Children's best interest at heart of juvenile court

A boy was found delinquent in the killing of a 26-year old woman and her unborn child. In juvenile court, finding a minor delinquent is the same as a guilty verdict. The boy, now 14 years old, was 11 when he shot them with a shotgun. The judge conducted the trial behind closed doors, allowing only close family members into the courtroom because of the young age of the accused when he committed the crime.

The boy's lawyer is not sure if they are going to appeal the Lawrence County judges decision on the criminal homicide and first-degree murder charges. The state's deputy attorney general said that the guilty verdict will now allow the boy to receive treatment and counseling for his juvenile crime. In the three years since he was charged, the boy has been detained in a juvenile facility. However, because the boy and his family insisted he was innocent, he was not allowed any counseling.

Probation officials will now be able to develop a rehabilitation plan for the boy while he remains incarcerated. Unlike adults, a juvenile's status is reviewed every six months. Eventually, the boy could be released on probation. Regardless, he will be released from custody at age 21, as is customary when convicted in juvenile court.

Initially, another judge refused to move the proceedings to juvenile court because he could not connect the boy's actions to any other person or suspect. Eventually, on the argument that the boy was being forced to admit guilt simply to avoid jail without the possibility of parole, and from expert testimony that the boy would do well in counseling, the case was moved to juvenile court.

Source: abcnews.go.com, "Judge: Pa. Boy Killed Dad's Pregnant Fiancée at 11," Joe Mandak, April 13, 2012

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