Tag Archives: JLWOP

Eight Year Old May be Charged as Adult

From the New York Times:

ST. JOHNS, Ariz. — A week after the police charged an 8-year-old boy in the premeditated shooting deaths of his father and another man, the boy’s mother, teachers and others who know him say they are no closer to understanding the roots of such a heinous crime.

“I don’t believe he did this,” said the mother, Erin Bloomfield, 26, who has shared custody of her son with his father, Vincent Romero, 29, since the couple divorced six years ago. She said she talked to the boy every week and visited an average of once a month, driving the 20 hours to St. Johns from her home in Mississippi.

Ms. Bloomfield had just returned from her latest visit when she got a call about the shooting and immediately returned to St. Johns, a windy hamlet of horse ranches, low-slung houses and double-wide trailers about 170 miles east-northeast of Phoenix. The largest buildings are a few churches and schools along the single main road, which has no stoplights.

“People like their independence and freedom here,” said Wendy Guffey, 60, a substance abuse counselor at a local health clinic. “It’s sort of the redneck ethic. A lot of people haul their own water and live off generators and candles out here. Back to the land.”

Many of her clients struggle with unemployment, drugs and tedium. “A lot of people around here say there’s nothing to do,” Ms. Guffey said.

Ms. Bloomfield described her son as a “normal boy” who played video games nonstop and doted on his new dog, a boxer. But in recent months, she said, he “seemed to be changing.”

“There was a distance with me after a while,” she said.

Whenever she spoke with her son, Ms. Bloomfield said, “I had to go through Tiffany,” a reference to his stepmother, Tiffany Romero. “Tiffany would always sit there while he talked to me on the phone, and after a while, he became more and more distant.”

She worried, she said, that the boy might be being abused although she had no proof.

Before Judge Michael P. Roca of Apache County Superior Court blocked anyone connected to the case from talking to the news media, Police Chief Roy Melnick of St. Johns said there was no evidence that the boy had been abused at home or in school.

A person answering the door at the Romero home on Tuesday said Tiffany Romero would not discuss the case because of Judge Roca’s order.

Ms. Bloomfield said that after her son told her that his father and stepmother quarreled often, “I called Tiffany about that, and I think I got my son into trouble.”

“The next time I talked to him about it,” she added, “he said that Tiffany told him that ‘what happens in this house stays in this house.’ ”

Ms. Bloomfield also said that her son was close to his father, and that the two regularly played softball and basketball, and went hiking and hunting together, sometimes joined by the other man who was killed, Timothy Romans, 39. Mr. Romans worked in construction with Mr. Romero and rented a room in the family house.

Ms. Bloomfield confirmed that after first seeking permission from their parish priest, her ex-husband recently bought their son a .22 rifle for hunting, a common pastime of young boys and their fathers in this town of about 4,000 people.

The boy “took his religious faith very seriously,” said Sister Angelina Chavez, who has known him since he was a baby and taught his religious class every Monday at St. Johns Catholic Church. It is the church where the Romeros were married in September, and where hundreds of townspeople turned out for Mr. Romero’s funeral on Monday. “I just don’t know what happened to him spiritually, emotionally,” she said.

“This is going to take a while to get over,” Sister Angelina said. “Parishioners have come to me asking why it happened. I just don’t know.”

Ms. Bloomfield expressed disgust at rumors sweeping the town, among them that her son killed his father because he had not been allowed to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. “This town is too small,” she said. “Everybody thinks they know what happened. They’re saying all kinds of things about my son. They have smashed him down to nothing.”

Chief Melnick has said only that the boy unexpectedly confessed to the killings during the second of two interviews on Nov. 5. Neither a lawyer nor a family member was present either time, the chief said, because the boy was being questioned as a witness, not a suspect.

Prosecutors charged the boy as an adult, and Ms. Bloomfield said she was terrified they would also attempt to try him as one. The boy is scheduled to undergo three psychological examinations in the coming weeks to determine whether that is possible.

A Phoenix defense lawyer, Karyn Klausner, who is a former municipal judge, said that for the boy to be tried as an adult, the tests must show that he is competent to understand the charges against him, has a basic understanding of the court process and is able to assist in his defense. In addition, prosecutors must prove that he cannot be rehabilitated by the time he turns 18 and leaves the juvenile justice system.

Ms. Klausner said she was appalled that the authorities were considering such an option. “There’s no way on God’s green earth that an 8-year-old should be subject to the adult system,” she said.

Prosecutors also have what Ms. Klausner called the unlikely option of deciding that the boy is incompetent to stand trial, detaining him in a psychiatric facility until he is deemed competent, and then trying him as an adult.

In a separate case, a county judge in Bisbee, Ariz., on Monday denied a motion to try as an adult a 12-year-old boy accused of killing his mother. In that case, court mental health evaluators determined that the boy could be rehabilitated by the time he turned 18.

The sight of her young son being led into court in shackles on Monday was especially upsetting, Ms. Bloomfield said. His hands were bound to a security belt that had to be looped around his waist three times because of his small frame. The judge ordered the restraints removed.

“I blew some kisses at him and told him to put some in his pocket for later,” the mother said. “Later he told me he needed more kisses to put in his pocket.”

