Lionel Tate, a fourteen year old Florida boy was sentenced to life during March 2001 for killing Tiffany Eunick, a six- year boy during a wrestling match which took place in 1999. Thus he was convicted of first degree murder as the killing was due to aggravated child abuse and he was sentenced to life without parole. His sentence was questioned by many critics and many wonder how the justice system allows to send a just fourteen year old boy to prison for life. The underlying question in the ongoing debate was that how a juvenile can be awarded punishment similar to their adult offenders. [i]
Adolescent can be defined as the stage of life cycle from puberty to maturity ends at the age of majority. Adolescent thus refers to the change in physical system of a human leading to sexual maturity. Many adolescent teenagers without proper support factors can end in the ‘cracks’ and may land in hostile world. Juvenile delinquency means antisocial attitude beyond the control of parents and result in crimes that is punishable with imprisonment. In other words, it is a criminal offense committed by a minor.
Rolf Loeber has conducted research on delinquent paths or trajectories and recognized three discrete paths to a criminal career such as 1) the authority conflict pathway 2) The convert pathway 3) The overt pathway; He also recognise that disruptive behavior that starts from in early childhood with truancy ,lying , threat to animals . There were more than 600 murders that were committed by young people aged 12.
Thus in the case of Lionel, it starts from early age of 12 and corroborates with Loeber finding under the overt pathway which escalated to aggressive acts beginning with aggression leading to violence i.e. murder.
The Lionel may be of suffering from Problem behavior syndrome (PBS). People with these syndromes will resort to physical abuse, sensation seeking, and arrogance. Researches reveal that delinquent possessed this inherent behavior from very early young age. Some had resorted to drug abuse and heavy drinking as early as at age of 10 or still younger. Thus the Rolf Loeber and David Farrington study reveals that early-onset offenders had a disruptive behavior with truancy, lying, cruelty to animals and theft.
Thus the attitude of young offenders can be attributed when there is no adequate parental care, the environment of their brought up , inherent characteristics at birth and may also due to Problem behavior syndrome ( PBS)
[i] Scott, Elizabeth S, ‘Blaming Youth’, Texas Law Review, Feb, 2003.
Children Committing First Crime at Just 11. (2005, February 15). The Evening Standard (London, England), p. 16.
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