An 11 year-old babysitter has been charged with murder and child cruelty in the death of a 2 year-old baby in Atlanta, Georgia. Zyda White died while under the care and supervision of the unidentified girl. The babysitter was the daughter of a co-worker of Zyda's mother.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Zyda White died as a result of head injury and blunt force trauma to her head and buttocks. Zyda's mother took her young daughter to the hospital after picking her up from the babysitter. The girl told police that Zyda had fallen out of the bed she was sleeping in and she simply picked her up and placed her back.
The AJC quotes law professor Ron Carlson on the charges, "The serious question is whether or not the state can go ahead with an adult charge. We're going to have to let the courts decide that one because criminal responsibility is limited to those over 12 years old." Carlson is referring to the legal line drawn between being a juvenile or adult offender. Being tried as a juvenile means that the babysitter in this case would be charged and punished in a completely different manner than as an adult.
Murder is a violent crime that prosecutors often seek to try the youth offender as an adult. The charge is not without controversy, and this case is no exception. The rationale behind excluding minors from the criminal justice system is fairly simple -- they are unable to fully appreciate the nature of their actions. There are valid reasons for treating children differently than adults, however this distinction is blurred when the crime ends in death.
Whether petty theft or a violent crime, many argue that children have not fully developed a sense of right and wrong and their behavior can be as much a product of their upbringing, environment, and external influences as their own mental state. On the other hand, many argue that if children commit adult crimes, then they can serve adult time for their actions. In the end, the decision on how to handle cases of youth offenders rests in the hands of a judge.