This paper is a discussion of the issue of trying children as adults. Recent reports issued by the Justice Department have shown an alarming rise in juvenile crime, while the headlines have spotlighted particularly heinous acts performed by very young children. From the kidnapping and brutal murder of 2-year-old James Bulger by two 10-year-old boys in Liverpool in 1993 to the beating of a month-old infant by a 6-year-old boy in Contra County, California, in 1996, violent acts committed by very young children have severely tested the ability of the criminal justice system to establish impartial guidelines for dealing with young criminals. Historically, juveniles have always presented a difficult problem for the courts, which must determine whether there exists an arbitrary age at which a child can be held responsible for his actions and whether age alone should be the determining factor in sentencing.
One of the most shocking crimes in recent history occurred on February 12, 1993, in Liverpool, England. Two 10-year-old boys abducted 2-year-old James Bulger in a shopping mall, dragged him to a secluded spot, beat him to death with bricks and a steel pole, then laid his body across a railroad track, where it was sliced in half by a passing train. Found guilty of abduction and murder, the underage offenders are detained at separate facilities for dangerous children. British law allows them to be held indefinitely "at her majesty's pleasure."
On June 6, 1996, a 6-year-old boy believed to have been the youngest person ever charged with attempted murder in the United States had the charges reduced to assault with intent to injure in Martinez, California. The boy was accused of the brutal beating of a month-old infant during the burglary of a neighbor's apartment. The court considered him too young to help in his own defense, and a psychiatric evaluation ruled him unable to understand the consequences of his acts.
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