Los Angeles’s new District Attorney George Gascón has announced some troubling changes regarding how his office will handle juvenile criminals. Gascon plans to completely end the practice of sending juveniles to adult court.
The office will immediately END the practice of sending youth to the adult court system.
a. All pending motions to transfer youth to adult court jurisdiction shall be withdrawn at the soonest available court date, including agreeing to
defense counsel’s request to advance.
b. Cases will proceed to adjudication or disposition within the existing
boundaries of juvenile jurisdiction.
In California, one tried as a juvenile can only be incarcerated until their 25th birthday. Now, in LA, no matter what crime a juvenile commits, they will be released upon turning 25. If the offender is 17 when first incarcerated, they would only spend eight years behind bars. If they are 16, they would spend a maximum of nine years incarcerated. An offender who is almost 18 will be incarcerated for only seven years.
There are many juvenile crimes that warrant longer sentences than seven or eight years. This new policy would allow a 17-year-old mass murderer who kills 16 people to serve only six months per victim. A 16 -year-old serial rapist who rapes 20 women and children would serve less than six months per victim as well. The maximum punishments allowed by the juvenile system are not proportionate to all crimes and do not allow victims to have justice. Juveniles who rape, kill, etc. would be allowed to live unfettered lives from age 25 onward, while the surviving victims live lives of agony and torment and the dead victims lose their lives.
The refusal of Gascon to prosecute any juveniles as adults, no matter what they do, is based on the false idea that all juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated. NOVJM agrees that most juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated. We believe that most juvenile offenders should stay in the juvenile justice system. However, some juvenile crimes warrant more time than a couple of years in juvenile detention. There are some juvenile offenders who cannot be trusted to re-join society after any period of time, especially not after eight years. Other juvenile offenders are capable of change, but not in eight or nine years. Reforming from a robber, kidnapper, gang-banger, or killer will likely take more time.
Incarceration serves as a punishment. It also keeps society safe. When one is incarcerated, they are incapacitated–they cannot commit more crimes in society. The length a juvenile offender needs to be incapacitated differs from person to person. Most offenders “age out” of crime at around 35 or 40. Some never do. Gascon’s policy assumes that all juvenile offenders, including rapists, murderers, and other severely violent criminals, will be safe to release once they turn 25. Gascon argues that juvenile offenders will be rehabilitated in the juvenile justice system. Again, NOVJM believes that most juvenile offenders can and should be reformed in the juvenile justice system. But some cannot be rehabilitated, especially not after less than 10 years.
Most states allow a juvenile offender to stay under the juvenile system until age 21. Some like California allow their juvenile systems to hold offenders until 25. There are many examples of juvenile criminals being tried in the juvenile system and being released once the juvenile system loses jurisdiction over them. We document these cases on our dangerous early release page. Some examples are listed below.
- Scott Darnell (Illinois). Section 1, example 4. A juvenile violent sex offender raped and murdered 10-year-old Vicki Larson while on summer release.
- Jimmy Scales and Mical Thomas (Wisconsin). Section 1, example 5. Teen offenders who already had criminal histories involving robbery and murder were tried as juveniles and released early by juvenile supervisors. They then murdered a pregnant woman.
- Robert A. Williams (New York). Section 1, example 6. Williams was tried as a juvenile for attempted murder. He later kidnapped, tortured, raped, and attempted to murder a woman.
- Anthony Givens (Michigan). Section 1, example 10. Anthony Givens raped and murdered 44-year-old Liza Olsen in her home in New Buffalo, Michigan. Givens had juvenile adjudications for unlawfully driving an automobile and 2nd degree home invasion. He was given three years of probation for the unlawful automobile use. The probation term included 90 days tether. He was on tether when he raped and murdered Liza.
- Brian Granger (Michigan). Section 1, example 11. Brian Granger had a juvenile adjudication for a criminal sexual assault on a seven-year-old in 1981. He was sent to the Boysville Detention Center and then the Parmenter House. Less than a week after release, he raped and murdered Sandra Nestle as she jogged.
- Markus Evans (Wisconsin). Section 1, example 13. Evans assaulted a high school safety aide with an iron rod. He attacked another school aide, diving across a desk to hit him. He was arrested after the latter incident but was released. After his mother took his motorized toy car away, he poured gasoline around their house and tried to light his mother on fire. When he was 15, he shot his cousin in the back with a shotgun. The case was kept in juvenile court and he was incarcerated for 14 months. Upon release, he murdered 17-year-old Jonoshia Anderson.
