Netizens began debating why a mere child of 6 was brought in front of a judge in North Carolina.
A heartbreaking case recently left netizens outraged after highlighting the unnecessarily rigid juvenile justice system in North Carolina. According to Daily Dot, a mere 6-year-old child had to appear before a judge after being charged with "injury to real property." His crime being picking a tulip out of a person's yard while waiting at a school bus stop. "The 6-year-old dangled his legs above the floor as he sat at the table with his defense attorney, before a North Carolina judge," wrote Virginia Bridges in an eye-opening opinion piece. Like any other 6-year-old, this boy too had a very short attention span and in order to keep him throughout the proceedings, his attorney Julie Boyers gave him a coloring book and some crayons so he could color a picture.
"A six-year-old showed up in juvenile court, charged with injury to real property. His alleged crime? Picking a tulip from a yard by his bus stop in North Carolina. The state allows children as young as six to be prosecuted, the lowest age in the nation." Charlotte News-Observer— NewMexican, Ex-Texan (@OGrady_Texas) March 17, 2021
While N.C. Juvenile Justice section, which is part of the state Department of Public Safety, required the involvement of parents, they also need the accused (child, in this case,) to be present as the defendant and also assist in his or her defense. "Should a child that believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy be making life-altering decisions?" asked New Hanover County Chief District Court Judge Jay Corpening, and rightly so. Can you even imagine a child, who doesn't have the mental capacity to understand the situation he is in, to make decisions like if he should speak to the cops or admit to/deny the charges against him?
Taught the child to not trust your neighbor, don't be neighborly, get off my lawn, the police are not your friends, the DA that let the case get to the judge is not your friend, that taxpayer money can be wasted on this whole process, and that boomers are not your friend.— IndianSigma (@IndianSigma) March 19, 2021
Thankfully, this particular case was dismissed by the judge immediately but it left everyone questioning the right age for little kids to see a judge. While the child cannot fathom why he is brought to a court at that age, the damage is already done as the charge would remain on his record would even when he grows up. "A 6-year-old cannot comprehend what is taking place in court, but probably will never forget being labeled a delinquent," expressed district attorney for Durham County Satana Deberry. There are factions, like Governor Roy Cooper's Task Force on Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, fighting to increase the age for juvenile proceedings to 12. Meanwhile, the National Juvenile Justice Network recommends that the age is raised to 14.
The mother needs to talk to her 6 year old child about picking up flowers while at the bus stop? Please tell me I’m understanding this wrong— Vince D. (@vDodun) March 18, 2021
But age is not the only troubling factor in this situation, but also the race of the children involved. "When a cop picks up a White boy, he takes him to his parents," said juvenile chief at the Wake County Public Defender's Office Mary Stansel. "But if he is Black, he takes him to the state." Time and again, the juvenile justice system has been criticized for disproportionately treating young kids of color. Per the records of the state Juvenile Justice section, around 7,300 complaints were filed against children between the ages of 6 to 11 from 2015 to 2018. Out of them, 47 percent were against Black children, 40 percent against White, and 7 percent against Latino or Hispanic kids. "In general, 22 percent of the state's population is Black, 70 percent is White and 10 percent is Hispanic," wrote Bridges.
I have a black grandson. His father explained "the talk" to me.— Suzy Snark (@jinxi_2) March 17, 2021
Always get a bag and receipt.
Always show respect to adults.
Always lower your eyes, keep your hands in plain sight, and answer every question with sir/ma'am.
What's more, the disparities of kids continue once they have entered the system. Children can end up being penalized in this process even if it isn't their fault, even if it is their parents who are unable to attend an intake meeting along with their kids due to various reasons. Supervising attorney for N.C. Central University's Juvenile Law Clinic, Dorothy Hairston Michell explains that parents may not participate in the process, maybe because they are not notified because they are homeless, or cannot take time off work, or simply don't understand the process. There are some who straight out refused to go as they don't "agree that that should be happening to their kid," said Mitchell.
.... god, I’m so sure that the kid is part of some marginalized population. I’m just so sure. I have no evidence, but I am confident.— Hollywood (@eatquirky) March 17, 2021
In the case of the 6-year-old who picked a tulip, he was brought before a judge because his mother could not make the intake meeting. When the judge realized it, he dismissed the case, which is a common resolution with the youngest kids. But why is there a law that forces a youngster to appear before a court? Why isn't North Carolina's justice system doing anything about its set minimum age of 6, which is the lowest in all 20 states, to put a child through the juvenile justice system? These were just a few of the questions that netizens posed among many others.