Vandalism is widely considered the most common crime committed by juveniles in Massachusetts. According to FindLaw, vandalism occurs when someone unlawfully changes, defaces or destroys property. Graffiti, keying cars, slashing tires and breaking windows are just some of the many unlawful activities that fall under this heading. In these instances, unless the property destroyed is of priceless or historical value, people tend to agree that juvenile courts are best to try these cases.
When the charge is violent crimes, such as rape or murder, the lines are more blurred. The New York Times points out that juvenile defendants rarely get tried as adults. However, exceptions may be made in instances where the crime was violent, horrific or expertly planned out. The NY Times references one case where a teenager shot both her parents with a rifle and attempted to pin the crime on a home intruder as one such example.
There are some activists who believe that juveniles should never be tried as adults. They may cite lack of maturity or argue that children are not fully aware of their actions at this time. The victims and their families rarely agree with this. The media and the public are also often outraged by the juvenile’s action. In the case referenced by NY Times, where the child shot her sleeping mother in the head, it is difficult to sway a judge from turning the case over to adult criminal courts.
The jurors trying these cases perhaps face the most difficult choice of all. On the one hand, they may dislike the idea of sending a child to prison to serve their sentence among adults who committed violent crimes. On the other hand, many may doubt the ability of juvenile systems to rehabilitate a youngster so that he or she is not a threat to society upon release.