Both were or are being prosecuted by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith. He’s also prosecuting the case of Courtney Hood…
Courtney Hood, 14, of Warren was charged as an adult with attempted murder for allegedly holding a classmate underwater. She faces up to life in prison, if convicted, and is due in circuit court Monday for a pretrial conference.
…among others. In the cases of Osantowski, Schorling, and Hood they were all teens that were tried or going to be tried as adults. The article asks if Prosecutor Smith is going overboard by trying these kids as adults and in some cases using Michigan’s terrorism law to charge these teens…
Juvenile advocates counter that get-tough prosecution is short-sighted and deprives youthful offenders of counseling, education, and other rehabilitative services. And while some residents applaud his actions, others say they think his office has been too aggressive in charging juveniles.
Glenn Stutzky, a clinical instructor at Michigan State University’s School of Social Work, said children need guidance — not punishment — to become productive and law-abiding adults.
“We need to get around to asking children why they are in such a state that they committed an act of violence against themselves or someone else,” Stutzky said. “Charging students with felonies isn’t rehabilitation.”
Youthful offenders are often victims of harassment at school or abuse at home, said Robert Shepherd, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Richmond in Virginia who focuses on juvenile crime.
Shepherd said studies show therapy is more effective than punishment at reducing subsequent offenses.
“A lot of the risky behaviors of kids are very legitimate and natural, and we need to develop programs that deal with what we know about the characteristics of adolescents,” Shepherd said. “The part of the brain that controls impulse and judgment is the last to mature in adolescents.”
In Oakland County, where 11-year-old Nathaniel Abraham was charged in 1997 as an adult with first-degree murder, prosecutors now tend to opt for therapy and education over punishment, said Deborah Carley, chief deputy prosecutor.
“We don’t look at our juvenile system as a punishment system,” Carley said.
What does Eric Smith himself have to say about this?…
Smith said pursuing rehabilitation “is not our job.” He said his job is to prove the elements of a crime, and it is up to a judge to decide if therapy should be part of the punishment for young offenders.
Three months before Smith took office, violence crept into local schools. Sixteen-year-old Eric Schorling stabbed his ex-girlfriend in the back in a hallway at Romeo High School.
Two weeks before that, police found a cache of weapons and Nazi paraphernalia at the home of Clinton Township teen Andrew Osantowski, who threatened to carry out a Columbine-style attack at Chippewa Valley High School.
Smith acknowledges that the 12-year-old accused of threatening to bomb her middle school was likely “joking” and was a good student, but added, “I have to let other kids know that we take that seriously.”
Eric Schorling failed to kill his victim, fortunately. Andrew Osantowski was apprehended before he had the chance to kill anyone. But what if Schorling and Osantowski had been successful? Would we still be having this conversation? Would people still be saying they only need counseling? Light sentencing for juveniles charged with serious crimes sends out the wrong message. If all they receive is counseling then any kid who is a would-be school shooter could think that they could just walk into their school, pop off a few rounds, kill a few people, and just have to go to a counselor once a week and it doesn’t take much to fool a counselor.
Eric Smith should be lauded as a hero for prosecuting criminals. Not vilified for not being sensitive enough.