The case of a six-year-old who appeared before a North Carolina judge for picking a flower out of a neighbor’s yard, illustrates the absurdity of a state law which functions to validate the school to prison pipeline, and most importantly, highlighted the need for reform in the juvenile courts.
The Winston-Salem Journal reported the boy’s attorney gave him crayons and asked him to color a picture since he had trouble paying attention during his hearing. State law requires an accused, even as young as six, to take part in their defense.
After learning that the boy appeared in front of the judge because his mother couldn’t make the intake hearing, the judge dismissed the case.
News of younger children being detained, handcuffed, and even brutalized are becoming more commonplace. Far too often, law enforcement and the juvenile justice system are used to address issues that were once handled by communities and the schools that serve them.
A 2020 report from the Children’s Defense Fund found that 1,995 children are arrested each day in the U.S. Black children were two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested than white children.
41 percent of children in the juvenile justice system nationwide are Black.
Advocates, prosecutors, and law-makers agree the law needs to change, but they don’t all agree on a new minimum age for children to enter the juvenile system.
People like New Hanover County Chief District Court Judge Jay Corpening think young children have no place in the criminal system.
In an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, Corpening questioned the practice of making children who are still young enough to believe in the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy stand as participants in their own hearings. As chair of a special committee reviewing the issue for the North Carolina General Assembly, Corpening believes the age should be raised to 10.
Governor Roy Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice recommended the age be raised to 12. The task force found that youth ages 6-17 comprise 46 percent of the youth population, but 80 percent of the commitments to Youth Development Centers. It also suggested a school administrator or social worker sign a school-based petition before a school resource officer can file a charge with juvenile court.
North Carolina state Rep. Marcia Morey recently filed a bill that would increase the age to 10. Lyana Hunter, an assistant public defender, says raising the minimum age would be a game changer.
“Passing legislation like this can be so impactful for our kids,” said Hunter in an interview with WECT News. “Once that change happens, I think the impact will be tremendous.”
Exonerated! Falsely Accused Black Folks Freed From Prison
1. Herbert Alford
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A Michigan man who spent nearly five years in custody is suing Hertz for failing to produce in a timely manner a receipt that would have proved his innocence long before he was convicted of a 2011 murder. https://t.co/kZaI5tdOv4— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 12, 2021
2. Walter Forbes
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“I don’t hold contempt for the people who lied to convict me ... The reason is selfish: I wasn’t going to allow them to destroy me," said Walter Forbes, freed and exonerated last week after 37 years with the help of @UofMInnocence. https://t.co/WfanIitchU— The Innocence Project (@innocence) December 14, 2020
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An innocent Philadelphia man has been freed after spending 19 years in prison because two police officers wrongly claimed he’d raped a woman and then shot at them, when he’d in fact saved her from a different man .Attorneys for Termaine Joseph Hicks claim cops made up the story . pic.twitter.com/FJp5DQUMoQ— HJ (Hank) Ellison (@hjtherealj) December 18, 2020
4. Clifford Williams, Nathan Myers
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After a combined 86 years incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, Clifford Williams Jr. and his nephew, Nathan Myers, were exonerated and released last week! Mr. Myers was 18 when he was arrested and is now 61. Mr. Williams was 33 and is now 76. https://t.co/EH2qPCspEj— Equal Justice Initiative (@eji_org) April 5, 2019
5. Calvin BrightSource:WUSA9 5 of 15
6. Kevin Baker, Sean Washington
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Kevin Baker and Sean Washington received life terms in 1996 that were overturned on appeal in December https://t.co/MSWoxkwPzi— Courier-Post (@cpsj) February 4, 2020
7. Theophalis Wilson
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Theophalis Wilson was 17-years-old when he was falsely accused of a triple murder in Philadelphia and sentenced to life in prison. Now, 28 years later, he finally has his freedom. He spoke with @KeithJones https://t.co/mVDISp68hy pic.twitter.com/RQ2pEdZBfM— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) January 22, 2020
8. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart
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And they are out: Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart walk out of the Baltimore city courthouse after 36 yrs for a crime they didn’t do: pic.twitter.com/5UDGWMZmOB— Tom Jackman (@TomJackmanWP) November 25, 2019
9. Deandre Charles9 of 15
10. Exonerated Five - Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise10 of 15
11. Anthony Ray Hinton
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Name: Anthony Ray Hinton, who was on Alabama’s Death Row for nearly 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit. In 2018, he wrote about his experience in the NYT bestseller, The Sun Does Shine.— City of Birmingham (@cityofbhamal) October 4, 2019
Occupation: Works in community education with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery pic.twitter.com/EwiaJueimb
12. Lamar Johnson12 of 15
13. Wilbert Jones
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Louisiana man freed from prison after serving 43 years for a crime he did not commit. Wilbert Jones was arrested in 1971 at the age of 19 and convicted of rape in 1974. A judge overturned his conviction weeks ago. He still had to pay $2,000 bail before becoming a free man today. pic.twitter.com/LYV4gbTPOf— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) November 15, 2017
14. Xavier DavisSource:Courtesy of Xavier Davis 14 of 15
15. Huwe Burton
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2,372nd Exon: Huwe Burton was convicted in 1991 for stabbing his mother to death when he was 16. He was exonerated on Jan 24th after an investigation showed that his confession was coerced and that his mother's real killer was likely a downstairs neighbor. https://t.co/TM3f76moQ5 pic.twitter.com/rsU1NlPr2y— Exoneration Registry (@exonerationlist) February 4, 2019