Second Degree Murder

Juvenile Suspect Charged as Adult in Santa Rosa Murder (CA Penal Code 187)

15-year-old juvenile (name withheld to protect the anonymity of the accused) has been charged with murder (CA Penal Code 187) for having allegedly shot a man at a party in Santa Rosa.  Local law enforcement officials were called out to an apartment complex on Piner Road in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  Witnesses claim that the juvenile and another 20-year-old  (also of Santa Rosa) got into a verbal altercation during the party that quickly escalated and then moved to a nearby parking lot.  He now stands accused of shooting the victim once in the chest and once in the arm; the victim expired later at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

In cases such as these, there is always a debate over whether to prosecute the alleged perpetrator as a juvenile or as an adult.  It’s an important decision, one that can mean the difference between a number of years in a juvenile detention facility and the death penalty.  So, what is taken into account when prosecutors make this determination?

First, it is interesting to note that persons as young as 14 years of age can be tried as an adult in the state of California. However, only a person 16 years of age or older can be held in adult prison facility.  Once in the adult system, they no longer have access to important resources that they would if in the juvenile system. This means no access to common rehabilitative services like educational and vocational programs.  Second, juveniles tried as adults are treated as just that, adults who can be sentenced to the same amount of prison time and other punishments as their older counterparts.  If he is convicted of murder, he may face life in prison or the death penalty.


Boy Kills Neo-Nazi Father is Sentenced to 10 Years for Second-Degree Murder (CA Penal Code 187(b))

A young Riverside boy, aged 10 years at the time, shot his Neo-Nazi father (32-year-old name withheld for privacy), regional leader of a National Socialist Movement as he slept off a night of drinking.  By all accounts, the boy had been mentally and emotionally terrorized for much of his young life and was afraid that he would have to live with his abusive father after an impending divorce from his stepmother.  The child has been convicted of second-degree murder (CA Penal Code 187(b)) and sentenced to 10 years in the California Division of Juvenile Justice system and he will serve out his time in a state facility for juveniles.

The issue is that, though the boy committed a serious crime, and has a history of violent behavior in school (especially toward women teachers), he is not equipped to be incarcerated in a state facility of the kind he will be sent to, where he will be in the company of extremely brutal fellow offenders.  Additionally, if the boy had been tried as an adult, he would have most likely received 40 years to life.  As it stands, he will be eligible for parole in the 7th year of his term in jail.  It is also problematic that the child will not have access to proper educational facilities, as there is no middle school on the premises of the institution where he will be jailed (the Juvenile Justice O.H. Close Detention Center).

He has issues that the state admits they do not have the ability to provide accommodations for, like that of his need for intensive psychotherapy and continuation of psychotropic medications.  If the juvenile system is truly committed to rehabilitation in the case of young offenders, then there should be options for this  boy, who will be the youngest in the detention center at age 13.


Missouri Stand Your Ground Case Further Questions California’s “Castle Doctrine” (CA Penal Code 198.5)

In both Missouri and California, there are ‘stand your ground’ laws.  These provisions are meant to protect you from persons who are threatening you on your own property and are meant to preserve natural liberties (like the right to life, liberty, and property).  Recently, not only the Trayvon Martin debacle, but also a Missouri case has caused everyone to take a good hard look at ‘stand your ground’ laws, including Californians.

Recently, Missouri resident (name withheld for privacy), had enough of the loud, littering tourists that frequented his stretch of property along the Meramec River.  The moment he ‘snapped’ was when he found a Robertsville man attempting to urinate on a gravel bar in his well-kept lawn.  Crocker got his gun, started shooting, and ended up killing Dart there on the scene.  Now he faces second-degree murder charges.

Though the state of California has had what could be called ‘stand your ground’ laws for hundreds of years, many have argued that this is the incorrect terminology.  And they’re correct.  What California does have is something called the “castle doctrine” (CA Penal Code 198.5), in which deadly force is justified against someone who is attempting to enter your home (and there is a reasonable amount of danger of bodily injury).  Importantly, however, though this language is not present in the California state constitution, nor in the actual laws, juries are allowed to consider a ‘stand your ground’ defense in certain cases, only those in which the person is attempting to defend themselves and has not started the altercation themselves.  In other words, if this case were to be tried in California, and not Missouri, then the outcome might be very different indeed.  However, he also claims to have been hit quite seriously in the head with several rocks before shooting; thus, a jury will have to decide his fate.