. Perhaps
if we focused on help for these children, we would not have isane ,"Doctors",
saying kids are sociopaths at 6 years old. I am aware that we should adddress
issues with the way we as African-Americans are raising our children.In addition to
that however, maybe we should look at legal system that would prosecute a child.
It was a sobering and frightening glimpse into what we face a nation as we enter
the 21 century. I guess theres work to do for all.
As always, I found your program to be thoroughly informative. The many aspects of
the "Little Criminals" program were well-covered. The tragic flaw that seems to
have emerged from this little's boy's case is that of the psychiatrist's unfounded
belief that his (the boy's) violent tendencies are innate. His assessment seemed
to completely overlook the fact that this boy (as was later related in the program)
was abused, instead determining that the child is sociopathic from a list that
includes "bedwetting", a problem that many little boys have, and yet the vast
majority of them do not develop into sociopaths.
Ever since the revelation of genes and the importance of genetics, there has been
the tendency of some individuals - often very well educated and top performers in
their respective fields - to attribute ALL qualities of any individual (human or
animal) to genetics. In the context of troubled, violent, or unmanageable
individuals, this tendency leads to a seemingly inevitable "throwing up of hands"
and an expression of the inability to do anything about these issues. The
psychiatrist, as a member of our society, was not wrong in his feelings of
"shielding society" from violent individuals, but he appeared to have no regard for
how this course of action would be completed. Indeed, he advocated merely locking
the child away for a while. Then what person will emerge? A somehow
magically-transformed less violent one?
In the field of Psychology/Psychiatry, students, professors, and professionals
realize that interpereting the human mind and the potentials of a given individual
are not always "by-the-book" or easily defined, if at all. It is, understandably,
often the case that people outside of a certain field take the professional
statement of one member to be precise and well-founded. Although I am not a
professional psychiatrist, I believe that this severely troubled boy who has lashed
out was assessed by a psychiatrist too tired or distracted, who has fallen back on
the answer of genetics being solely responsible for this boy's violence - both in
the past and, he predicted, in the future. I would like to think that this example
of one member of a field who does not reflect the opinons of many was not lost on
What can we expect from a 6 year old child, that has received less attention
and training then the average puppy or kitten? Left to run wild in the
streets, without guidelines or boundaries, any child is capable of abusing
For Dr. Blinder to totally write this child off after a 1 hour evaluation, is
criminal in and of itself. Most disturbing of all, is the mother of this child
being employed as a part-time daycare worker!
It is heartbreaking to think of the futures of both victims in this case - the
6 year old, and the infant. The example of strength, compassion and wisdom
shown by the infant's father, should shame the self-serving politicians
involved in this case.
When are we as a society going to start holding the real criminals accountable
- the parents and/or families of these forgotten and tossed out children.
I was somewhat disturbed by two aspects of your recent broadcast on "Little
Criminals". Firstly, your focus on very young children who become violent
criminals is really a distraction; it is far more common that a child who
suffers abuse will manifest violent behavior many years later, as an adolescent
Granted, it is more attention-grabbing to focus on the extremely rare event, a
murder or serious assault committed by a child, but it seriously misrepresents
the situation. Secondly, it seems to me that you did not have an expert to
adequately represent the paradigm which now dominates thinking on the biology
of violence. Because
violence is closely associated with a range of medical conditions which are,
at least in part, heritable (including mental illness, personality disorder,
alcoholism, low intelligence, and disorders of serotonin metabolism), it seems
likely that a tendency to violence is also, at least in part, heritable. No
one would deny that child abuse is linked to an increased risk of later
violence by an abused child, but this does not prove that abuse caused the
violence. Many children who grow up in an abusive home share with their
family, not only the actual violence, but also genes which may have created a
tendency to violence.
I think we have to accept that fact that pure evil exists and in some cases
there is nothing we can do about it. Some people are just born evil; in much
the same way as some are born profoundly gifted. Why do we have such a hard
time accepting that? I feel for this child but see no way that any amount of
caring for him will change his psyche to point where he is non-violent. It may
not be his fault, but either way he is dangerous.
As I sat and watched Frontline: Little Criminals, I wondered how the justice
system could lock up a six year old child who's life has been destroyed by the
evils that have surrounded him day in and day out.
Couldn't he have been placed in the care of the pastor of that community?
Isn't there any other way the justice system could have taken care of him? Why
did they have to place him in a JDC for two months where all other criminals
are teenagers? This can destroy him totally.
In order for this child to become a well adjusted adult in the years ahead he
needs to be loved, he needs to know that he is wanted, he needs to know that
people care about him for who he is, he needs to understand all of these things
NOW before he can lead a good life. He deserves this. You have to remember
that the father has already forgiven this young child so lets do the same and
not label him as a cold blooded killer. The devil makes people do many evil
things and he will use anybody, this is just one of his ways of hurting a
Instead of having professionals analyze him and label him as a psychopath why
not let a man of God take care of this little child. Let us not forget that
all children are Sacred.
There is a lot to be said in the quote that generations of ancestry can be
heard through the cries of one child. When a society blames a six year old
child for the absurdity of its behavior, there is indeed a serious flaw in the
method and the projections that we conceive as real. A child's world is only so
large, and I'm sure this child has no more of an understanding of the world as
beyond his neighborhood.
