Thursday, April 15, 2021
Uncategorized Why is the SF DA trying a 14-year-old as...

Why is the SF DA trying a 14-year-old as an adult?

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By Tim Redmond

On June 24, 2103, an SUV pulled up near a Muni shelter at West Point Road and Middle Point Road in Hunters Point. According to video images later collected by the police, someone got out of the vehicle, and, standing near the rear of it, fired 23 shots with a 9 millimeter gun into the shelter, killing Jaquan Rice, 19, and injuring his 17-year-old girlfriend.

The shooting may have been gang-related, although police still aren’t sure of a motive. But they’re convinced that Derrick Hunter, 19, and a 14-year-old we’ll call Q, were in the car, and they, along with Lee Sullivan, 22, are charged with murder, conspiracy, and a series of related felonies.

And despite what can only be called shaky evidence, presented by two homicide officers whose actions were unorthodox, and whose accounts were sometimes contradictory and often strained credulity, Judge Andrew Cheng ruled Jan. 3 that Q should be held for trial – as an adult.

That’s right: In San Francisco, where the district attorney claims to be a progressive, seeking humane approaches to criminal justice, a 14-year-old boy is facing hard time — as an adult.

“I don’t think that’s ever happened in San Francisco,” public defender Jeff Adachi told me. “At the very least, it’s extremely rare. And it’s outrageous that this child would be tried as an adult.” (more after the jump)

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe the prosecution is hoping that under pressure the kid will testify against his co-defendants in exchange for leniency? If the kid was present and he refuses to cooperate by offering testimony, then the prosecutor might consider that he is in the very least aiding and abetting a crime after the fact by withholding evidence.

  2. What a lopsided piece of journalism. Juveniles are often tried with adult co-defendants in order to spare victims from having to deal with the fear and pain of testifying twice. Here, it sounds like you have a surviving victim who suffered the trauma of being shot, and two juvenile witnesses. Trying the juvenile with the adult does not at all mean he will be sentenced as an adult. There are many legal mechanisms to ensure that a juvenile is sentenced as a juvenile even after a conviction in adult court. Mr. Adachi and Ms. Young are both well familiar with this part of the process. As a criminal defense attorney, and former gang prosecutor, I found this article terribly misleading.

  3. (From Compliance Campaign for US compliance with international norms)Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that:

    (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;

    (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

    (c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

    (d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

    While the case of Paul Henry Gingerich has received quite a bit of attention, it is by no means unique. Trying and sentencing young children as adults occurs with alarming frequency in the U.S. according to a 2009 report by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

    The report, ”From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System,” finds that more than half the states permit children age 12 and under to be treated as adults for criminal justice purposes. In 22 states, plus the District of Columbia, children as young as seven can be prosecuted and tried in adult court where they would be subject to harsh adult sanctions, including long prison terms, mandatory sentences and placement in adult prisons.

    The report notes that the United States stands nearly alone in the world in its harsh treatment of young children:

    Punishing young children violates international norms of human rights and juvenile justice, and yet the United States continues to lead the world in both policies and practices aimed at treating young children as adults. The way the United States punishes pre-adolescents who are waived to the adult criminal justice system is of special concern in light of the basic principles of international human rights law. From the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United States has disregarded international laws and norms providing that children should be treated differently than adults. A number of international laws offer support for increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility and argue against long, mandatory minimum sentences for children.

    Nearly all nations in the world follow both the spirit and letter of these international instruments. As a result, most countries—including those Western nations most similar to the United States—repudiate the practice of trying young children as adults and giving them long sentences. Our research has yielded no findings of any young children elsewhere in the world who are imprisoned for as long as some children in the United States. Moreover, the international community is seeing a trend whereby juvenile punishments are being rolled back, at the same time that certain states in America are increasing the possible array of punishments for children. Ultimately, while international norms do not control the criminal justice policy of the United States, they do signal the extent to which the U.S. is out of step with the global consensus that children should be treated as children.

    If the United States hopes to be considered a civilized democracy, it must start by respecting the rights of children as spelled out in international agreements, beginning, hopefully, with Paul Henry Gingerich.

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