PSYCHOLOGISTS ARGUE ABOUT LOCK-UP LOCATION FOR 13-YEAR OLD WHO, AT TEN, SHOT HIS NEO-NAZI FATHER
Hearings resumed on Tuesday in the case of the Riverside, CA, boy who, at age 10, shot and killed his White Supremacist father. The boy has already been convicted of 2nd degree murder. What remains is sentencing, and the decision as to where the now-thirteen year old will do his time. Tuesday mostly featured dueling psychologist/experts who, according to KNBC’s Patrick Healy, could not agree about much. They did, however, give a harrowing look into the homelife that may have played a role in the boy’s violent actions.
John Rogers of the Associated Press has also been following this story closely. Here are some clips from his report on last week’s fight over the 13-year-old’s fate.
A 13-year-old boy who became one of the nation’s youngest killers when he shot his neo-Nazi father to death as the man slept should be incarcerated in a state juvenile justice facility to protect him and the public, a judge was told Friday during a sentencing hearing.
As the baby-faced, blond-haired teen sat quietly in court, sometimes fidgeting in his chair or scribbling in a notebook, Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio said the severity of the crime he committed at age 10 can’t be overlooked.
Soccio said the boy needs to be in a more secure system, with fences and locked gates, where he would receive the necessary treatment.
“He needs to be in a protective environment for his safety and that of others,” the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors say the boy shot his father behind the ear at point-blank range as he slept on a sofa after coming home from a night of drinking. The child later told police he was afraid he would have to choose between living with his father and his stepmother, who were headed for a divorce.
Attorneys for the boy have said he reacted after years of horrific abuse that left him with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anger and fear issues, learning disabilities and other emotional problems.
The lawyers deferred their opening statement until the hearing resumes on Tuesday, when they will have a chance to call witnesses. But outside court, defense lawyer Punam Grewal said the teenager was abused almost from the day he was born.
“The only thing he learned was the world of fear and violence,” she said.
His mother and his attorneys want him sent to a private residential treatment center, where security would be lighter and therapy more intense.
Soccio didn’t directly address the boy’s emotional troubles during the hearing. He did call witnesses who testified about the safety and educational value at California’s juvenile lockups.
SEXUAL ABUSE-PLAGUED GA JUVIE PRISON TO CLOSE
In a survey looking at sexual victimization inside jails, prisons and juvenile facilities released this past summer by the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Dallas, Ga. stood out as the worst in the nation when it came to kids being victimized. One in three kids locked up in the place reported that they’d been sexually victimized by staff or other kids during the previous 12 months.
As the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted in June, four Georgia lockups for juveniles were among the 13 nationwide that had the highest percentage of youth reporting inappropriate sexual contact with detention officers.
Now, it turns out the state of Georgia is closing the worst of the four facilities—a for profit lock-up run by Youth Services International (YSI).
Weirdly, Georgia officials are not closing down RYDC because of the staggeringly high reports of sexual abuse, reports James Swift in a story for the Juvenile Justice Exchange.
A Georgia official told Swift:
“The decision to close the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center was based totally on economics. This decommissioning is a state agency business assessment based on cost savings and changing detention populations.”
In fairness, the state of Georgia quickly launched an investigation into the matter this summer after suspending 20 of its existing juvie justice investigators who had all but ignored 20 open cases of sexual abuse of juveniles in the state’s facilities.
It should also be noted that YSI, the parent company running the abuse-plagued facility, has been the target of criticism and lawsuits in at least three other states where it manages youth detention facilities….
YSI: THE COMPANY WHERE JUVENILE CRIME PAYS
Now about that parent company….
Last week, the Huffington Post took a close and very alarming look at YSI and it’s for-profit Juvie lock-ups—particularly those in Florida, where the company does the bulk of its business—in a deeply reported 2-part series Chris Kirkham.
It is a must read.
Here’s the series’ opening to get you started:
From a glance at his background, one might assume that James F. Slattery would have a difficult time convincing any state in America to entrust him with the supervision of its lawbreaking youth.
Over the past quarter century, Slattery’s for-profit prison enterprises have run afoul of the Justice Department and authorities in New York, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and Texas for alleged offenses ranging from condoning abuse of inmates to plying politicians with undisclosed gifts while seeking to secure state contracts.
The Huffington Post uploaded and annotated the documents — including court transcripts, police reports, audits and inspection records — uncovered during this investigation.[Browse the documents behind this report.]
Hover over the highlighted passages to see the source document behind each fact.
In 2001, an 18-year-old committed to a Texas boot camp operated by one of Slattery’s previous companies, Correctional Services Corp., came down with pneumonia and pleaded to see a doctor as he struggled to breathe. Guards accused the teen of faking it and forced him to do pushups in his own vomit, according to Texas law enforcement reports. After nine days of medical neglect, he died.
That same year, auditors in Maryland found that staff at one of Slattery’s juvenile facilities coaxed inmates to fight on Saturday mornings as a way to settle disputes from earlier in the week. In recent years, the company has failed to report riots, assaults and claims of sexual abuse at its juvenile prisons in Florida, according to a review of state records and accounts from former employees and inmates.
