Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Tried as Adults

"Tried as an adult" has entered the common parlance as a noteworthy phrase in the past ten years or so.  Usually it's used in cases where defendants are sixteen or seventeen years old--eighteen being an actual adult, rather than a proto-adult or pseudo-adult.  Yet, we've seen instances all over the country where children as young as 9 have had this phrase employed against them in their legal battles.  Currently, in Grant County, two children have had this phrase used in their court cases.

Both Jake Lee Eakin and Evan Drake Savoie were twelve when they were arrested for the slaying of their playmate, Craig Sorger, a developmentally disabled youngster who was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death in an Ephrata park.

"Tried as an adult" is a phrase missing some words.  "Tried as if they were adults" is the operative meaning.  As if.  As though.  What the prosecution is asking the court to do is imagine that these children are adults.  It's fanciful language that purports to convey society's outrage at crimes that are adult in nature, perpetrated by children.  "Pretend these children are adults," is the subtext being communicated to the jury.  Ignore the fact that these defendants are children and children, according to the Revised Code of Washington can be expected to do childish things. 

But children are not adults.  They don't understand the consequences of their actions.  Their brains are not fully grown.  They live in a childish world of immature perspective without adult dimension, and most importantly, they cannot participate effectively in their own defense. 

What happened to Craig Sorger was a brutal, heinous crime.  Inexcusable and unpardonable.  But the Court, by allowing boys to be tried as if they were men, has erred, and the Court of Appeals should have overturned that decision.

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