9 years ago: Statutory

March 12, 2004, on this blog: Statutory

I am not suggesting that the crime of which the teens in the second story are accused is not brutal and horrifying. And I certainly am not suggesting that the coach’s alleged behavior in the first story is defensible. I’m simply pointing out that here we have two adjacent stories in the paper that offer precisely contradictory notions of the meaning of adulthood and childhood.

There is no way to reconcile the views of these two stories. If one finds the coach’s behavior unjustified, then one cannot approve of the prosecutor’s behavior. Their logic is precisely the same.

I have never understood the basis for the magical assertion that allows prosecutors routinely to pretend that some children are not children and therefore to “try them as adults.”

What would happen if one of these tough-talking statutory rapist prosecutors decided it was time to “get tough” on underage drinking. It’s no use threatening these teenage tipplers with juvenile detention, he would say, that’s too “soft.” We need to “get serious” and try them as adults. But of course trying them as adults, in that case, would mean they were no longer guilty of underage drinking.

"The current admin would like to erase that particular Amendment, along with a couple of ..."

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address
"Could she be anymore tone deaf?"

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address
"What wonderful news to read this morning."

Romans 13 and the Gettysburg Address

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I don’t recall that post from when it first appeared, but a few things pop out at me. First of all, I agree with the central premise that prosecutors are allowed too much leeway in charging children as adults. That said, the article does not say how old the “children” were with whom the coach was having sex. If the age was 17 (the same age as the two youths charged with murder), then in most of the country that would be over the age of consent, so I am inclined to think that they were younger than 17 which makes the comparison invalid. Furthermore, even if the softball players were the same age as the accused murderers, the fact that the accused rapist was a coach/teacher who was in a position of authority and trust over his alleged victim might, in some jurisdictions, make him liable even if it would not have been rape to have had sex with a 17-year-old girl who was not one of his students.

  • The_Great_Indoors

    If we’re going to make children suffer the the consequences of adulthood, then surely we can allow them the all the privileges of adulthood as well? I feel that if a prosecutor wants to try a child as an adult then prior to defending themselves the child should be fully and completely emancipated first.

  • SergeantHeretic


    There was a book that came out around the year 2000. it was a science fiction novel called rewind and the premise of the book was that a bunch of aliens visited Earth and “Rewound” a selection of adults of various ages to a phyciscal age of ten years old.

    What then happened was that everyone then proceeded to victimise and exploit these transformed adults exactly the way our societity as a whole victimises and exploits children and for the exact same reason, they were too small and too weak to be able to defend themselves.

    In one particularly egregious example in the story the civil governments were denying them their adult rights of driving, and so on, and the creditors that some of the adultkids owed money were demanding imediate payment of all debts.

    Finally the courts stepped in and said, “If you are going to deny these transformation victims the rights of adulthood, then they are also now exhempt from all of the RESPONSIBILITIES of adulthood. you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.”

    That simile applies here. The civil society cannot have its cake and eat it too, if we’re going to treat an offender as an adult, then that offender should then be extended all the rights an adult has.

  • other lori

    I think there’s certainly room for having laws against abuses of power (like a coach or other person in a position of authority using their position to coerce somebody into sex), but I don’t think they should be related to age. Personally, I think post-pubescent teens (for most people, 14 or 15) are fully capable of consenting to sex and should be treated as such, and we’d be better off having laws that make using one’s power and position to coerce another into sex illegal than the kinds of laws we currently have about statutory rape.

    But I also think that teens, while capable of consenting to sex, should also be tried as juveniles, only because of how ridiculously draconian our adult justice system is and wanting to see as many people as possible kept out of that system. If we had the kinds of penalties in place that most of the rest of the world does, I’d be totally fine with teens being tried as adults, and would probably believe that they should be. Adolescence is a cultural construct, and I think that in increasingly treating it more like childhood than adulthood, we’re doing a disservice to young people. I’d like to see us grant teens both more freedoms/rights and more responsibilities.

  • other lori

    The irony, of course, is that in many countries the age of consent is lower than it is in the U.S. (in most places it’s 13-15, rather than 16-17 as it is here) AND it’s much less common for minors to be tried as adults. I guess that’s what our puritanical hysteria over sex and our vindictive desire to punish and punish some more get you.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Other lori, this is what you get when one of our earliest colonies is a bunch of Christian Taliban. (The Pruritans) did you know that they left England because they felt the Anglican church wasn’t being strict or assholish enough?

  • Nomuse

    At the base of juvenile law is the concept of parens patria; the law is acting not in the form of an adversary, but of a (caring) parent.  Which makes things really ugly when a juvenile (who was “protected” from such things as discovery and representation and self-incrimination and illegal search) is suddenly made an adult for purposes of punishing them.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Nomuse, of course, does that really suprise you, the need to PUNISH the BAD PERSON transcends ALL OTHER NEEDS OR AGENDAS.

  • other lori

    That’s not necessarily true. Many states, including mine, have laws making it illegal for teachers/coaches of any age to have sexual relationships with any student under 20–even if they aren’t in any position of authority over the student. In Michigan, if you are a 23yo elementary-school teacher, you are committing a felony sex offense if you are dating an 18yo senior in a school district you don’t teach in.