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November 19th, 2008
05:02 PM ET

Free the eight-year-old alleged killer

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/19/vincent-romero-crime-scene.jpg caption="Crime scene where 8-year-old boy allegedly killed his father and one other man"]

Editor’s Note: You can read more Lisa Bloom blogs on In Session”

Lisa Bloom
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

The debate over whether the eight-year-old Arizona boy should be prosecuted as an adult or as a juvenile misses the point entirely: he should not be prosecuted at all.

Most of the civilized world recognizes that children are not criminally responsible for their actions until they reach a level of maturity such that they can clearly distinguish between right and wrong. In the United States, 37 states, including Arizona, have no minimum age at which a child can be prosecuted.

We thus treat our own children more severely than does Pakistan, Myanmar, or Sudan, which fix their age of criminal responsibility at seven. The age of criminal responsibility in France is 13; China, Germany, Italy and Japan, 14; in Scandinavian countries, 15; Brazil, Colombia and Peru, 18. And in most of these countries, young offenders are tried in juvenile courts and provided with social services upon conviction, with incarceration as a last resort.

In the United States, 25,000 young offenders are now serving time for crimes committed as minors but for which they were charged and convicted as adults. These young people are eight times more likely to commit suicide behind bars and five times more likely to become victims of sexual assault than their adult counterparts.

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Lisa Bloom
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. sharon raphael

    The eight year old should not be prosecuted. If anyone is at fault, it is the dead Dad for permitting a child to have access to a deadly weapon. There is something strange about the reason given for the murder. I would say there is more there than has been allowed to spill out up to now. It sounds like there was abuse now it has to be determined what kind and to what extent. but that issue still does not pertain to the fact the boy should be free and under the supervision of his Mother or some other responsible adult.

    SRaphael

    November 29, 2008 at 10:06 pm |
  2. Jan Svendsen

    I am from europe and we do have a strict law regarding guns.

    About time we get more strict rules about guns in this country.

    I will say it would had prevented this from happening.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  3. Michael

    My analysis after hearing the tape of the child's testimony... is that something is fishy. The boy seems too confident. If the boy is 100% innocent and he just came home and found his father shot to death he would be in a state of shock. He would be angry. He might completely clam up and be silent. But this boy seems to in control of his conversation. When something is up as a child you know it and you try to manipulate the situation.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Tracey Gallagher

    What a sad day in America. We have a video of this young man who made or should I say stated some words. This is being viewed all across America. There is more to this story than meets the eye. I do not believe that he was "given" a gun i.e. the 22 caliber for his own personal use and to use at random. He may have "accompanied" his father on trips or had his son use a gun but I can't fathom nor do I believe that he was just handed a gun and kept this next to his toothbrush. This child should have had counsel by his side, I don't care what type of questions that were proposed to this child he could never understand the nature or consequences of what he was saying would be video taped, nor that they were even the truth. By a child saying " I guess so" clearly implies that he do not understand. As a defense attorney nothing is video taped prior to the police talking to you until you enter the "staging area" here we have the big comfy chair, soft spoken officers, and let the cameras roll. Anyone who would consider filing charges based on this type of information, and to even consider trying this child who only has been in this world for 8 years and probably has not even been rid of his baby teeth needs their head examined.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:16 pm |
  5. Janet - Cincinnati, Ohio

    .... transparency has been long awaited these past 2 weeks with regards to this 8 year old's plight. We have laws in place in this country to give fairness and truth a chance to prevail. His Miranda Rights were very clearly violated, period – not any way to get around it. Police and Sheriff departments know how to do thorough and fair work, looks like this one didn't though.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  6. Sue

    This boy described details that only the killer would know, like the fact that he shot at the car. The people saying he is not criminally responsible are simply fools. This boy is just an example of increasingly violent, entitled youths in this country. To say his age alone absolves him of his actions is ludicrous. Every killer was once a baby, who grew up into a toddler, then a young child, a teen, and finally an adult. The only thing wrong here is the way the interrogation was conducted. That is completely separate from what he did.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  7. Michael

    I have a simple question... if we let the child go and he kills again... would we let him go again? How many times does he have to kill in order for us to consider that maybe he did kill.

    If there is a "chance" that the boy did kill his father and the guest how does that "chance" weigh against the child not being with his now 1/2 family over Thanksgiving.

    I think it is prudent that we keep the child in custody. His mother can stay with him if she would like.

    Finally... let's really ask ourselves this question: "Is it OK for a child to kill"? Then let's really answer it truthfully. Because it's gonna be hard to answer.

    And as a bonus... when are people going to stop twisting our rights with a little prudence and common sense. Seems like it might be ok not to send the child home so quickly.

    Remember all around the world children are recruited for militia's. All around the world children are taught to kill. The video games our kids play teach them to kill.

    We need to wake up and use some simple common sense measures.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  8. G Saliger

    I find it horrifying that an 8 year old is being held in any kind of facility. Something smells fishy here. I ask myself, if he did shoot them, why? He's only been on the planet for 8 years – what has happened to cause this crime? Regardless of the outcome, send him home for the holidays and get him to a therapist immediately.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  9. Scott, Oregon the Left Coast

    Just not sure so I called a friend with a 7 year old and asked him – what whould your boy say or do. He say's he will say what ever you want until he say's what you want. The Police were out of line.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:02 pm |
  10. Marika - Toronto Ontario

    Police interrogating a frightened 8yr old child is disgusting. Sounds like the police didn't want to do their homework, instead they found an eight year old scapegoat. Under the Criminal Code of Canada you have to be at least 12yrs old before being held criminally accountable for your actions. This child needs adults surrounding him that will advocate on his behalf. I look at my daughter who is 8yrs old and I think how terrified this little boy must have been, while being interrogated by the police after seeing his daddy murdered.

