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Wisconsin law requires adult charges for some youth crimes

Murder or attempted murder charges are serious for anyone, but for teens and preteens in Wisconsin, facing adult court can mean endangering an entire future. A law that dates back to 1995 in the state requires children as young as 10 to be prosecuted as adults for attempted homicide or homicide charges. Two girls are facing such charges after they attacked another preteen.

The 12-year-old girls allegedly stabbed another 12-year-old. Reportedly, the girls said they attacked the other girl to please a fictional video-game character known as Slenderman. The third girl was almost killed, say authorities, and has been hospitalized since the attack. Recent reports are that the girl was walking and beginning to recovery physically.

Both girls are being charged as adults in the crime. Prior to the 1995 law, individuals under 12 couldn't face criminal charges and many times, Chicago courts sought to rehabilitate young offenders instead of punish them. The 1995 law was written in part to crack down on gang violence, and some individuals feel that it incorrectly sweeps all youth facing murder charges or attempted murder charges into adult court.

The girls in this case could face as much as 65 years in prison if they are convicted, leaving them little chance of a rehabilitated life. Some experts say that it's impossible to tell whether children who are in their preteen years will become repeat offenders or rehabilitate and move on with productive lives. The woman who helped write the 1995 law stood by the legislation in light of the two girls' crime, saying that the girls had planned the assault for months, which means it wasn't an accident.

In a juvenile case of any kind, a criminal defense must consider the future and welfare of the child as much as possible. In many cases, that could involve working to reduce charges and move a case out of adult court. In the juvenile system, children may have a better chance at less stringent sentencing should a conviction occur.

Source: CBS News, "Should "Slenderman stabbing" suspects be charged as adults?" No author given, Jun. 05, 2014

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