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Juvenile Rehabilitation v. Adult Punishment: A Real Life Case Study

I have a current case that highlights the significant fork in the criminal justice road when juveniles are charged as adults. Zachary Watson (17) and Emmanuel Miller (16) are the 2 juveniles who were with alleged Neo-Nazi Calvin Lockner when he attacked an elderly black fisherman in Baltimore city this year. It was reported widely in the national media as a hate crime. Lockner, age 28, has already pled to 31 years in adult court.

Both Watson and Miller asked to be waived back to Juvenile Court. I represented Miller and requested his case be transferred to juvenile court. Watson made the same request. After a hearing, Miller’s request was granted and Watson’s denied. Since that time, Watson has been stabbed in prison and is constantly harassed by guards and inmates while awaiting trial. He is likely to get a significant sentence on 1/25/11 in adult court. The odds against Watson leading a productive life after prison are not favorable to say the least.

Miller, on the other hand, is a star in the juvenile system. Unlike the adult system, the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitation. He has been given 3 successful weekend furloughs from commitment. He has earned his GED while committed, plays on the football team and has received glowing reports from his teachers and counselors. By every indication, the judge who presides over his rehabilitation is so happy with his progress he is going to release Miller on probation next month.

Time will tell how these two similarly situated teenagers make out, but the picture is already starting to come into focus.

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