The next hearing, set for next Wednesday, is to focus on requests by defense lawyers for DNA, blood samples, ballistics and other forensics evidence from the crime scene.

Two of the boy’s friends, Lucas Graf, 12, and Jude Chavez, 11, said they, too, were baffled as to how someone with whom they wrestled and swam in the scorching summer just past could have committed such a brutal act.

“He’s a nice kid,” Lucas said. “He’s normal.”

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Juvenile LWOP in Israel

Juvenile LWOP in Israel, isn’t really LWOP — exactly. See this post from the University of San Francisco:

“The Center For Law and Global Justice has issued a report on the sentencing of child offenders – those convicted of crimes committed when younger than 18 years of age -to a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole (“LWOP”). The sentence condemns a child to die in prison. It is the harshest sentence an individual can receive short of death and violates international human rights standards of juvenile justice.

NEW INFORMATION ON JUVENILE LWOP GLOBAL PRACTICE

FEBRUARY 2008–The Center has now confirmed with Israeli officials that children given life sentences, including those in the Occupied Territories which have been the subject of serious concern by the Center and other human rights groups, are entitled to parole review. There remains the concern that parole review is difficult to pursue and rarely granted. The new confirmation by Israel means that the United States, with 2,381 such cases, is now the only country in the world known to either issue the sentence or to have children serving life without parole.

Authors:

Michelle Leighton
Director, Human Rights Programs
Center for Law and Global Justice
mleighton@usfca.edu
University of San Francisco School of Law

Professor Connie de la Vega
Director, Frank C. Newman International Human Rights Law Clinic
delavega@usfca.edu
University of San Francisco School of Law

This report may be accessed in .pdf format here.”

Petition in Support of HR4300 – Ending Juvenile Life Without Parole

There is a new online petition in support of HR4300, which would end the sentencing Juveniles to Life Without the possibility of parole. Follow this link to the petition. The body of the petition is as follows:
“Target: HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

I honor Representatives Scott and Conyers for their courage in proposing HR 4300. I encourage you, Honorable Members of the Sub-Committee, to begin to do the hard work in discerning where justice truly lies concerning the youth of America. Please help HR 4300 on its way to the full House.

Sponsored by: HTTP://HR4300.COM

The U. S. disproportionately sentences child offenders to LWOP. With an estimated 2,380 child offenders serving the sentence, and 42 of the 50 states and the federal government permitting the sentence, the U.S. is home to over 99% of youth serving the sentence in the world. 10 states set no minimum age and 12 states set a minimum of 10-13 years of age and 16% who receive this sentence are indeed of this young age. Of great concern are the tremendous racial disparities among the populations receiving the sentence. Finally, it is your responsibility as our leadership to be acutely aware of the unthinkable fact that adult prisons are especially harsh on juveniles. The suicide rate for juveniles in adult facilities is 8 times that of juveniles in detention facilities.

The United States is the only nation on earth that sentences its children to life without parole (LWOP). We have more than 2300 children sentenced to die in prison, including some as young as 13. Children are NOT adults. All studies show that teens brains are not fully developed, and that they do not have the maturity to always make rational, reasoned decisions. The United States Supreme Court stated that children should not be held to the same level of culpability as adults.

HR4300 would give children sentenced to life the opportunity for parole once in 15 years.

We support HR4300.

They can, however, be sentenced to life in prison and its equivalent in years without the possibility of parole, a sentence reserved for those people in our society for whom there is considered to be no redemption. Do you agree that children are beyond redemption? Juvenile life without parole sentences ignore the very real scientific facts and social differences between children and adults, abandoning the concepts of redemption and second chances upon which this country was built. Psychoanalytical studies have shown that children lack the capacity to both understand and control their actions, which reduces culpability. The human brain does not reach its full capacity in the frontal cortex, the area of reasoning, until age 25.”

The actual bill can be read in its entirety here. The substance is as follows:

“For each fiscal year after the expiration of the period specified in subsection (d)(1), each State shall have in effect laws and policies under which each child offender who is under a life sentence receives, not less than once during the first 15 years of incarceration, and not less than once every 3 years of incarceration thereafter, a meaningful opportunity for parole. Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall issue guidelines and regulations to interpret and implement this section. This provision shall in no way be construed to limit the access of child offenders to other programs and appeals which they were rightly due prior to the passage of this Act.

News Story About Jacob Ind on Colorado Springs KKTV 11

I’ve posted a number of Jacob Ind’s essays on serving life without the possibility of parole. KKTV Channel 11 in Colorado Springs aired a story yesterday on the Jacob Ind case and asked their viewers the question, should juveniles who commit murders before the age of 18 be sentenced to life without parole.

It’s interesting to note that the judge in Jacob Ind’s case felt the sentence was too harsh and although the Colorado Attorney General felt that Jacob Ind and Gabriel Adams’ cases should have been tried in adult court, he would not have been opposed to sentencing them to prison terms that afforded the possibility of parole.

Colorado stopped sentencing juveniles to LWOP in 2006, but the change was not made retroactive for the 46 juveniles sentenced to LWOP in Colorado prior to the change.

The news broadcast can be seen here.