Jonesboro Duo Declared Delinquent

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It's a lousy way to celebrate your 14th birthday. Mitchell Johnson, along with his 12-year-old pal Andrew Golden, spent the day in juvenile court. His birthday present was Judge Ralph Wilson's ruling that he wouldn't regain his freedom any time soon. Johnson and Golden have been found guilty -- or, in the court's terminology, "delinquent" -- in the shooting deaths of four of their classmates and one of their teachers back in March.

The birthday boy pleaded guilty, despite his father's protest. Golden's defense tried to have their client declared mentally incompetent. Judge Wilson wasn't swallowing that one. He sentenced the pair to an indefinite term, acknowledging that was as much as he could do under the law.

The boys' punishment, however, will inevitably be mild. The state of Arkansas does have the legal power to imprison them until the age of 21, but it doesn't have a correctional facility in which to hold youth offenders past age 18. Building a prison to house Johnson and Golden for 36 extra months each, despite the horrific nature of the crimes, would be tough to sell to taxpayers. That would give Golden a maximum seven years behind bars; Johnson would have just four more prison birthdays.