Georgia Republican Representative Bert Reeves has proposed a bill that would allow prosecutors to try teens as adults for aggravated assault with a firearm. The bill will be up for debate as Georgia lawmakers go into session later this week.
The shooting of Marietta police officer Scott Davis this past August sparked the idea for the bill.
Davis was allegedly shot and nearly killed by two minors under the age of 16. Both suspects were charged as juveniles and won’t face more than five years in jail.
“I think we’re talking about a much more serious conduct that needs to be treated as adults,” Reeves said.
Clayton County Juvenile Court, Chief Judge Steve Teske is against the bill, pointing out the large drop in teen crime in Clayton County — thanks to rehabilitation programs that have a more holistic attitude.
“No longer is it good enough to just deal with the kid, you have to deal with the entire family,” Judge Teske said.
Judge Teske has been committed to keeping minors out of court for several years now.
“Zero tolerance is zero intelligence,” he said to the Washington Post back in 2011.
Columbus County defense attorney Jennifer Curry agrees with Teske saying “They should be treated differently because their mental and emotional development is not that of an adult for the purpose of determining punishment.”
Right now any child age 17 and older is considered an adult in the state of Georgia. If charged with a violent crime, murder, rape, armed robbery, 13 is the age where a child is considered an adult. If the crime committed has a possible death penalty or life without parole the child must be charged as an adult.
It’s an issue that has turned out to be far more complex than anyone could have imagined. It’s hard to picture someone going through the emotional and physical turmoil of being shot and then realizing that their assailant won’t actually spend much time behind bars. In the same breath, however, should a young person’s foolish mistake be all it takes to have the rest of their life ruined?
It’s certainly a complicated discussion that gives lawmakers quite a bit to think about.
You can find out more about Georgia legislature here.