Is he the youngest person ever to face a murder charge? Not quite. According to the Post-Dispatch, that distinction goes to an 8-year-old in Arizona that shot his father and another man. Still, it’s pretty shocking that a 9-year-old boy would beat an 14-month-old to death. It’s even more shocking to hear that the 9-year-old will be charged with murder.
The details so far are sketchy. The 9-year-old was staying with family in Cahokia, Illinois. He was left alone in a room with the 14-month-old and reportedly beat him to death. The child died on Sunday. The older boy was charged on Tuesday.
The child will not be tried as an adult, as the minimum age to be tried as an adult in Illinois is 13 for murder, and 15 for other offenses. That means his case will be processed by the juvenile system and he’ll probably receive a much more lenient sentence than if he had been 13 or older.
One of the main justifications for more lenient sentencing and processing these cases through the juvenile system is the state of brain development of teens (and pre-teens). Even those who are as old as 16 or 17 generally have an under-developed prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that handles impulse control. That also means a young child’s thuggish behavior might not portend a future of crime.
Awareness of this possible biological reason for inappropriate behavior is what recently led California to allow those sentenced to life while juveniles to petition for parole after a lengthy sentence. It’s also a good reason to keep juveniles in their own court system instead of pushing to try children as adults. Illinois is well aware of that fact. Cook County established the first separate juvenile court in the country in 1899.
- Consult an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- Nine-Year-Old Boy Charged with Murder (Courthouse News Service)
- Rap Lyrics, Letter, Lead to Murder Charges for Cousin (FindLaw’s Chicago Criminal Law Blog)
- When the Music Stops: Rappers Beat Strangers in Wrigleyville (FindLaw’s Chicago Criminal Law Blog)