Soft on crime? Juvenile defendant protected by system
Wow. A 17-year-old is basically gutted, stabbed to death, on a West Bloomfield street.
West Bloomfield is a nice community, only a couple of other homicides in the past decade, one case involving domestic violence and the other still a mystery (a woman killed in her garage on Saturday morning).
Click here to read the story about the killing of Jonathan Rickman, 17.
It's a shocking crime due to the violence and the scene, a quiet neighborhood street. But it also is shocking because police say a 15-year-old acquaintance of the victim is the suspect.
What is surprising to me is the extent that leaders in Oakland County are going to protect the accused. The young man is charged with open murder.
I know everyone is presumed innocent, but we live in an open society and we are allowed to know what the state is doing. When the juvenile court referee (essentially, a judge) David Barnes ordered reporters to not name the accused, otherwise barring them from the open courtroom, that seemed to reach too far in protecting the accused killer.
I know the referee can bar photographers, so in allowing them in, he can ask or demand that they not photograph the accused; that's fair, because the camera does not have a right to be in the courtroom (yet!, but that's a different beef).
We can debate whether the prosecutor's office is soft on crime or appropriately sensitive in not charging the youth as an adult, instead leaving it up to a judge down the road. That's the right of the prosecutors in determining charges.
However, the entire handling of the case gives the appearance of caring more about the young man who, according to police, stabbed another human being to death. Used to be, we would see who the culprit was and we would be debating whether it was fair for a 14-, 15, or 16-year-old to face life-in-prison without parole, because they were charged as an adult.
And in Oakland County, traditionally the people, especially the voters, like the tough-on-crime model. We don't approve of stabbing people to death on our neighborhood streets.
Pictured: Referee David Barnes