The prosecutor, tries to sell us on the idea that he is only trying to help
this child, when it is quite obvious that his only motivation is for himself.
Dr. Blinder ought to give up his practice, for his ridiculous analysis and
theories on child development. It is obvious that his type of mentality is what
hinders the growth of a society that is in need of resolution and not
All in all, I would hope that in some way everyone can walk away from this with
the hope that we can mend this tragedy. We need to love our children more now
than ever. Locking six year old children in city jails is a crime we will
undoubtedly pay for.
My message is just to say that children are not born criminals. They repeat
what they see. This is how we as humans learn. If anyone should be blamed for
the crime of this six year old boy it should be
us as a society. We have failed our children as parents and role models. We
tell them that they are psychopaths and natural born killers and allow them to
believe that there is no help for them.
This boy is six. There is help. He is still a baby. What he needs instead of
being locked away from society, is a loving, nurturing environment with the
correct balance of discipline--away from the violence and drugs and abuse he
has already suffered and to be taught the correct way to express his pain.
But then, what do we do with all the other six year olds left in the same
situations, who may not commit an act of violence until they are sixteen? We
need to re-evaluate ourselves as a society, as parents and as positive role
models, and begin programs to help ALL children who were born into an
environment such as this six year old. It all begins with the "man in the
No, I don't believe he understood the severity of his crime to be prosecuted or
to even feel remorseful. . .and I as the parent of a young son pray that he and
others like him will get the help he needs to heal and become a productive
member of society. I believe he can. . .
Through-out the program I continued to ask myself one question, "Where are the
parents in these cases?" As a mother of a 5 and a half year old and a 22 month
old, I am aware of the development of the child in the "Crucifix Murder" and of
the small boy in the beating of the baby.
A 20 month old should have NEVER been left unattended in the first place. Had
he had adequate supervision he may still be alive. Kids need adults to step in
and say "That is enough, you are playing too rough, someone will get hurt".
Until they are old enough to understand this on their own it is our
responsibility to be there and teach them.
As I struggle to rid myself of your disturbing documentary that aired
tonight, I am also compelled to write.
You see, this is extremely difficult to comment on...the livelihood of a
little six year old boy has been dramatically transformed-not to
mentioned that of an infant and his family. On one hand, you have a
little boy who in his six short years has apparently been exposed to
such a hard life than most people have themselves by that tender age, and then
you have an infant, who may have difficulties all his life with his health.
Secondly, how could anyone lock a defenseless child (as impressionable as
children are) in a juvenile center? My heart sobbed for that little boy! I
don't believe that he intentionally meant to hurt the infant, nor do I believe
the incident was premeditated.
I am all the more outraged at the prosecutor and the psychologist who felt that
child was competent to stand trial. These two are cruel! To label a child as a
natural born killer is absurd! God forbid if they
have a child or children.
In summary, a child needs to be reassured that he/she is loved and that they
are valuable. It is essential that we as adults take time out with children
and boost their self esteem. Children learn by example...
Ms. Chanda Johnson
While watching this program I could not believe that none of the people
interviewed put the blame where it belongs, with the mother of this poor child.
I believe she should of been held responsible for the actions of this child
since she was the one who put him in the environment and position to be abused
repeatedly. How could any
human live like this and not have serious problems? This behavior on the part
of the mother(yes he had a father but ultimately the mother is who had control
of this child)is why we have all of the problems with youth that we have today.
It seems the mothers in this world are too busy with there own problems and
lives too care
for, love, and nurture their own children and without that what chance do they
Having watched this disheartening show I can't help but wonder what will become
of this child? His own mother was willing to accept the comment from one of the
psychologists that his problem was genetic in it's entirety and was in no way,
herself, to blame. How can we, as parents, expect our children to have all the
values and knowledge acceptable to society unless we have those values and the
knowledge ourselves to instill in them? This mother took no responsibility in
his crime. She wants the child to be sent for "help that he needs" and then
wants him to come back home. Much like sending your car to the body shop
expecting to get it back as good as new.
The chances of this child coming through this (like your former child killer
did)seems remote at best. The child is likely to be in the group home for a
long time. His mother needs to be involved in his therapy or the child may see
himself as "abandoned" yet again and add more fuel to the internal fire that
already exists. She needs to have therapy herself or she will have nothing to
offer the child if he survives the group home.
Although the victim's family refused to file charges I believe the child would
not be getting help if it was not for the DA. Would this have happened if the
child had been invited in for dinner on
occasion? Would it have happened if the child had felt like he had a "family"
somewhere, anywhere? This is a tragedy in one of it's greatest forms, the loss
of a child.... And he is a child.
I am amazed by how little your program dealt with the tremendous moral and
philosophical issues underlying this whole debate on young criminals.
First, If we reduce man to simply being a product of society, and excuse him on that
account, we are still left with the problem of why society itself produces evil,
and such horrific evil at that. In the end, it is not society that makes man but
man that makes society.
Second, it is an even greater absurdity for us to accept modern science's reducing
of man to nothing more than a series of neurotransmitters, receptors, chemicals and
the like without stopping to notice that this inevitably does away with the whole
concept of morality.
We think we can solve man's awful problems by filling him with all the right
chemicals and manipulating his environment, but that is like treating cancer with a
band-aid. Man's devil is within him, and the capacity for the greatest crimes
exists within each one of us. Looking at evil in all of its blackness and horror
is something we Americans infrequently if ever have to do. We are sheltered by
white picket fences and ivory towers, and the evil we see in the press always ends
up seeming far away, which makes it easy to propound our absurd social theories.
