Arrest of 12-year-old on manslaughter charges highlights challenges in cases of kids

Tessa Duvall, •

A series of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases have established as “irrefutable” that children are not legally nor developmentally the same adults, said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.

“Reasonable children are not the same as reasonable people,” Levick said, referring to a legal tenet called the reasonable person standard. “They don’t see risks and consequences the same way that adults do.

“Should he have been able to manage his behavior under those circumstances? He’s a child. One could query how much he even understands what happened in the moment he pulled the trigger.”

But that doesn’t mean a child can’t still be held accountable.

“It’s a natural instinct, and it’s an appropriate instinct,” Levick said. “But we hold children accountable in developmentally appropriate ways.”