The court system in Virginia, like the rest of the country, is divided into sections. There are the courts that deal with criminal cases. There are those that handle civil matters. Juvenile crimes tend to be handled in yet another arena. Sometimes, however, serious criminal charges get leveled against minors and then the court divisions can seem to be blurred.
In a case of a juvenile charged with a crime, the forum in which the matter is dealt with is important. But perhaps more important is that the accused child gets the most vigorous defense possible. The reason is that a criminal record of any kind can have deleterious effects that the individual may never be able to shake. Scars can be left for a lifetime.
A judge in California seems to be weighing just that aspect of things in the case of a young 12-year-old boy. He's accused of in the shooting death of his father two years ago. His case has been heard by the judge without a jury and she is expected to issue a decision on Monday.
The facts of the case are not in dispute. The defense acknowledges that the child did kill his dad as he slept, but it makes the case that the father was a neo-Nazi who was abusive to the boy and his family. The defense argued in proceedings this week that the boy also learned from his white supremacist father how to shoot a gun and that violence is a valid way to deal with problems.
His attorney told the court that at the time of the shooting, the boy didn't know right from wrong. He only believed his action might end the threat he felt he and his family faced from the father.
For its part, the prosecution held that the child was old enough to know the consequences of his actions and that he planned the shooting anyway. He acknowledged that the boy has had a troubled life, but he said his father was loving and should not be dismissed because of his political beliefs.
The judge has given indications that she is prepared to entertain the idea of finding the boy guilty of lesser charges. The boy's attorney says he's hoping for that, but that whatever happens, he hopes the boy will be placed in psychiatric care rather than detention.
Source: WVIR-TV, "Trial near end for boy charged with killing father," Linda Deutsch, Associated Press, Jan. 9, 2013