Stare evil in the face and we will be forced to agree with Satre, who, a few years
after the Nazi occupation wrote these words, prefacing them by saying they would
seem "shocking to lofty souls": "Evil cannot be redeemed."
Not just your program but the entire American press is to criticized for its utterly
shallow dealing with the weighty issues of man's existence. I am reminded of
Kierkegaard, who said that if his daughter was a whore, he would not lose hope for
her, but if his son was a journalist, he would give him up for dead.
I am absolutely outraged that the DA wanted to prosecute a 6-year-old child. It
shows absolute ignorance of child development. Even after the child showed no
understanding of his legal rights (and the victims parents showed no interest in
prosecuting), the police department and prosecution still insisted on pressing
charges. Thank goodness the judge had sense enough to do the right thing: take
the child into state custody and provide him with therapy.
One of the concerns encountered was that these troubled children may not benefit
from therapy and may be violent anyway. I believe we should give everyone of these
children the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they will not be "fixed", but it is our
duty and responsibility to try.
At one point, the DA said we was interested in punishing the boy, and then a
few clips later, he says he wants to "help" him. Well which is it? If the DA is so
politically motivated, he has no business being involved with this case, since he
is concerned for neither the victin's family nor the child's future. Although his
job is to prosecute, he should have realized what he dealing with: an abused,
I'm sorry! Although we as a society do share a moribund responsibility to help
reform so-called sociopathic behavior in individuals, must not the victims of such
brutality be the focus of our concern. Indeed, is it not the perpetrators of such
acts who have chosen their own fate as mandated by "our" representative law. How
long can we allow the laws we live by be watered down by the exception mentality
which now appears so pervasive and acceptable in our judicial community. The fact
is a murder is a murder. Brutality is brutality. Regardless of the circumstances a
price must be paid. One that allows the victim to accept his loss, the sadist to
find retribution for his deeds, and for society to be protected from unecessary
injury.If we accept this exception philosphy to become policy,we in effect will be
allowing circumstance to cloud and limit the fundamental realities surrounding
death and the sanctity of life as citizens as we know it now.
As civilized people we hold dear the angelic ideal of our children, so much so that
we seem to be blindsided by each new act of outrageous violence perpatrated by
juveniles. In the following confusion we want to demonize the child at hand, as he
is not one of our own. In this case of a six-year-old, labeling him a psychopath
has served only to ignore or deflect blame from the violent world around him. As if
to say, " Nothing could be done, he was just born that way. " I believe much can
be done with troubled children, who, like this child are in touch with reality.
This child learned early on what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Therefore,
with positive influence, he can unlearn that violence is an option to obtain wants.
I agree with the courts decision to take custody in order to insure treatment.
All children are born barbarians -- as primitive as the earliest pre-human who stood
aloft to walk on two feet. It is the job of parents (PLEASE note the plural) to
civilize these little barbarians. Anyone depending upon society to raise his child
is a fool. This society -- for several decades now -- has encouraged mindless
sluts to drop little bastards indiscriminately. Then when the inevitable happens,
bleeding hearts get up in arms, march in the streets and wave placards and demand
that society forgive the crime and "fix" the problem. Until we, as a soceity,
demand responsibility of all its citizens, barbaric deviants will outrage us all
and the clueless will whine for "compassion."
Once again, FRONTLINE has produced Pulitzer quality work. FRONTLINE continues to
define the qualities inherent to a professional piece of Journalism.
I am still mulling over my thoughts from your show. I do not believe that the 6-year-old child is competant to stand trial. A child who has flunked kindergarten
obviously has some problems. I found it most disturbing that the prosecuter in this
case even asked for a trial. That he still insists on trying the case when the
child is found to be competant is even more troubling. This prosecutor needs to
examine his motives and take a deep personal look at his own personality.
I am encouraged by the father of the infant. That he can show the most basic of
christian virtues in the face of this trajedy is a sure sign that we as a society
can have hope.
Keep up the good work FRONTLINE.
Kenneth Allen Stoner
I watched your special on little criminals and was appalled to see how the parents
are virtually "let of the hook" by prosecutors. Are the parents not responsible
for their childrens behavior? Is it not their responsibility to oversee and
supervise their childrens activities. Children will do almost anything, right or
wrong, if they are not properly supervised. My husband and myself are shocked that
the justice system and society as a whole don't see the destructive possibilities
of holding children solely responsible for their actions. Parents should be held
responsible ans charged with the crime that the child commited plus neglect. There
is an age however that kids have to be held responsible , but it is not 6. God
help us if we cannot prevent little children from killing one another.
As a child therapist I was amazed at what the professionals involved with
this case have not mentioned. Without interviewing the child it is not
ethical to state a diagnosis but the descriptions of the behaviors meet
every criteria of what is know as Reactive Attachment Disorder in the
DSM-IV. The email forum for Attachment Disordered (AD) children is in
flames over your program because of the lack of knowledge of the
professionals. From the postings on that email forum I hope that those who
say they are going to post to you will do so.
