Valley Springs: 12-year-old Arrest in Leila Fowler Murder (CA Penal Code §187(a))

When Leila Fowler (8) was found stabbed to death in the kitchen of her family’s ranch style home, it was her brother (12) who seemed most upset.  Now, the young boy has been arrested in connection with the case pursuant to CA Penal Code §187(a), even though there seems to be little evidence to support this.  By all accounts, including the testimony of the children’s mother, the Calaveras County Sherriff’s Department is grasping at straws.  The boy’s original testimony was that a strange man with silver hair had broken into the home, killed Fowler, and run – that his sister was the victim of an attempted burglary turned home invasion.

Because of the violent and intimate nature of the crime, this 12-year-old will soon find his fate in the hands of a juvenile court judge – and perhaps in the hands of psychiatrists and psychologists assigned to the task of determining his mental health. In the state of California, a juvenile can be charged as an adult when it is deemed appropriate, but the offender has to be aged 14 years or older.  This is because the goal of the California juvenile justice system is not punishment; it’s rehabilitation. Yet, there are some cases in which much younger children, like this boy, may be deemed “too bad” to be considered redeemable – and the decision as to whether this boy will face life in prison or 25 years in jail will be up to the judge in the case.

A crime like this is heartbreaking; it’s as simple as that.  However, when we turn the harsh and unyielding eye of justice on to a young child, the situation becomes even less palatable.  The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not this boy was capable of changing so swiftly from a loving brother who never fought with his sister to a cold-blooded murderer.  The odds are that this is an unlikely scenario and that the Calaveras County Sherriff’s Department will end up with egg on their faces soon enough.