Analyzing Cases of Deadly Violence by Juveniles: Lionel Tate and Brothers, Derek and Alex King

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The cases of Lionel Tate, and brothers Derek and Alex King bring into focus the problems that society has in addressing how to handle criminal cases involving deadly violence by under-age juveniles. Lionel Tate, a 12 year old in Florida was convicted of killing a 6-year-old playmate while Alex and Derek King, 12 and 13 years old respectively, were convicted of killing their father. Interestingly, Lionel Tate, who happens to be black, was sentenced to life in prison while the King boys, who are white, both received minimal terms. These cases both received national and international attention but the notoriety of the cases should not detract from the poorly thought out public policy that supports the rendering of such excessive and non-individualized punishments to juveniles. In a society that is focused on law and order it has become acceptable for the prosecution of all criminals defendant, including juveniles, to be controlled by automatic, legislatively determined sentencing that places politicians, not judges, in the position of deciding who is incarcerated, who should be tried and punished as adults, and who should be sent to a juvenile program for possible rehabilitation. On the juvenile level, led by politicians who rose to power on a law and order platform, state laws were changed so that sentencing decisions on juveniles that were once based on child development theories are now based on strict statutory construction. This was clearly demonstrated in the Tate case

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