Being a believer that one should not be critical without providing a
constuctive suggestion, here goes mine. Follow this program up with a
program on Attachment Disorders, and trying to raise a child with these
behaviors. More than half adopted and foster children have AD
characteristics. One type of treatment modality is found in Evergreen, CO
and at another attachment center in Ohio. The book, a lay text, "Children
Without a Conscious" will make a good first read. Cline at Evergreen has
many publications. There are websites for the centers. No, I am not
aligned with either clinic.
Thank you for considering my opinion. I can not always get PBS since I am
in a mountainous area using C-Band but I do hope you have a follow-up.
If the father of the victim can forgive this child for his actions and demonstrate
mercy, it is up to the rest of us to assure that this young man receives the best
possible chance to succeed. That father demonstrated an overwhelming compassion
that is usually reserved for intellectual conversation. He has my highest
admiration and i thank him for reminding me that it is possible to care instead of
hate. We owe both him and this child.
Nora Van Iterson
Knowing what we know now, and with all of the clinical and anecdotal evidence
available which explains the origins of violent behavior, I don't find it at all
difficult to understand the pathology of this 6-year-old. His story, albeit short,
reads like a dictionary of the making of a criminal - including a history of family
violence, neglect, cat-killing, setting fires, etc. What is surprising about this
case is just how early in his life this LEARNED violence resulted in the injury of
another human being.
What I DO find difficult to understand, however, is the complete "misunderstanding"
of this boy and his circumstances by just about everyone involved with the criminal
proceeding against him - from the police officers conducting the interogation, to
the prosectution psychiatrist, and especially the prosecutor himself. What is it
that makes these people so Blind.. and so righteous in the pursuit of "personal
responsibility," and "the answer" that they are so willing to extract it even from
I cannot believe
that a 6-year-old child is actually capable of premeditated murder. It seems
to me that he is a product of his environment and should not be punished as
as a criminal but should be treated as a victim of violence
himself. I was glad to hear that he is getting the help
he needs and feel that the prosecuting attorney should
concentrate on putting the real criminals in jail like the
boy's drug dealing grandmother and his mother's abusive
A number of issues are apparent.
Murder is murder and those that murder should be punished.
"A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere
illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it, and nothing
true." Socrates said it. Was race an issue?
Issue number two. I watched the program and found that the child's mother is partly
to blame, and should be held accountable to a small degree. I never saw her touch
or even try to comfort or play with her child. What should we expect when people
are raised without the benefit of human compassion, and when should the compassion
begin? After one commits murder?
I am still in shock of what I saw and heard in your program last night. Most
particularly two things: Dr. Blinder. How can he possibly label this child as a
potential criminal. Has he ever heard of behavior modification?
Secondly, the father of the baby. I perceived empathy for the six-year-old. He was
I believe that sequestering this six-year-old is not the solution. What this little
boy needs is lots of love, tenderness, being appreciated for what he is, learning
that there are consequences to your acts, learning to be responsible for himself.
Putting this child in an institution will only make things worse.
There has to be hope for this child. If not, how sad that we as a society are
willing to give up so easily.
I believe in great doses of love and hugs, with appropriate counseling to teach
this child what is right and wrong.
Winter Park, FL
I thought the program was informative and unbiased. I was a bit disappointed that
there wasn't more information about violent crimes and the young in general.
Each of the psychiatrists made points I could agree with as well as some I could
not. I don't believe that a child is born a psychopath. Or that by the age of six
ANYONE can determine that he will continue that path. We are all a combination of
our character as well as our environment. I do believe the character is set by the
age of about four and this boy needs considerable counselling. Also, the statement
by one psychiatrist about being able to 'smell' a psychopath just made his
judgement appear distorted. I say this with the admission that for the most part I
agreed with what his determinations.
The other psychiatrist compared this six-year-old with an exceptional child and what
that child would understand about the situation. This doesn't make much sense
because a gifted child would probably not be living under the same circumstances.
The six year old must have a higher understanding because of his environment. He
sees crime and violence every day, and the results of these things.
I would be interested to know more of the effect of television on young children and
violence. Even the man who was responsible for the crucifix murder thought he
could 'resurect' the child. This is a major problem with television. How can a
child know that the death he sees on t.v. isn't real? He sees an actor die and
next week he's on another show. He watches cartoon characters act violently and
the one that's hurt gets up without any injury. This is the real crime; t.v. A
child left to himself has no one to regulate what he watches or explain what is
really happening. He has no one to teach him right from wrong except television.
This brings up the responsibility of the parent(s). But even they are a product of
their environment as children. The only way to stop crime and violence is by
changing the source of the problem (with education?) and not just attempting to
treat the symptoms (although this may be necessary too).
Thank you for helping to inform the public. I hope to see future programs
addressing this very serious problem.
In today's society there are many kids who are dismissed as a "loss cause" Yet we
are more into publicizing the problem then fixing it. A study has been shown that
kids who had a significant adult in there life they became a better more productive
citizen. That also includes kids who have gotten off on the wrong foot.
I am one of those lost cause cases. I was told that I had such severe behavioral
problems that I would not live to be 16 years old. It is because I had one adult
who really cared , I am still here. Children are our tomorrow's future believe in
them and they will strive. Belittle them and they will shrink.
Fran Bernadette Wagner
Once again, Frontline has provided an insightful and thought-provoking report. My
husband and I both offer praise for Frontline's handling of a difficult subject.
