Nine -Year- Old Charged with First Degree Murder over Illinois House Fire

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Five persons including a 1-year-old child, two 2-year-olds, a 34-year-old man and a 69-year-old woman lost their lives at Timberline mobile home park near the village of Good field on April 6, 2019. The fire was suspected to be caused by the child.

The details of the suspect and possible relationship to victims were not revealed by the  Woodford county state attorney, Greg Minger. However, Minger said he search multiple reports on the fire thoroughly before proceeding with the prosecution.

The filing of murder charges against children under the age of 10 is rare but not unprecedented. Just last month,  Michigan judge has dismissed  a charge against a 9-year-old accused of  fatally shooting his murder in their home near Sturgis

“It was a heavy decision. It is a tragedy, but at the end of the day, it’s charging a very young person with one of the most serious crimes we have. But I just think it needs to be done at this point for finality,”  Minder said.

CHALLENGES  FOR THE PROSECUTORS

How to prove that the child formed an intent to kill. This is required in first-degree murder. Gus Kostopoulos, a juvenile defence lawyer in Chicago would want to know this.

“Nine-year-olds don’t know that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. They don’t know people die and don’t come back life. I don’t know  if nine-year-olds can form an intent to commit murder.”

Betsy Clark, the president of Juvenile Justice Initiative based in Evanston Illinois argued, ” the charges are completely out of line, given everything we have learned … especially about the brain development of children.”

Clark said 14 is the minimum age of criminal responsibility in many countries. It is incomprehensible to her how Illinois which was the first places in the world to have a juvenile court and took minors out of the adult system will come up with such charge.

Minger opined that if convicted the child could be placed on probation for at least 5 years but not beyond the age of 21. Probation given the age is about the only outcome in the case.