Monday’s Children & the Law News Roundup

No Guidelines to Prevent Child Abuse in Delhi, The Times of India

Despite a spate of child abuse cases, the capital doesn’t have any guidelines to prevent sexual abuse of children in schools and educational institutions, claimed a Public Interest Legislation in the Delhi high court earlier this week.

The legislation was filed by HAQ Centre for Child Rights through its lawyer Ananth Asthana, who pointed out that despite Juvenile Justice Act Rules Section 31 making it clear that guidelines are needed, there has been no movement on the same, and the authorities have woken up only once an incident of sexual harassment took place.

While the guidelines will go a long way in preventing sexual abuse of kids in schools and other educational institutions, making it easier for children to lodge a complaint, the entire focus at present is towards taking action against the accused after the incident.

Teens Judge Teens At Nassau’s Youth Court, Newsday

When Ibrahem Pasha got caught stealing from a sporting goods store two years ago, he thought his future would be ruined. But instead of going through a traditional courtroom, Pasha’s case was referred to the Nassau County Youth Court — a forum that allows teens accused of minor crimes to be judged and punished by their peers.

“We must get to these kids before the influences of the street become too much to overcome and provide them with the resources they need to succeed,” said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. ”By positively influencing their development at a crucial stage in their lives, we can help shape the next generation of civic-minded, responsible citizens.”

To be referred to the youth court from other county courts, defendants must be 17 or younger, acknowledge what they did wrong, and take responsibility for it. Student volunteers from across the county play the roles of prosecutor, defense attorney, bailiff, clerk, and jurors during the hearings. A prosecutor stands in as the judge. After weighing the case, the jury decides on appropriate punishment — such as community service, oral and written apologies, essays, youth court jury duty, restitution, curfew or mediation.

Sandusky Victim Says He Contemplated Suicide, Fox News

The young man whose claims of abuse began the criminal investigation that put Jerry Sandusky in prison said he contemplated suicide because authorities took so long to prosecute the former Penn State assistant football coach.

Speaking out publicly by name for the first time, Aaron Fisher said that the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office had told him it needed more victims before Sandusky would be charged. Fisher first reported the abuse in 2008. Sandusky was arrested last November. Fisher said the delay made him increasingly desperate.

Fisher was 15 when and his mother eventually reported the abuse to the school principal, who responded that “Jerry has a heart of gold and that he wouldn’t do those type of things.”

Juvenile Killers and Life Terms, The New York Times

To this day, Maurice Bailey goes to sleep trying to understand what happened  when as a 15-year-old high school student he killed his 15-year-old girlfriend, Kristina Grill, a classmate who was pregnant with his child. ”I go over it pretty much every night,” said Mr. Bailey, now 34, sitting in the Fayette State Correctional Institution in western Pennsylvania, where he is serving a sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder. ”I don’t want to make excuses. It’s a horrible act I committed. But as you get older, your conscience and insight develop. I’m not the same person.”

When the Supreme Court in June banned mandatory life sentences without parole for those under age 18 convicted of murder, it offered rare hope to more than 2,000 juvenile offenders like Mr. Bailey. But it threw Grill’s sister, Ms. Jamriska, and thousands like her into anguished turmoil at the prospect that the killers of their loved ones might walk the streets again.

The United States Supreme Court decision said that sentences of life without parole for juveniles failed to take account of the role of the offender in the crime (killer or accomplice), the family background (stable or abusive) and the incomplete brain development of the young. Recent research has found that youths are prone to miscalculate risks and consequences, and that their moral compasses are not fully developed. They can change as they get older.

Mr. Bailey was a good student with no criminal record. He is black and Ms. Grill was white. Maurice’s legal defense was built around the pressures he had faced. His father testified in court that he had told Maurice that if Kristina got pregnant, he would kill him. Maurice’s grades were declining as he spent more time with Kristina; he was trying unsuccessfully to break up with her, losing control, growing afraid. His petition for a new hearing will argue that the pressures he felt as a 15-year-old — a violent father, a pregnant girlfriend — are unique to youth and therefore covered by the Supreme Court ruling. An adult, his lawyers will argue, would have reacted differently.

But Kristina’s sister, Ms. Jamriska, said there was no escaping the brutality of the crime and its premeditation. As she put it: ”There are many ways of dealing with pressure. You can run away. I don’t care if you’re 5 or 50, you know that killing is wrong. If you murder your girlfriend and unborn baby, I don’t know if you can come back from that.” She added that she felt that much discussion of juvenile crime shied away from the horrors of the acts. ”They often show pictures of the killers looking like kids who could be trick-or-treating,” she said.

Ms. Jamriska pointed out that such offenders received almost no rehabilitation in prison and that letting them out was not only unfair to victims’ families but also posed a risk. Like others serving life sentences, Mr. Bailey has not been allowed to take classes or vocational training because it is viewed as a waste of resources. He has taken an interest in cooking and prepares inmates’ meals. He has a good record of behavior in prison. Ms. Jamriska and others in opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling say that there is simply no way of knowing if an offender will reoffend.

Ashley Pierce

About Ashley Pierce

Ashley Pierce is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Houston Baptist University in 2010. While she was in college, she worked with a non-profit organization called Ambassadors for Christ that partnered at-risk youth with college students to serve as positive influences. During her first summer as a law student, Ashley worked in employment discrimination law with Bashen Corporation, in order to expand her horizons and see a completely different side of the legal world. During her second summer, she worked as a law clerk with Lilly, Newman & Van Ness, L.L.P., a family law firm. She will continue working there during her third year of law school. Ashley has always been passionate about helping children and families and she has a genuine interest in the intersection of psychology and the law. This year, she is looking forward to learning more about amicus work and she plans on focusing her research and writing on the "best interest" standard as it is applied to children.

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