As parents, Frontline's report reaffirmed our conviction that raising a child is
truly a community effort. All those involved in the case examined were profoundly
effected, but what stands out is the element of hope. Hope for the six-year-old
boy and our greater community. Would that we all had the heart of forgiveness the
little victim's father has.
Mona Cozens Currey
I found your coverage of the crime committed by the 6 year old boy in
Richmond to be interesting. I believe you did an extremely good job of
addressing some very important issues. However, I was disappointed
that there was no coverage of the boy's parent(s), and their role in
this violent crime. I was not able to draw any conclusions as to the
competence of the boy, but surely the justice system in America has the
duty to hold parents accountable for the lack of discipline the boy
received leading up to the crime.
Perhaps the more appropriate question to ask is what should be done to
Financial Consultant, Husband, and Father of 2 Children who are learning
from their parents right from wrong, and the consequences of both.
These young children should be taken out of their homes and put into a safe, caring
environment. Murder and attempted murder are serious offenses, and something
terribly wrong has to be going on in the home for a child to commit these crimes.
It's been said a child under 7 years of age doesn't understand criminal actions.
The 6 year old shouldn't be tried in court, he needs to be helped. Children are
very adaptive and can learn new behaviors. I don't think he is doomed to be a
I found it very interesting that no one from this boys family especially the
great uncle, recognized that this boy had problems. I believe it was his
duty as a family member to report the mother and or grandmother of their
obvious neglect. There is no since sitting around after the child has
committed a terrible act of violence and say well I knew he would do this one
day and I don't get along with his mother and grandmother. That is a bunch
of mess. We as human beings must be responsible for those who are not
responsible. If, that means calling a child protection agency on your own
relatives then that is what it takes.
In another point, I don't understand how the prosecutor could say this child
was competent. I find that hard to believe. If the child failed
kindergarten, that shows he could not have understood any legal process. The
comment made of the boy that he was born to kill is ridiculous. You've
condemned the child before he has a chance at life.
I am more upset and confused now than when this story first aired. I do not
believe that there is some dark psychological reason that can wash away blood from
the hands of any individual whether they are six or sixty. the facts are that the
boy was genetically predisposed, poorly managed, and environmentally challenged.
Nature worked in concert with the mothers inability to nurture. All that
considered, he attempted to kill another child. I don't believe he'll change. This
child should remain out of civilized society.
The most disturbing point is that the father of the beaten child,(who by the way
may never live a normal life)showed the only humanity and forgiveness and was met
with misdirected protest. I am ashamed! For the record I am Black.
Kevin F. Brown
Long beach, CA.
Your coverage of this frightening event was very even handed. As a teacher in a
correctional facility, I was particularly alarmed by the revelation that kids who
commit violent crimes are often the children of incarcerated fathers. Poverty,
poorly educated parents and a punitive electorate create an atmosphere for disaster
here in Texas. As you must know, Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the third
largest prison system in the world, following China and Russia. In addition, we
are 47th in literacy in the US. I wonder when these facts will take shape and
connect in the minds of our legislators. I fear the future, especially for my
children. You do a terrific job, keep up the good work in bringing these important
issues to the public's attention.
It is so easy to watch this from my protected home and think society has gone to
hell. And then I beginning to remember, between my bouts of criticalness, that I am
society-like it or not! Until we are able to look at how we have created this
scenario, we will certainly not be able to go about facilitating it. What part of
each and every one of us has been neglected and felt alone and returned that
attitude somewhere, somehow? How does that come out differently in each of us and
how is it reflected in the 6 year olds' actions?
First, how can a so-called expert suggest that the violence in that six year old
child is genetic, that he is a "natural born killer" and yet in virtually the same
sentence deem the child fit to stand trial and be punished? If the "expert" is
right about the genetics (and I don't for a second think he is), how can we punish
a child who is so genetically predisposed as to have no control over his actions?
And how long can we punish a "natural born killer?" Forever? I think not.
Second, the fact that this "expert" is willing to write a six year old off makes me
sick. Thank God this individual is not in a position to make the final decision.
I watched the program this evening about the "six year old" child and it was
wrenching. It seemed to me as a viewer that more questions should have been asked
of the mother of this child. Was she responsible for her child's violent behavior
due to her spanking him i.e for obedience purposes or was she using spanking out of
anger? What other types of abuses' had this child been exposed to? It seemed to
me that this six year old child is a product of an abusive environment and if we
don't do something to curb this then this six year old will become alarmingly
familiar. When children are "hit, smacked, punched or yelled at" repeatedly, out
of "anger" they "learn" that when your angry this is how you handle it. It is a
dangerous trend. I would have liked to see more of a focus on what the mother was
doing to improve herself as a parent as opposed to shifting all of the
responsibility on her child. In the tapes on the mother and child together she
seems emotionally detached from her child and seems unwilling
I apologize for any mis-spelled words.
Almost as distressing as a six year old committing murder
is an adult who is so totally devoid of wisdom, insight,
compassion, and critical-thinking ability. Aptly named,
Dr. Blinder astounded me with what he ascribed to this
child. I would like to see these questions he asked about
the child's understanding of his "representation" and his
comprehension of what he had done. Doesn't he see that
this child will nod his head in affirmation if you ask him
if his father is Michael Jordan or if he's ever seen a "real"
dinosaur. I hope I'm never in a position to be scrutinized by this sorry excuse for
Since so much murder and assault in my city is the result of the stresses related
to poverty, then let's stop beating around the bush. Ending poverty, instead of
spreading it as our present social and economic polices do, will cut crime better
than any current band-aid plan. Prisons are wasting our youth, and alternative
rehabilitation programs do not address the causes of crime. Our economic policies
has created the largest income disparity among Americans in decades, made it more
difficult to unionize, dropped real wages and gutted job security. Change those
polices and we'll see poverty and violence drop significantly.
