Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

From prison to juvenile justice lawyer, San Francisco Chronicle

Francis Guzman, who was sentenced to 15 years at age 15, has become an advocate for juvenile justice.

“Kids don’t make smart decisions,” Guzman said. “But ultimately, you are not the worst thing you have done. The weakest thing I did made me the strongest person I am today.”

Guzman, given the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s “Outstanding Achievement Award” in 2007, is now in high demand to speak in low-performing schools, youth lockups and juvenile justice panels around the country. After putting himself through the UCLA School of Law with financial aid and funds from the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship For New Americans, in 2012 he won a coveted Soros Justice Fellowship, a two-year grant that will fund his work at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland to study alternatives to placing youths who are first-time offenders of serious crimes in adult prisons.

Mother of Virginia boy who was arrested over toy gun criticizes case’s handling, The Washington Post

The gun came from a dollar store. It was a cheap plastic fake with a bright orange tip that Nakicha Gilbert’s 10-year-old son bought during a visit to a cousin’s house.

“It was a toy,” Gilbert said. “A toy.”

Her son had it in his backpack when he went to Alexandria’s Douglas MacArthur Elementary School on Feb. 4, and he took it out on a bus ride home, placing it in his front pants pocket. He showed one boy, who immediately recognized it was not real, according to his mother.

It is unclear how many other children noticed or talked about the toy gun, but one girl told her mother that the episode frightened her. The girl’s mother called the school immediately and e-mailed school officials that she was uncomfortable sending her children to school until she could be certain the 10-year-old was not armed.

Questions remain about abduction of of girl, age 5, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The arrest of a 19-year-old woman in the kidnapping and assault of a 5-year-old West Philadelphia girl may have eased the fears of parents living near the Bryant Elementary School.

But Thursday’s arrest of Christina Regusters left unanswered the larger question of who else – if anyone – was involved in the Jan. 14 abduction of the kindergarten pupila by a woman wearing Muslim garb.

Regusters, a Maryland native who began living with West Philadelphia relatives about a year ago, was officially charged Friday with kidnapping, conspiracy, aggravated assault, rape, and related offenses.

The charge of conspiracy means she allegedly had one or more accomplices. But three others police took into custody with Regusters on Thursday afternoon from the house in the 6200 block of Walton Avenue were released that night without being charged.

“This is very much an active investigation,” said Philadelphia Police Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit.

Wednesday’s Children & the Law News Roundup

A New Mexico Policeman Tasered a 10-year-old Child, Courthouse News Service

A New Mexico policeman Tasered a 10-year-old child on a playground because the boy refused to clean his patrol car on career day, the boy claims in court. The complaint states that the Defendant asked a group of boys “who would like to clean his patrol unit… and a number of boys said that they would.” When Plaintiff jokingly said he did not want to clean the patrol unit, Defendant allegedly pointed his taser at the boy and said, “Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police.'”

Teen charged as adult in Colorado schoolgirl’s murder, Chicago Tribune

A teenager who authorities said confessed to the abduction, killing and dismemberment of a 10-year-old Colorado girl was formally charged as an adult on Tuesday with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault on a child.

It’s better not to lock up juvenile defendants, The Philadelphia Inquirer

For years, New Jersey sent juveniles awaiting trial to county detention centers, locking them up even for minor crimes. But a new report on juvenile justice reform shows that there is another, more effective, alternative that saves taxpayer money and protects society.