When Does a Child become an Adult in our Court system?

At what point in life should courts begin to hold us accountable for our actions? Is it when we first get caught stealing or if one’s hands are bloody from murder? Such a simple question is often asked amongst those who see juveniles that get into serious trouble and get off the hook with little repercussions. However, it is when a child makes the decision to act on a recurring messed-up fantasy that the question will be answered. 

In severe cases such as murder, children should be charged as adults because they are aware of the consequences while they commit harmful actions. It is only when they get caught that they begin to retrace their steps and realize the severity of their actions. 

The case of Tristyn Bailey is a relatively new addition to the examples of many juveniles taking advantage of the law.  On May 9, 2021, 13-year-old Tristyn Bailey snuck out to a friend’s house in the early morning and later left with Aiden Fucci. Fucci led her to the woods where he then stabbed her 114 times, of which 49 of the wounds were defensive. In her final minutes, Bailey fought for her life as wounds were left anywhere the knife could touch. Fucci only stopped because the knife broke through Bailey’s skull. As word got out that she was missing and a search party was started, Fucci monstrously went to social media to mock the disappearance of the girl he had killed with his bare hands. 

He was later arrested the day after due to there being evidence of his DNA on Bailey’s body. It was later revealed by one of his friends that Fucci had mentioned plans of wanting to kill someone in the woods. Though, during his interrogation, he did not seem phased at all by the detailed summary of the crime. 

Fucci was only 14 when he committed this crime. Yet, in the U.S. court of law, one must be at least 16 to be tried as an adult. At the beginning of this case, he was being held as a juvenile on a second-degree murder charge though that later changed as he is now being tried as an adult with a first-degree murder charge. 

On Mar. 24, Fucci was sentenced to life in prison with a chance to appeal the sentence for 30 days. Since he is not an adult, his first-degree plea does not qualify for a death sentence so the next act of justice would be life. The judge had several reasons to convict him and he stated them effectively in his final speech to the jury. Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith concluded that Fucci was at a “heightened level of premeditation” to do such a thing and that he was the only person who told himself to do this as no one took part in his horrific actions or peer pressured him to do it. All Fucci could do was shake his head as his life was being taken away from him just like he did for Tristyn Bailey. 

Though justice was served for Bailey, many wonder if it is ethically right to charge children as adults. They say that it is unfair as they are just teenagers whose brains are not fully developed yet. The only fact is that they are not adults, but in the moment they can certainly act like one by taking away someone’s life so easily. Though prisons are not safe for a child there are many alternatives if anything gets out of hand. In the end, it should intimidate them to not commit a crime again as they are getting firsthand at what it is like to get convicted.  

As much as those who are against charging children as adults despise it, there has been an estimated number of 250,000 cases in the U.S. where it has been necessary. The law is there for a reason and those who choose not to follow it are just going to get punished over and over again, especially as a juvenile where little action is taken. It teaches children to be accountable for their actions and limits the number of crimes they commit. By doing this, it helps them in later years as they know the consequences and what not to do in life. 

With every child who continuously disobeys the law, there is always one who commits an unspeakable act that they cannot undo. The U.S. will always be in need of juvenile law as some cases are too hard to just let go. By charging a child as an adult due to a heinous crime like murder, it gives peace and justice to the families of the victims who were killed by the defendant. With optimism, I hope there are little to no cases where we have to use this law in the future though all we can do is dream because unfortunately, that is not the society we live in. 

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