On the whole, your program was very interesting. I was disappointed that mention
of the child baby-sitting the infant was not made (not that this situation was her
fault) but the question of where she was not made clear. However, all the debate in
the world will not help this child. He needs to be removed from society until such
time as he has fully integrated the realization of what he has done and WHY.
The thing that truly bothered me about the situation is, so many indicators are
present and nothing seemed to be done about any of them. Until our nation, takes
the stand of providing intervention and help as soon as indicators are public
knowledge or even before (poor and crime ridden neighborhoods are usually well
known) and does something to countermand these factors, this problem will continue
to exist and become worse, not better. Two children are affected for life, two
families are affected for life and our society is affected by this event, and yet
it is does not appear that the result will be productive on preventing another or
perhaps worse situation in the future.
When all the male relatives of this boy were incarcerated, was any attempt to get
to the children and break the cycle - from this report obviously not. When the
mother was in abusive situations and the child was abused were there any
interventions to change the pattern or provide therapy to undo the damage done -
again obviously not. And finally given this is a high risk neighborhood, why are
there not programs to help break and correct some of these risk factors?
I as a tax payer would much prefer my money goes to educational, prevention and
intervention programs rather than wasted on 'correction' or incarceration. Until
this becomes standard, the problems will continue and escalate.
Vine Grove, KY
It seems that one hour is an insufficient time frame in which to evaluate and label
a child. Perhaps the forensic psychiatrist is a student of Aristotle and believes
that we, society as a whole, should enforce selective breeding to insure that
"undesirable genetic" child are not born. This child has never had to constant
love and nurturing that every child craves. If our good doctor was more concerned
with the human factor and not the technical formula, he would have seen past the
Las Vegas, NV
The thought that strikes me most consistently when I read of
these tragedies is that our society is reactive and must
become more proactive. Brandon's uncle describes a young
life full of preventable horrors - cocaine dealing by house-
hold members, a series of violent boyfriends of mother,
inadequate supervision, neglectful parenting,... Why was
there no early intervention of parenting classes or therapy?
Why was Brandon allowed to stay in that horrible environment
until he acted out in this extreme and predictable way?
Castro Valley, CA
As a practicing lawyer in the juvenile justice area I was immensely interested in
the topic of children as criminals. I have not had anyone as a client who was as
young as the boys in your story and shudder to think of ever getting such a client.
I believe that the solution to such problems is not with the child itself but with
the greater community in which the child finds itself. The solution involves early
intervention within the family structure, jobs for the adults associated with the
children, constructive, loving child care while parents are at work, and early sex
education so that fewer single mothers are created.
Keep up the superior investigating. It is always provocative and you always seem to
have your finger right where the nation's pulse is.
Arthur D. Warren
Los Angeles, CA
According to Yochelson & Samenow, authors of "The Criminal Personality",
the child makes a deliberate decision to turn against society (for
whatever reason), and the criminal personality is fully formed/entrenched
by the age of 6. The two brothers who crucified the toddler illustrate
that a person can also decide whether or not to continue the criminal
lifestyle; one boy did so choose, the other did not. It is not surprising
that the treatment of the 6-year-old has so far been unsuccessful.
Conventional psychiatric or psychological theories cannot access the
criminal's thinking pattern. I have first-hand experience as a volunteer
probation assistant and a correctional officer. . .
I'm sadden to have watched your program this week.
Frontline has usually presented not only both sides
to a story, but, all sides. This weeks focus on
child abuse simply played the political card without
a true presentation of the problem. To follow one
6 year old child through his social deviance and
correction seems almost irrelevant. I come into
contact with not one, but thousands of children that
commit similar crimes that both scar them and
society with a negative permanence. The boy presented
in your program is simply responding to his social
environment. He is one of millions involved within a
social system that is both flawed and declining to
yet lower levels of massive social decay. Realize
that our government struggles not to solve this
social decline but to look past it at all levels.
Also realize that our government benefits
economically from its' inner-city cracklands. The
social ills of our society generate great financial
targets and provide the greatest opportunity for
government to control the underclass masses.
One day in the near future, we will all look back and
call this period of decay: the inner-city cracklands,
the children having children, babies killing babies;
We'll call this period the good old days; back before
things got really bad. Remember Frontline : We all
know about the problem; we need to know why.
John R. Johnson
I'm a resident of San Francisco and can recall when the incident you reported
on in Richmond occurred. The general feeling of the public was one of
disbelief and shock more than rage. Questions on the real impact of violent
images on television and movies began to arise. However the prosecutor's
call for blood seemed a little extreme bordering on racism. Would a white
child from a higher class neighborhood have been deemed such a threat to
society's welfare? Or labeled a future psychopath at the age of six? Some
how I doubt it. In any case I though long and hard about this show because
it touched such a raw nerve. The solution that I came up with for this
particular case was extensive counseling for the next five to six years.
