The Trench Reynolds Report

All Crime Is Personal

Juvenile or adult? Armstrong trial forces difficult decision:

This is an editorial about whether or not Patrick Armstrong, the 14-year-old accused of killing 14-year-old Marlee Johnston from Fayette, Maine, should be tried as an adult or not. The editorial meanders around for a bit but finally gets to its point…

Nothing society can do is a fair exchange for what was done to Marlee, whom all describe as vibrant, joyful, caring and kind. Nothing can return her to her family and friends or replace the life she would have lived.

That would be equally true if her killer were imprisoned for the rest of his life.

The right answer balances many needs: the need for society to be protected from people of any age who pose a danger, the need to punish the guilty, the need to rehabilitate those who commit crimes.

The juvenile justice system is based on the theory that children who commit even the worst crimes can grow into productive adults. That is clearly more true of younger lawbreakers than older ones.

Considering his age, even if he is convicted as an adult, Armstrong is very likely to be released from prison while still a young man. That would make treatment and rehabilitation at least as important as punishment. That treatment is more likely at a juvenile detention facility than at a state prison.

It is difficult to look past the anger and grief we all feel at Marlee Johnston’s death, to move beyond the need for vengeance, but the prosecutors and judge who deal with this case must do so.

We recognize that not all the facts of this case have been disclosed. It is unlikely, but possible, that prosecutors will find information or evidence that would argue against keeping the case in juvenile court.

Those unlikely circumstances would have to be compelling to overcome the fact that Patrick Armstrong is a boy, not a man.

The author of this editorial is misguided at best.

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