By now we are all familiar with the case of Miranda v. Arizona (“Miranda rights”) for a criminal defendant by exposure to all the police shows on television. For those who do not know what this is it is the rendition of your rights (you have the right to remain silent, etc). The California Supreme Court has ruled in a 4-3 decision that a 10 year old can waive his right to remain silent. The case involves a 10 year old boy who killed his Neo-Nazi father who had repeatedly physically abused the boy and his stepmother and had threatened to burn down their home with the family inside. The father was also a drug addict.

The boy (who is of low-average intelligence) suffered from attention deficit disorder (who had been exposed to many illicit drugs when his mother was pregnant and had been expelled from various schools for his violent behavior) shot and killed his father while the father was sleeping. One of the dissenting judges noted that this child is one of 613 California children under the age of 12 arrested for felonies in 2011. California courts commonly decide that children aged 15 and older are capable of knowingly waiving their rights. One case has upheld a waiver by a 12 year old. Should the court have taken this case to determine a “bright line” test to determine an age of when a knowing waiver can occur?

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The child was sentenced to 40 years to life for second degree murder but because of his age, must be released when he turns 23. He will be eligible for parole when he turns 20.

Should the Legislature intervene in a situation such as this, or, should these types of cases be left to the courts on a case by case basis?

The Supreme Court of the United States is dealing with death penalty cases again. The bulk of these cases come from Florida. Most states require a unanimous jury verdict on death sentences. Florida does not. In one case, 5 of the 12 jurors voted not to impose the death sentence.. However, if Florida can continue with its own interpretation, 70% more death sentences would have been approved since 2010.  In Federal cases, unanimity for a death sentence is required, but not all states adhere to this standard. The court is also dealing with a juvenile criminal case in which a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is made. Juvenile defendants can change over time and are more likely to than adult offenders. Should the justice system take this into account? Should the system merely look for retribution and lock the door and throw away the key? Should we use the old Robert Blake character (Tony Barreta) line of “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time?”