Followed by supervised visits to the injured boy's house to help with
feeding, changing, etc. whatever it may be that the family needs extra help
with for the baby's care. This would give the boy a chance to see first hand
the damage that he has done and help do all the things that the beating
prevented the baby from doing itself due to brain damage. Once the boy who
committed the crime got old enough to get a job, a percentage of his paycheck
should go to his victims family. The most important issues in dealing with
this case should be helping the child realize the severity of his crime and
then helping him atone for it. Both parties involved need a healing of some
sort that can not be accomplished by locking someone up and throwing away the
key or simply attaching a label to try and make reality a little easier to
deal with. Whose reality is being dealt with, the prosecutor's?
When are you responsible for your actions? When you are 5, 15, 20? It would seem
to me that actions of such a violent nature would, at any age, be reproachable. If
our children are not responsible for their own actions, then who will be?
Obviously not their parents.
Timothy A. Robinson
I was mortified by the adult attributions attached to
this child - notwithstanding the act. We saw the prosecutor
and one clinician, key parts in any "criminal proceeding",
find every sophisticated reason to pursue their action.
Ostensibly, their mission is to protect the public and
dissuade other youths from violent behavior. Ignoring the
"nurture & nature" aspect in this boy's life and dismissing
this "Little Man" as being genetically bent is folly! That
tack has and will perpetuate the cycle of defeat and violence,
both intro- and overt. I baby-sit the son of a single dad.
His son was born of a cocaine and crystal meth' addicted mother.
He was marked as a "learning disability" and "disciplinary
handful." Timmy is six. We routinely venture out to stores,
parks & museums. He is reading, mannerful & compassionate.
Where was the love in this FrontLine piece, at all levels?
I saw a soul-mate in that juvenile prison guard. His "Little Man"
was calling out for love. To be held. To be valued. The judge
has the wisdom of Solomon. Let each of us look around ourselves
for these wanting, precious little ones, and love them! Thank you.
Stephen V. Dash
I think all children are at risk, but we need to take the time
to teach our child well. I'm a single mother of 2 boys,
whose father is in prison, but my children are will rounded
little boys, they good great grades in school and are well
behaved, that's because I've showed them the way, My kids
are 9 and 12 and have grown up in rough neighbors, yet they
have over come the obstacles of their surrounding. That
little boy needed love and teaching. His mother needed to
think about him first and her second, as I do. No man will
ever put his hands on my children, nor will he come before
they. With a little time, help, compassion, love and teaching
he will grow up to be an outstanding citizen.
I watched your program with dismay and resentment because yet again it portrayed
another episode of "Crime Without Punishment".
All actions carry consequence and even at the tender age of 6 years there is a
general instinctive knowledge of right and wrong and the boy certainly knew killing
"for real" was wrong.
What he does not know is that his action must be held accountable and cannot be
redeemed because of his race or socio-economic conditions as some of the "experts"
would like to have us think.
John M. Samborsky
It greatly concerns me when a six year old child, living in
the United States of America, is locked up in a juvenile
detention center with teenagers, and is required to sleep in
a locked detention cell each night for two months by himself.
Put lightly, this is barbaric. It is a crime. The real story
here is not about a little boy, but rather about a society
that's family structure is disintegrating, resulting in
catastrophic blindness and ignorance. Interrogating this
6 year old baby boy, reading him the Miranda Rights, and
placing him in "jail" for two months is an outrageous crime
of the State, and should be addressed as such.
This is my first response of many.
John M. Williams
San Antonio, Tx.
As was reflected in the comments of the attorneys and psychologists interviewed for
the program, we have chosen to ignore, suppress, and avoid the debate regarding the
potential of the root causes for sociopathic and psychotic behavior as being based
in our genetics. It seems harshly ironic that in a society that has begun to
embrace the notions of genetic alcoholism, obesity, and tobacco addiction, we will
not "open the debate" and pursue the requisite clinical studies necessary to either
prove or disprove the validity of the concept of Genetic Criminal Psychology.
Hopefully we will reach a point where we can honestly further this field of
research and debate.
Is this the end of humanitarianism? We seem increasingly to
look at crime as an affront to the legitimate order of our
society, and the "perpetrator," the "criminal" as not truly
redemptive, but fundamentally incoherent, dangerous, un-
reformable, formed by "bad genes, a "nascent sociopathic
personality," a "natural born killer." What does this all
say? It says that as a society we have created a boundary
btw. what we define as "normal" and "abnormal" people. And,
we no longer look at the causes-a hardworking mother in an
economically depressed area, surrounded by a violent society.
I just finished watching your well produced piece on violent children...
I'm disturbed at the way society refuses to deal with the problems plaguing
us. American society would rather lockup six-year-olds and blame them for
their problems, than figuring out how to help them.
It was equally disturbing to hear the psychologist suggest the child's
violent behavior stems from genetics--he was predestined to be violent.
Everyone is born with a clean slate. It's what a child learns during early
development, which determines what kind of person they are in
What a difficult question. For me, the bottom line is: Hold parent(s) or guardian(s)
responsible for the actions of their children under the age of 13. The parent(s) or
guardian(s) should be tried in open court for the acts of their kids. The child,
then, should be placed in an appropriate facility to deal with the problem. The
parent(s) or guardian(s) should also be charged with felony child abuse and serve
the sentences consecutively.
