Once again, Omaha is shaken by a senseless murder committed by our youth. Our youth, whom we are supposed to nurture and whom are supposed to be our future. Four teens, aged 16-19 lured a pizza delivery person to a vacant apartment, robbed him of $25 and stabbed him to death.
I'm finding this to be such a tough moral issue: I sit on both sides of the juvenile justice issue - on the restorative (preventive) side as a Neighborhood Accountability Board member and on the after the fact side as part of the Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Youth. It's kind of hard to argue that we shouldn't sentence to life without parole when youths kill over $25.
Society and religious tenets tell us that once a child is past the age of reason (generally considered to be 3 years old), that he or she is able to reason, to understand consequences, to know right from wrong. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), abolished executions for persons under the age of 18 (the age is determined at the time of crime, not the trial date) based on the idea that the brain of a youth continues to develop until age 18.
One out of every ten arrested teens has committed a violent act (National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center). Homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. Teens are bombarded with images of violence, not just in video games and movies, but in their own neighborhoods. Many teens experience fear and violence at home before they even step out onto the street.
When a teen is involved in a violent crime and sent to a juvenile justice facility, he is often delivered from one hostile environment to another, despite the juvenile court's supposed role as the "court of rehabilitation". The gang loyalties and disputes that plagued his neighborhood in the outside world still exist behind razor-wire fences and thick steel doors. Were the court truly a court of rehabilitation, states would not see so many repeat offenders whose crimes intensify until the system is finally able to deal with them because they committed a murder.
So. . .what do we do folks? For those who say fry them, NE repealed the electric chair in favor of lethal injection. In addition, there is no death penalty for those who commit their crimes when they are under the age of 18, per the US Supreme Court because science shows that the brain of a youth is still developing through age 18, including reasoning skills. This is the same reason that the Supreme Court has overturned life in prison without parole except in the case of murder for those who committed their crimes under the age of 18.