Bury him under the jail!

Bury him under the jail!

You cant save everyone. It’s not an option. – Author Darren Shan

Whenever I preface a column by defining myself as a social liberal, trust me, it ain’t braggin’. Considering the insidious damage neoliberals and progressives are doing to this country, I’d rather not concede that political leaning. But I make the point because there’s a material difference between a liberal and a conservative making the argument that a 16-year-old should be tried as an adult.

I’d like to think the liberal opinion carries a little more weight.

You’ve likely surmised that we’re talking about the then 15-year-old boy who shot and paralyzed a 47-year-old woman during a January 2021 carjacking in the Wendy’s parking lot on Orchard Road in Aurora, Illinois. After he was apprehended the following April, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office correctly moved to try him as an adult and the requisite hearing started last week before 16th Circuit Associate Judge Sandra Parga. She will hear closing arguments on Thursday, March 10.

Those of you who’ve followed me for years know I generally align myself with author Studs Terkel’s belief that redemption is always right around the corner, so I can’t remember the last time I declared that someone can’t be saved, particularly when it comes to a teenager. But after talking with a number of criminal justice professionals, I’m convinced this is one of the rare cases where they need to lock this kid up and throw away the key.

Here’s why.

Unlike it is with so many juvenile offenders, no one’s testified to the kind of mitigating circumstances that often plague these cases. This middle-class boy has a mother and stepfather who both work and there’s been no assertion of abuse or mental illness. His biological father may not be in the picture, but that describes about a third of American families.

This wasn’t nearly his first carjacking, either. Aurora Police detectives determined that he and his co-conspirators had taken part in at least six attempted or successful similar crimes. And even if he previously managed to avoid injuring anyone, a retired police lieutenant told me that some people never fully recover from having a gun shoved in their face.

Worse yet, the youth tried to claim the gun accidentally discharged because he was wearing heavy winter gloves, but what most of the news reports failed to mention is he fired that weapon three separate times, so that poor attempt at an excuse won’t fly.

During last week’s hearing the mother testified that if her son was released to her when he was 18, she’d make him get a job, go back to school, and she wouldn’t allow him to associate with “any of his so-called friends.”

It’s a bit late for that, isn’t it? And unless she chaperones him 24/7, how can she possibly guarantee it won’t happen again? More importantly, I’ve heard the “he fell in with the wrong crowd” pretext repeatedly in juvenile criminal cases and it’s nothing more than code for a continuing failure to take any responsibility as a parent, and that’s never a good sign. Perhaps she might’ve considered preventing her 15-year-old son from paling around with a 26-year-old career criminal from the start.

But the most telling thing about this kid was his police interview response when asked why he would commit such a crime, “Basically, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like walking.” And he wasn’t being the least bit flip when he said it, either.

That blatant lack of any empathy is a clear indicators of a sociopathic personality and sociopaths can’t be “cured.” To make matters worse, a Kane County Diagnostic Center psychologist also testified this teenager has somehow convinced himself that he’s the victim here and he will need supervision going forward into adulthood “for the safety of the public.”

While those are certainly critical factors in the juvenile or adult trial question, what supersedes all of them is there’s a mother of two young boys who will never walk again simply because she chose to eat her lunch in a fast-food parking lot. No one’s life should be this tragically altered for the “sin” of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Put more simply, there are criminal acts from which you should never recover regardless of your age, and this is one of them. The criminal justice system may be flawed, often racist, and downright incompetent at times, but it’s at it’s best when it permanently removes a persistent threat to a civilized society.

Do I relish the thought of any 16-year-old spending an armed Class X felony minimum of 65 years in prison? No. Am I troubled by what will likely happen to this boy when he’s ultimately remanded to an adult prison? Yes. But as Voltaire said, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good and an imperfect system cannot be a mitigating factor in the Judge’s final decision.

And while I’m under no illusion that something as severe as a 65-year sentence will deter the next teenager from pulling the trigger, as Ronald Reagan said, “For too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system.” I’ve had to endure that dynamic firsthand and that assuredly shouldn’t be the case here. I also understand that no amount of justice will make the victim walk again, but I’d like to think the knowledge that this individual will never be in a position to carjack anyone again will provide some sort of solace.

But as sure as I am of my throwing-away-the-key theory, I’m not so sure some of the folks involved will do the right thing. If you doubt me, take a look at what “bail reform” and other overwrought and underthought “social justice” measures have done to that warzone we call Chicago.

First, Sandra Parga is a contemptible human being with a questionable legal competency who should never have been appointed judge. As a former defense attorney with more than suspect ethics, I’m not nearly convinced of her capacity to do the right thing.

And second, State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser may be head and shoulders above predecessor Joe McMahon, but she’s made some very strange decisions lately, and the last thing anyone wants to see is a plea deal that would put this kid back on the street in ten years.

But we do have recourse. Associate judges like Parga serve only at the behest of their full-circuit peers and State’s Attorney Mosser is up for reelection in two short years. So, as is the implicit duty of a reasonably diligent and robust press, I want to make it abundantly clear to Parga and Mosser that I’ll be watching how this case unfolds with great interest.

This kid should be tried as an adult and locked up for the rest of his life. Case closed.

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