We, as a society, cannot allow people to abuse their children, either through
neglect and/or physical/mental torture. These people violate what President Clinton
has claimed is our #1 national security risk. While I don't think we should try
them as traitors, I do think they should be dealt with severely.
But the six-year old in this episode has done a terrible thing. Another child's life
has been altered forever. There is nothing anyone can do to change that. The
victim's father has forgiven the assailant, and proven himself to be a much better
man than many others. I hope we can all learn something from everyone involved.
My 11-yr. old son exhibits many of the remorseless, violent
traits described in the "Little criminals" episode. He has
always been this way. After many years of battles with agencies
and assorted professionals, he has been labeled ADD. As in
so many other cases, this diagnosis is used as a scapegoat
to file children with hidden disabilities under. Further
medical testing to determine physiological relativity must
be fought for. In far too many instances, blame is unfairly
placed upon the un-supported parent. No long-term solutions
or practical hopes are offered. The idea seems to be to
pull the prescription pad closer and sedate him, for now.
But, what about him and kids like him when they turn 16,
run-away and decide they don't want to take meds? What
hopes can a parent have for their child's future when
society wants to point fingers and you're living with the
Nothing personal "Frontline", I am just expressing my anger. I wish society
would start to look for a way to seriously punish "Little Criminals". I am sure
a few might be saved, but most will not. Why let them go on with their lives
while the victim and their family try, and I use that word loosely, to piece
their lives together? When are we as a society going to start helping the
victims instead of ignoring them. When an individual (regardless of age, sex,
race...) has committed a serious crime against the innocent, serious punishment
must the only reward. Do not slap the back of their hands and say "Now you be a
good little boy/girl and don't do it again". That simply doesn't work any more.
I strongly feel we will continue to see more and more of this types crimes. We
as the adults must set the example and hold everyone (young and old)
Thanks for your time,
Alexander J. Martinez
Laredo, Texas U.S.A.
I think your piece tonight about young criminals fell short of the mark. The
here is a society which allows people to have children who have few morals,
education, no job, and no idea of what it takes to raise a child. We have
more laws and regulations concerning the operation of a motor vehicle than we
do about having
children. I mean you can't drive a car until your 16 years of age, but you
can have a child as soon as it is physically possible. You need to pass a
written and practical test to operate a car, but not one test required to
have a kid. You need to have your car inspected for safety and emissions
every year, but no one cares about how you raise your child until there is a
problem. There is a law to carry insurance on your car for the protection of
your property and others, if you kid gets sick, the government handles it.
What we need to do, I'm sorry to say, is not allow people to have children
unless they can prove to be morally and fiscally responsible for raising
It was sad to see how we as a society have started to hold children
responsible for what we are not teaching them. Children learn faster
then we realize. If we do not teach them what we want them to learn,
they will learn what we don't want them to learn. It seems in our zeal
to deal with complexities of crime in America, we have become incapable
of seeing the truth. Anyone who is accused is a criminal. Be it a child,
mentally ill or victim of racial bias. A 6 yr. old child may be accused
but can not be responsible for a murder. As a Psychiatrist I'd also like
to point out that there is no professional guideline to forecast that a
6 yr. child will turn out to be suffering from antisocial personality
disorder. Dr. Schreir seem to be enveloping his own bias ( bigoted ones
at that ) into scientific disguises. He should refrain from making
forecasts. He is a psychiatrist not a psychic.
Sanjeev K Singhal MD
Martin Blinder's biased and unprofessional observations are more frightening than
this abused child's horrific upbringing. It would be a national disgrace to
treat this confused boy like a typical criminal. He is certainly not to blame
for his rage. The father who abandoned him, the mother who refused to protect him,
a society which permits him to languish in a hostile environment all share the blame
of this most predictable outcome. Blinder's incompetent and racially motivated
of genetic predisposition discount his credibility from any further serious
aimed at finding an solution to our children's cries for help.
His arrogant statement that he can smell a psychopath would be laughable if the
involved in this case had not been so seriously affected. The two innocent victims
in this case have my prayers and hopes for a healthy and loving tomorrow.
I am a law guardian in New York. I represent children who are the subject
of abuse and neglect and I represent juveniles in criminal matters.
Watching your broadcast was just a continuation of my work day at its most
extreme. However the thing that still causes me to lose absolute control of
my senses is what people say in the name of justice and the protection of
the community. Did that prosecutor actually think that he was doing
something good for the community by prosecuting a six year old child? I am
very sure that the prosecutor had no connection to or knowledge of the
community he stated he is was protecting. Our society is so consumed with
being tough on crime that we have lost our humanity and this story is a
prime example of this very fact. A six year old child does not have the
capability to form the requisite understanding of what attempted murder
means. Nor for that matter did the six year old child in your broadcast
understand the Miranda warnings that were being told to him. The whole
process of videotaping the child was a violation of that child's rights and
should not have been allowed to happen. The prosecutor's attitude in dealing
with this case also bothered me. At one end he talked about how this child
needed help however he could never articulate why it would require a
criminal case in order to achieve that goal. Finally the thing that
offended me the most was the report given by the psychologist that the child
was a natural born killer/a psychopath in the making.
I cannot begin to understand how a person who calls himself a trained
professional can after an hour of interviewing a person come to such a
conclusion. This man is an abomination to his profession and should not be
allowed to work with children. It was obvious in hearing the psychologist
speak about the case that he had no concept of children and h