Despite that history, Slattery’s current company, Youth Services International, has retained and even expanded its contracts to operate juvenile prisons in several states. The company has capitalized on budgetary strains across the country as governments embrace privatization in pursuit of cost savings. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s juvenile delinquents are today committed to private facilities, according to the most recent federal data from 2011, up from about 33 percent twelve years earlier.
Over the past two decades, more than 40,000 boys and girls in 16 states have gone through one of Slattery’s prisons, boot camps or detention centers, according to a Huffington Post analysis of juvenile facility data.
The private prison industry has long fueled its growth on the proposition that it is a boon to taxpayers, delivering better outcomes at lower costs than state facilities. But significant evidence undermines that argument: the tendency of young people to return to crime once they get out, for example, and long-term contracts that can leave states obligated to fill prison beds. The harsh conditions confronting youth inside YSI’s facilities, moreover, show the serious problems that can arise when government hands over social services to private contractors and essentially walks away.
Those held at YSI facilities across the country have frequently faced beatings, neglect, sexual abuse and unsanitary food over the past two decades, according to a HuffPost investigation that included interviews with 14 former employees and a review of thousands of pages of state audits, lawsuits, local police reports and probes by state and federal agencies.
MICHAEL SKAKEL, CONVICTED OF MURDERING TEENAGE NEIGHBOR AT 15, IS GETTING A NEW TRIAL THAT COULD FREE HIM, BUT IS HE GUILTY OF THE CRIME? THE NEW YORKER’S JEFFREY TOOBIN SAYS YES
We often find ourselves reporting on the legal difficulties faced by those who turn out to be wrongly convicted.
But regarding the latest wrinkle in the long-dramatic case of convicted murderer Michael Skakel, the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin writes that the opposite is likely the case.
Here’s a clip:
The extraordinary legal saga of Michael Skakel took its most surprising turn last week. In 2002, Skakel was convicted of murdering his neighbor Martha Moxley, in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1975, when both of them were fifteen years old. After more than a decade of futile appeals, a Connecticut Superior Court judge granted Skakel a new trial on the grounds that his attorney, Michael Sherman, had provided ineffective assistance under the Sixth Amendment.
The hundred-and-thirty-six-page opinion by Judge Thomas A. Bishop is a peculiar document. It is designed to prove that Sherman did an incompetent job, but Bishop seems principally interested in proving that Skakel was in fact not guilty of the murder. Bishop, it seems, wanted to dispense rough justice—that is, to free an innocent man from prison, using whatever legal tools he had at his disposal.
This, in a way, is admirable. Wrongful convictions are individual and societal tragedies, and judges should do whatever they can to reverse them. The question is whether Skakel was wrongfully convicted. I covered the trial and read Bishop’s opinion, and I still think that the jury got this one right—that Michael Skakel killed Moxley.
The murder took place on October 30th, known as “mischief night,” for the local tradition of raucous fun on the eve of Halloween. There were many kids, including Moxley, coming and going on the Skakel property. Moxley was romantically involved with Thomas Skakel, Michael’s seventeen-year-old brother. Michael, too, was interested in Moxley, and the two brothers had a contentious relationship about this and other matters. Moxley never came home on the night of October 30th, and her body was discovered on the lawn of her own house in Greenwich the next day…..
In closing Toobin contends is that Skakel is getting a second chance at a jury trial, not because of compelling evidence that he was poorly defended, or that he was wrongly convicted, but because he has the money and his family the social standing to repeatedly pull whatever possible legal strings there were until something—or someone—finally gave way:
Skakel has had a decade of appeals and finally found a judge who bought his story. Less privileged defendants don’t have those kinds of opportunities. Skakel’s victory is due as much to his many privileges as a defendant as it is to the actual evidence in his case.
These are not comforting words. But, sadly, they have the ring of truth..
THE MADNESS OF THE FIGHT OVER WHETHER LAUSD SUPERINTENDENT DEASY SHOULD STAY
We’ve not covered the battle over whether or not Los Angeles Unified School District head guy John Deasy would be forced out. But we are very relieved that the wrong-headed move to push Deasy out has not succeeded. The superintendent is staying until 2016.
The LA Times editorial board weighed in on the matter before Tuesday’s vote to keep Deasy. Here’s a clip from their very sane view:
There are so many dramas and mini-disasters at the Los Angeles Unified School District, they have to take a number and line up for attention. First, a special meeting was called for Tuesday so that the board could set a broad vision from which future policies would flow. Then the board put off the vision thing in favor of a meeting on the more immediate, problem-riddled iPad project. Now it is delaying that discussion to devote the meeting to the topic of Supt. John Deasy, the bold but stubborn school reformer who stunned Los Angeles last week when it was revealed that he is on the verge of quitting the job he has held since 2011.
It’s unclear whether Deasy really intends to resign in frustration or whether, in fact, he expects to be fired at his performance evaluation Tuesday — which would be an astoundingly bad mistake on the part of the board. It’s also possible that he is merely bluffing in order to pressure the board members into toning down their criticism of him.
The board is at a crucial juncture. It must back away from micromanaging, and it must stop empowering those board members whose main goal is to return to those imaginary good old days when little or nothing happened without the approval of United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union. Those were not, in fact, good days at all for L.A. Unified’s students, too many of whom were reaching high school barely able to read picture books. Given the current crisis, the board’s best move would be to hire an organizational consultant to iron out the friction and help the board understand and carry out its proper role….