- Christopher and Lawrence Boggs (Utah). Section 1, example 16. The Boggs brothers were tried as juveniles for murdering Cody Brotherson, a police officer. They committed assaults while incarcerated and were charged as adults, meaning their juvenile sentences were dismissed. After being sentenced as adults, they were released early. They were then caught allegedly committing more crimes.
- Dalton Prejean (Louisiana). Section 1, example 23. Prejean spent two and a half years in a reform school for a murder he committed at 14. Upon release, he murdered a Louisiana state trooper, a crime for which he was executed.
- Dante Robinson (New Jersey). Section 1, example 26. Robinson murdered a 12-year-old girl and pled guilty to obstruction of justice in juvenile court. After being released, he committed an armed home invasion.
A one-size-fits-all approach that assumes that all juvenile offenders will be rehabilitated by age 25 is, to put it mildly, a bad idea.
We will leave by sharing a story of a double murder committed by a 15-year-old by the name of Daniel Marsh.
Marsh invaded the home of Chip, a lawyer and WW2 veteran, and his wife Claudia. He stabbed them both to death and then disemboweled and dissected their bodies. Marsh extensively planned for the murders, wearing tape on his shoes so as to not leave footprints and wearing all black. According to the trial court, the crimes were highly sophisticated even for “the most hardened and seasoned adult criminal.” Marsh was a highly depraved and disturbed offender, with the hallmark sociopathic trait of animal cruelty deep interests in murder and gore. He murdered Chip and Claudia purely for fun. He later described the murders as giving him the most enjoyable feeling he had ever experienced, which was heightened when the victims were conscious and resisting. Marsh planned additional murders as well. He was tried as an adult and his adult sentence was upheld at a later hearing. Should Senate Bill 1391, which prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being tried as adults, be upheld, Marsh may be released upon turning 25.
Marsh is 23. Because SB 1391 was upheld he may be sent back to juvenile court and released in two years. Let that sink in.
Alleged killer of Sierra Brown and Uniek Atkins
Gascon is prosecuting the alleged murderer of these two sisters in juvenile court. The defendant was 17 and 11 months old when he allegedly murdered Sierra, 16, a girl whom he had dated, and her sister.
A judge Wednesday agreed to allow the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute an alleged double-murderer in juvenile court for the killings of two sisters in Westchester.
In a court filing, an attorney representing the victims’ family members noted that the defendant — who was a month shy of 18 when Sierra Brown and Uniek Atkins were killed and is now 20 — can “only remain in custody until he is 25 years old” if the case is handled in juvenile court.
He could have faced a potential life prison sentence if he was tried and convicted in adult court for the Nov. 17, 2018, killings of Brown, a 16-year-old girl whom he had been dating, and her 27-year-old sister, according to the filing from Kathleen Cady, a retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who is representing the victims’ family.
The attorney representing the victims’ family noted that the District Attorney’s Office had earlier filed a motion to transfer the case against the defendant to adult court.
However, a directive enacted by new District Attorney George Gascon shortly after he was sworn into office in December — in which he vowed that the office will “immediately end the practice of sending youth to the adult court system” — violates the victims’ constitutional rights and eviscerates the discretion that prosecutors have to evaluate each case individually, Cady wrote in her filing.
“Because of his mandatory policies which govern each deputy district attorney, and ordered them to withdraw each and every motion to transfer without exception, we submit that this is such an extreme case as to merit disqualification, and are hereby moving, under the rights enumerated in the California Constitution, to disqualify and remove the entire District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting this case,” Cady wrote in a filing that sought “a competent and professional review by another prosecutorial agency.”
Judge J. Christopher Smith also rejected a motion to disqualify the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office from handling the case against the defendant, according to Cady.
Cady called the decisions “devastating” for the family.
“They feel very devastated because they feel like justice hasn’t been done,” Cady said after the hearing.
Brown — who was shot once in the left side of her neck — was the mother of an infant who was not fathered by the defendant, while her older sister was the mother of two children and was shot four times, according to the court papers filed by Cady. The three children are now being raised by the victims’ family.
“There is also evidence that the defendant tried to clean up the crime scene with bleach before he set the apartment on fire,” Cady wrote in the court filing, which alleged that the defendant “fabricated an alibi, which was disproved when he was shown a video of him entering the apartment the night before and leaving the next morning.”
The two victims were found dead after firefighters put out the blaze at the apartment in the 8600 block of Belford Avenue, near Manchester Avenue.
Cady is among a group of former prosecutors who have teamed up with former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to represent the families of victims in some cases, who are upset about Gascon’s directives.