"Children." That is how the soft-on-crime crowd likes to refer to people under 18 when they commit crimes. Of course, when teenagers are victims of crimes, that word is completely inappropriate. The 14- and 16-year-old girls raped and murdered by Jose Medellin were "young women," i.e., adults, according to counsel for Medellin. Is there any other context in modern society where people routinely refer to teenagers as "children"? Try standing in front of a class of high school seniors and saying, "Good morning, children," and see what kind of reaction you get. When we want to refer to all persons below the age of majority, we generally say "minors" or "juveniles."
Of course, teenagers are neither children nor adults. This is a transition stage of life, and we need to consider it separately. On the question of whether teenagers who commit crimes should be tried in regular criminal court or juvenile court, the correct answer is, "It depends." This AP story by Helen O'Neill provides a prime example of a case where juvenile court was absolutely the wrong answer.
[O]ne summer night in 1987, Craig Price crept across his neighbor's yard, broke into a little brown house on Inez Avenue and stabbed Rebecca Spencer 58 times. She was a 27-year-old mother of two. He was 13.
Two years passed before Price struck again.
Joan Heaton, 39, was butchered with the kitchen knives she had bought earlier that day. The bodies of her daughters, Jennifer 10, and Melissa 8, were found in pools of blood, pieces of knives broken off in their bones; Jennifer had been stabbed 62 times.
They eventually caught him.
Yet even as police and prosecutors celebrated the capture of Rhode Island's most notorious serial killer, they were reminded of a grim reality.
In five years, Price would be free to kill again.
Price was a month shy of his 16th birthday. As a juvenile, he would be released from the youth correctional center when he turned 21 _ the maximum penalty under Rhode Island law at the time. His records would be sealed. The 5-foot-10 inch, 240-pound killer would be free to resume his life as if the murders had never occurred.
The law was on his side and Price knew it.
As described in the story, Price has been kept in prison through extraordinary efforts. That should not have been necessary. Price was not a child. Juvenile court disposition should not even be considered in a case like this. Committing murder on more than one occasion should be automatic life-without-parole for a teenager. It should be an automatic death sentence for an adult.