    CNN plz post my comments, I feel neglected by ya.

    November 19, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  11. Jim Richard

    There is more to this story than meets the eye. Why are we not hearing about the back ground of the men that were killed. It is very difficult to believe that a small 8 year old boy could shoot and kill two grown men with a single shot 22 caliber rifle at close range and with deadly accuracy. The friend of the dad had a reputation on the dark side in the community were he grew up. He wasn't the nice guy that people might think. I would encourage officials to look into the back ground and dealings of the dead men, they might find a different perspective on what might have really happened that day and leading up to it.

    November 19, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  12. Susan

    Shame on CNN and the other networks for continuing to show this tape. Not only has this child's rights been violated by the police but they continue to be violated by the press.

    November 19, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  13. Sheila Bailey

    I live in Arizona and am very familiar with this town, St. Johns. This town is not Mayberry by a long shot as they would like you to believe. This area is the meth capital of Arizona and Law enforcement have their own laws! In other words its like the wild west on drugs. The police are corrupt. Not too long ago the chief of police was being prosecuted. I'm surprised that no one is looking into the back round of this town and the surrounding areas. I believe that there is a huge cover up going on up there and alot of people are involved. These people are ready to throw this kid to the wolves. If he's tried up there, he doesn't have a chance. That place is truly bizarre and anything the law enforcement says or does needs to be questioned, they all live in their own world.

    November 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  14. Steve - Ontario Canada

    The police who interviewed the child should be charged with child abuse. The child first stated what he found when he returned home and he is a victim in all of this. What the police have done is to coerce the child into believing he did this terrible deed when any 8 year old child would be traumatized by what this child discovered. It's child abuse and those officers need to be charged while other officers are tracking down the real killer(s)

    November 19, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  15. Fatiha- Santa Barbara

    I could not sleep after I watched the video.We are talking about an 8 years old for God's sake. He sounded so confused. I don't know how an 8 years old would shot 2 grown men without beign stopped by one of them. He sounded so scared, did not confess anything till he he was lead to say what the police asked him to say... Shame on them, heartless people... heartless system

    November 19, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  16. Marcus - Portland Oregon

    We have all stumbled in our words as children in conversations like that with phrases like "I think I might have". The boy is scared, but he also knows his consequences by saying "I will go to Juvy". I say that it is possible that he shot them both twice and knew what he was doin when fired the first shot.

    November 19, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  17. Heather Thomson

    This is one of the most disgusting things I have seen on T.V. That child , basically a baby ,should of been immediately seen by a forensic child psychiatrist !!!!!! They did so much harm, I am outraged.!!! Heads should roll for this. To say this child is criminally responsible and should pay for this crime, even if he did it .....is so outrageous. Is this the mind set of your country?????????

    November 19, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  18. Melissa, Los Angeles

    Sorry Lisa I don't agree with your post at all. This "child" was taught by his father to hunt and how to shoot guns so that he would not fear them. He's gone prairie dog hunting with guns so this is not an innocent kid who came upon a gun and discharged it accidentally. He knows how to operate a gun and what happens when he fires it. Two adults each getting shot in the chest and head is deliberate. The question is why he did it and how much of a danger is he to society if he is released. If he can shoot his own father, who else won't he hesitate to shoot?

    November 19, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  19. JRQ La Habra, Ca

    I saw the video on AC/360 last night and could not sleep. Free this child or at least let another Crime force in another State take this over.
    And fire those two police.
    A child has rights also!

    November 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  20. Kathi Fullerton Calif.

    After listening to the video police interigation, I came to the conclusion that this boy is being set up by the person who really committed the murders. Where is the mother? Did the person who really committed the crime talk this little boy into accepting the blame thinking that he won't be held as responsible as an adult would be?

    November 19, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  21. Cindy

    I think that the police jumped the gun on this one. They saw an opportunity to pin this on someone and took it. You can clearly see on the tape that the police coerced the boy into admitting to killing the two men. I mean after 4 hours of interrogation even an adult would be worn down. The police should be ashamed of what they did.

    But if there is more evidence besides the confession that proves he did it then he should be punished for it. You can't kill people and have no consequences no matter what age you are. He should in no way be tried as an adult but he should pay for what he did, if he did do it.

    Cindy...Ga.

    November 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  22. Joy, Fort Gordon, Georgia

    I agree, but unfortunately we are behind most of the world when it comes to criminal punishment. We still adhere to the death penalty unlike other Democratic nations and we even apply the death penalty to teens and we imprison people for ridiculous amounts of time for minor drug use, and the three times your out laws have proven to give outrageous terms of imprisonment for victimless and minor crimes rather than serving as a deterent the laws have turned toward creating hardened criminals. The supermax prisons are also something we need to focus on, because they are stripping humanity away from criminals who may eventually be back out on the streets. The system like every thing else in this nation needs revamping and modernizing.

    November 19, 2008 at 5:16 pm |

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