The Trench Reynolds Report

Without truth there is no justice

Macomb Co. crackdown on young suspects raises issues:

Macomb County Michigan is like the Bermuda triangle of school violence. Just on my site alone, I’ve discussed the cases of Andrew Osantowski and Eric Schorling.

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.

6 thoughts on “Eric Smith: What a prosecutor should be

  1. TheVoiceOfReason says:

    Are you serious? 14-year-old kids should be put in prison for life because of holding someone underwater? That is going seriously overboard. How young do you suggest this begin? Should the little boy who recently brought a gun to a preschool be sentenced to life in prison for his little stunt? Suggesting that kids should have one strike and be sent away for the rest of their life not only wastes the lives of potentially good people (or those who may deserve time in prison, but not the rest of their lives), but also would be an incredible waste of taxpayer money and government resources. Do you really want to be paying for every stupid mistake that kids make for the rest of your life? Do you really want cops, detectives, courts, and judges to be wasting their time on this nonsense when there are real criminals that are actually a threat to society? I certainly don’t. If, as Smith suggests, “rehabilitation isn’t our job”, he obviously doesn’t understand that times have changed since that mentality ruled. Who’s job is rehabilitation, exactly, if a one-strike-you’re-out situation leaves no room for anyone to even get the chance? Not to mention, rehabilitation would be MUCH more economically efficient and would release people back into society (and thus no longer a burden on the rest of us) once it was clear their situation had been resolved.
    Hey, I’m all about harsh sentencing for weapons violators, children or not. But there is a certain standard that needs to be upheld, not just “throw the book at everyone regardless of the situation.” I hope you never run out of money to pay your mounting taxes or have kids who do something stupid, Trench, because then you’ll be changing your tune.

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  2. Trench says:

    I never said that she should be put in prison for life but if she was actually trying to drown her classmate to death than she does need to go to jail. 14-years-old is old enough to know that murdering someone is wrong. Murder and attempted murder are not just “stupid mistakes” as you put it.

    As for the 8-year-old who brought a gun to his pre-school, that’s comparing apples and oranges. The gun accidentallyh discharged. It was not his intent to kill. And in that case the father of the boy was correctly arrested for leaving a firearm in a location accessible by an unsupervised minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

    How do you determine who is a “real criminal” or threat to wsociety? Is there an age cut off? Dylan Klebold was only 17. Jeff Weise was only 16. If they had lived would you prefer that the only punishemnt received is juvenile detnetion?

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  3. ConcernedParent says:

    What everyone seems to forget or maybe doesn’t know is that there were three girls involved in this attempted drowning. Life in prison for Courtney? Definitely not. The other two “innocent” girls admitted to putting Courtney up to the drowning, they even laughed afterward and congratulated Courtney on going through with it. Of course these two “innocent” girls admitted their part in this only after charges were dropped against them. Now they’ve left Courtney hanging in the wind to take the full brunt of punishment while they get away scottfree. 14 is definitely old enough to know right from wrong. But think about the peer pressure. You’re hanging out with the “cool girls” and they plan something like this. Some kids will think what choice do they have, they have to follow through. I feel terrible for Courtney but the two “innocent” girls should stand up and take responsilibilty for their actions. I hope Courtney is given a warning and stays away from bad influences such as these “innocent girls”

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  4. Ed says:

    14 years old is old enough to know right from wrong, but the part of the brain that controls long term decision making and impulse control is still in development. Don’t forget that

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  5. Ed says:

    At the very most, life in prison WITH possibility of parole would be appropriate, IMO

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  6. Ed says:

    And another thing, getting all trigger happy about putting juveniles in prison for life also sends a bad message: That society itself is very harsh and intolerant of mistakes. And that society would sooner sacrifice freedom just for a little tiny bit extra security.

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