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December 26, 2011

Lengthy new New Yorker piece on juve LWOP and 14-year-old Michigan murderer

2012_01_02_p323The January 2, 2012 issue of The New Yorker (which had an awesome cover I could not avoid posting) has this lengthy piece discussing life without parole sentences for juvenilines. The piece, authored by Rachel Aviv, is titled simply "No Remorse: Should a teen-ager be given a life sentence?".  Here is the abstract provided by the magazine's website:

Shortly after midnight on March 6, 2010, Dakotah Eliason sat in a chair in his bedroom with a .38-calibre pistol in his hands, thinking about what the world would be like if he didn’t exist.  Earlier that night, Dakotah, who was fourteen, had taken his grandfather’s loaded gun off the coatrack.  Dakotah wondered if he was ready to die, and contemplated taking someone else’s life instead.  He walked into the living room and stared at his grandfather, Jesse Miles, who was sleeping on the couch. A retired machinist and an avid hunter, Jesse often fell asleep while watching the Discovery Channel.  For forty-five minutes, Dakotah sat on a wooden chair, three feet from his grandfather, and talked to himself quietly, debating what to do next. If he got hand towels from the bathroom, he could gag his grandpa. If he used a steak knife, the whole thing might be quieter.  He figured he’d use the cordless phone on his bed to report the crime.  He felt as if he were watching a movie about himself.  Finally, at just after three in the morning, he raised the handgun, his arms trembling, and shot his grandfather in the head.  “Man, I shot Papa!” he shouted.  He put the gun on the floor and rushed into his grandmother Jean’s bedroom. She yelled for Dakotah to call 911. When officers from the police department in Niles, a rural town in southeast Michigan, arrived seven minutes later, Dakotah was waiting outside next to his grandmother.

Tells about Dakotah’s arrest and his trial as an adult for first-degree murder, which in Michigan carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  Discusses the history and evolution of the American juvenile justice system. Although judges have long been attuned to the difficulty of trying mentally ill defendants, there is little recognition that people may be incompetent to stand trial because of their age. Each year, more than two-hundred thousand offenders younger than eighteen are tried as adults, yet only about half of them understand the Miranda warning.  Discusses recent and upcoming Supreme Court cases on the sentencing of juveniles.  Dakotah was found guilty of first-degree homicide and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Writer visits Dakotah in prison.  Discusses his relations with family and with other prisoners.

This piece is quite timely as the top-side briefs are soon to be filed in the big Eighth Amendment juve LWOP cases of Jackson and Miller.  According to the docket information at the SCOTUS website, the petitioners' briefs are due to be filed on January 9, 2012 (and that, in turn, means the amicus briefs to be filed in support of the juve defendants will be filed by January 16, 2012).  I am very interested to see how both petitioners and amici develop their arguments in these cases because there are so many distinct ways to pitch the argument that their sentences are constitutionally problematic.

A few recent related posts on Jackson and Miller and related issues:

December 26, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"No Remorse: Should a teen-ager be given a life sentence?".
In some such cases, he should be given a *death* sentence, e.g.
Lee Malvo.

"Had the death penalty been a real possibility in the minds of these murderers, they might well have stayed their hand.
They might might have shown moral awareness before their victims died, and not after. Consider the tragic death of
Rosa Velez, who happened to be home when a man named Luis Vera burglarized her apartment in Brooklyn...
Vera admitted[:]'I knew I wouldn’t go to the chair'.”--Ed Koch

Posted by: adamakis | Dec 26, 2011 10:57:43 PM

"Although judges have long been attuned to the difficulty of trying mentally ill defendants, there is little recognition that people may be incompetent to stand trial because of their age."

This is lawyer lying idiocy, and excuse making in bad faith. Judges accepting this utter nonsense are procriminal and should be driven from the bench, by repeated beatings. There is no talking to such horrible people. Because violence in mental illness and young age increase the risk of future violence, they should be changed to aggravating factors, and no longer be accepted as excuses. Right now, legislatures are totally dominated by pro-criminal lawyer vermin, even if the representative is not a lawyer. They are empowering evil, by ever increasing restrictiveness of remedies. Example, restraints are prohibited now in psychiatric hospitals. Even time out rooms are being eliminated. One must just take the violence of these predators, the good customer of the lawyer traitor. What is the substitute for physical remedies? More staffing, to increase the size of government. So the motive behind this procriminal bias is rent seeking, a synonym for armed robbery, with a masking ideology of humanitarian left wing progressivism.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 27, 2011 7:17:45 AM

The juvenile justice system established in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) in the early 1900s determined that juveniles (ages depend on each state's juvenile law statues)should be dealt with separately, since they are not adults and not totally responsible for their actions. The system was supposed to be structured for the benefit of the juvenile and not "justice" per se.
In the 60s and 70s prosecutors felt the need to prosecute juveniles as adults, if the offense they had committed was heinious enough. It was simply political "law & order" BS. Not for the benefit of the juvenile, but simply to add a notch to the "win" column for the prosecutor.
In-other-words, juveniles are not responsible for their actions due to their age, unless, of course, they commit a really bad act. Consequently, our juvenile justice system has become a sham, law&order, punitive way of dealing with out-of-control youth. And, unfortunately, nobody gives a damn because they (the juveniles) don't vote and have no real power to determine their own fate.

Posted by: Steve Egger | Dec 27, 2011 2:07:24 PM

'Not for the benefit of the juvenile, but simply to add a notch to the "win" column for the prosecutor.'
No, it was added because people were tired of young people were getting away with murder just because they were under 18.
The simple fact of the matter is that a person should no be allowed to get away with murder and other violent crimes just bacause they are under 18. And make no mistake, being treated as a juvenile for murder is the same as getting away with it.

Posted by: jim | Dec 27, 2011 4:29:36 PM

Jim:
He shoots, he scores. {"a person should no be allowed to get away with murder" just for being under 18}.

17 + 364 days okay;
17 + 365 days fully culpable. What about time zones, daylight savings time, birth on a fast-moving aircraft, DOB unsure, not to mention maturity levels?...Reminds one of the arbitrariness of the Zodiac.

“Too much mercy... often resulted in further crimes which were fatal to innocent victims who need not have been victims if justice had been put first and mercy second.”--A. Christie

Posted by: adamakis | Dec 27, 2011 9:47:04 PM

i'm with adamakis. you do an ADULT crime! you do ADULT TIME!

there's a big diff between a young kid finding dad's unsecured LOADED gun and knowing but fake guns pointing it and pulling the trigger...

and a underage woodbe gangbanger kiling during a holdup!

sorry first one get's my mercy and a chance at a life after a hell of a lot of therapy....the other needs the chair!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 27, 2011 11:17:45 PM

in this case based on this!

"Shortly after midnight on March 6, 2010, Dakotah Eliason sat in a chair in his bedroom with a .38-calibre pistol in his hands, thinking about what the world would be like if he didn’t exist. Earlier that night, Dakotah, who was fourteen, had taken his grandfather’s loaded gun off the coatrack."

kid is a serious mental case who will probably never be safe outside with normal people! But DAD was an even bigger idiot! in 2010 NOBODY should be dumb enough to leave loaded guns unsecured around kids!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 27, 2011 11:21:39 PM

rodsmith --

There are times when you have a way of cutting through the BS like no one else on this board.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 28, 2011 2:38:15 AM

thanks bill

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 29, 2011 6:10:38 PM

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