Children and Punishment

  • Share
  • Read Later
JONESBORO, Ark.: Their date with the judge is set for April 29, but Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden could be heading for a lot more trouble than a state juvenile court. The question is already being asked: Could at least one of them be tried as adults? Arkansas law says no, but U.S. law allows for defendents in criminal trials to be as young as 13. "What we're doing is going through all the various federal statutes to see what might be effective," Janet Reno told her weekly news conference Thursday. She also hinted that, at the least, the two might be tried "under certain federal crimes as juveniles." That would allow the courts to jail the Jonesboro duo until the age of 21, rather than 18.

Putting the matter in federal hands won't stop Arkansas taking a long hard look at its own law. In Little Rock Wednesday, State Rep. Jimmy Jeffress said he wants a law that would set no age limits for prosecutors in deciding whether to pursue adult charges. And Gov. Mike Huckabee declared he would "determine what, if any, other measures should be taken to properly address this kind of inexplicable and unthinkable behavior." But Amy Rossi, director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, warned of a rush to judgment. "These responses are driven by grief and passion," she said. "That's not the way to make public policy."