Instructor Megan Reid
August 15, 2012
"He who does not punish evil commands it to be done."
It is because I agree with the words of Leonardo da Vinci that I stand resolved: In the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies should be treated as adults in the criminal justice system. There are ethical problems with this, just as there are for nearly everything. Questions such as 'are minors too immature" and "Does the minor fully understand the implications of a trial" There are many more ethical questions. The problem is that some minors are fully capable of standing trial, but many of us do not reach full maturity until 25 years of age. Therefore, we make many mistakes that we learn from until then. I believe that if a minor is capable of a crime heinous enough to face these questions, then they should be held accountable, as adults.
The highest value of this topic is that of justice which is defined as giving each their due. This is the most important value within the topic, because the resolution bases itself in the U.S. legal system, the primary purpose of which is to deliver justice. Thus, justice is the most appropriate value to use. Government legitimacy is the best measure for justice because the justice systems' ability to render justice is determined by the legitimacy of the system. Without legitimacy, the justice system loses its ability to carry out verdicts and the law loses its meaning.
My personal view is that of a mixture of utilitarian and deontological. It is widely acknowledged by contemporary scholars that a legitimate theory of justice requires both deontological and utilitarian aspects. A purely deontological theory is reduced to a doctrine of 'an eye for an eye' and resembles vengeance more than justice while a purely utilitarian theory that cares only for deterrence leaves consideration of guilt or innocence largely irrelevant, since an innocent person can still be made an example of. For a government to uphold its legitimacy, and thus its ability to render justice, both deontological concerns giving each their due and utilitarian concerns of what consequences will occur must be considered. I intend to show that treating minors who have committed violent felonies as adults in the criminal justice system is upheld by both ethical standards. I do not believe that other ethical standards are relevant, as they are too vague. I will also contrast this response with the perspective brought to the issue by relativism and emotivism.
Maturity ought to determine culpability, not numerical age
While it is true that juveniles (minors) as a group are less mature, brain development rates and thus, level of maturity varies greatly from individual to individual. According to Dr. Moin, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Alberta, "simply because the average youth is less mature than the average adult does not mean that the particular minor who commits a heinous crime is less culpable. There may be very mature and calculating youth and very immature and naïve adults..." (Moin, 2011) Furthermore, Dr. Brian Woo of Pepperdine University Law School states that, "Rather than consider minors as a class in the aggregate, age alone cannot be substituted as a measure of an individual's maturity or psychological development...rather than adopt a bright line rule, the court should allow the jury to factor in any mitigating evidence, i.e. youth or immaturity, when determining an appropriate sentence" (Woo, 2011). Thus, trying minors as adults allows culpability to determine the degree and severity of punishment rather than whether or not an individual committed a crime the day before or the day after