In a bizarre string of events, a 10-year-old girl has been charged with first degree murder for the killing of a six-month-old boy in Chippewa County, Wisconsin. The laws in that state dictate that anyone 10 years old or above that is charged with first degree murder must be arraigned in adult court, regardless of whether or not the case will eventually end up in the juvenile system. The girl was brought into the courtroom in early November, sobbing and shackled. By all accounts, it was a very hard day in this rural Wisconsin courtroom.
Troubling Chain of Events Leading to Infant's Death
The incident happened in a daycare. The girl was holding the infant, but dropped him. Upon landing, the baby hit his head on the step of a footstool and started crying. In a panic to quiet the child, she stomped on his head, causing massive injuries, from which the baby died two days later. Though the girl initially denied these facts, she later confessed. At the arraignment were her biological parents as well as her foster parents, with whom she had been placed in September. Her foster parents owned the daycare in which the incident occurred.
Intentional Killing in Wisconsin
First degree murder is essentially intentional killing, though defenses can be asserted to lessen the charges. Police and doctors in this incident claim all evidence is consistent with first degree murder. The baby died from head trauma, the tread on his head was consistent with her shoe, and she admitted she intentionally stomped on his head to quiet him so that she wouldn't get in trouble. Though state law dictates this case must commence in adult court, many claim she is too young, and the age should be raised. In nearby Minnesota, the minimum age is 14. However, the age is as young as six in other states, such as North Carolina. This case will certainly spark a debate, but until then, the girl's case must continue in the adult system.
Consequences of Being Arraigned as an Adult
There are many differences between the juvenile and adult court systems, and these differences begin as early as the arrest. Therefore, this girl's experiences are already troubling some. According to child psychologist, Laurence Steinberg, "the adult system doesn't have the capacity to respond to the needs of younger individuals in developmentally appropriate ways." For instance, she is currently being held in an adult prison in lieu of a $50,000 bond. Also, she is involved in court proceedings that she likely cannot understand, which is unconstitutional.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime and tried as an adult, and you believe the case should be moved into the juvenile system, contact a local criminal defense attorney today. The juvenile system provides many safeguards for youths, and is designed to rehabilitate the offender, which is often much more possible with minors than adults. The system also comes with the benefit of potentially having the crime later expunged.