Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

JURY VERDICT in teen triple murder trial....

So the jury came back with a verdict in the trial of a 17 year old teen charged with 3 counts of first degree murder and 3 counts of attempted murder at approximately 9:45 pm after only 5 and a half hours of deliberating. 

Unfortunately, the jury came back with the verdict of GUILTY of all charges; 3 counts of first degree murder and 3 counts of attempted murder. 

Personally, I was shocked. I did not believe the Crown's key witness, Howard Roulette's testimony, about being forced at gunpoint and planning the shootings, mainly because he had lied to police initially, had many previous convictions and appeared to be untrustworthy. He had inconsistent statements and the other two accused had offered him $1000 to participate in the shootings. I believe that he was an active participator in the killings alongside both accuseds, but that the attacks were not planned. How can you believe what he is saying when his statements are so inconsistent?

I was predicting a verdict of 2nd degree murder on 3 counts and guilty of discharging a firearm (instead of attempted murder) on 3 counts. 

I am torn on the issue of whether this teen should be sentenced as an adult or a youth. If sentenced as an adult, he will face life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years. If sentenced as a youth, he faces maximum 10 year sentence, with 6 of those years in custody and 4 years under community supervision. 

Personally, I do not agree with mandatory minimum sentences for murder especially, because it severely limits judicial discretion pertaining to sentencing. I feel that judges should have the ultimate discretion and be able to examine the unique circumstances of each case and decide on the best sentence. By imposing MMS, all offenders convicted of murder are treated the same, when are they are not. They are all different and by treating them the same, actually creates more inequalities and unfairness and disproportionate sentences. 

If I had ultimate judicial discretion, I would sentence this youth to a 15 year sentence, with parole eligibility set at 7.5 years (half the sentence). 

Every murder case is different and deserves to be treated as such, in my opinion, not all lumped together in one sentence. 

About the issue of sentencing a violent youth to an adult prison.... 
The purpose of prisons are to help protect society from potentially dangerous criminals, attempt to act as a deterrent and prevention for future crimes and to punish offenders by restricting freedom. 

Youths who are sent to adult prisons, even if they committed a violent crime, can potentially become more violent and dangerous, and learn "new criminal ways." They are at a much higher risk of being sexually assaulted, bullied and have a higher suicide risk. A youth who may have mental health issues, low education or addictions, will have far less opportunity for rehabilitation in adult prisons as there are less resources and programs catering to these needs and to the specific needs of youths. 

Youth prisons and restorative justice in particular, have been shown to reduce crime more effectively with more serious crimes. Restorative justice works with violent crime more consistently than with property crimes. Many people, believe that RJ should only be used to non-violent crimes but the research shows that the value is increased when used in cases of violent crime.

When placed in adult prisons, youths have even less of a chance of being rehabilitated than if sent to a youth prison or even better, a community sanction. Studies have shown that adult prisons do not deter youth crime and actually make them more violent. When released, they are more likely to re-offend and commit more serious crimes. 

There is a common myth held by the public, that the adult system is more effective for juveniles. This is a misconception is the adult prisons are overcrowded, offer less programs and resources, especially for youth and there is no evidence that it is more effective for youth. Youths in the adult system have higher rates of recidivism than youths incarcerated in the youth system. Placing youth in adult prisons simply reinforces the popular notion of "out of sight, out of mind." 

Housing teens in adult prisons is simply wrong, regardless of the evils they have committed. Youths are 5x more likely to be sexually assaulted and 2x more likely to be beaten, than in youth prison. Placing them in adult prisons constitutes deliberate indifference to their well-being and dehumanizes them. In addition to being costly in terms of time and resources, it prevents reconciliation and healing.

Transferring the problem of the most serious juvenile offenders to an even more overwhelmed and less effective system makes no sense.  

My point being, that after doing some research, I do not think that juveniles should be punished by sending them to adult prisons. 
We could accomplish a better result with these teens by sending them to a youth prison not an adult one. The bottom line, is that young inmates are much more likely to re-offend after being released from an adult prison.

Therefore, pertaining to this case of 17 year old found guilty of 3 counts of first degree murder and 3 counts of attempted murder, I feel that he should NOT be sentenced to adult prison, but to youth prison instead (which means he would get 10 years in total as opposed to life with no parole for 25 years).

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