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8 Year old... murderer?

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RationalBiker
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In St. Johns, Arizona, an 8 year old boy has been charged with a double homicide in connection with the shooting deaths of his father and a man that lived with them.

The police took the kid in as a witness at first and questioned him about the incident, without a parent, adult or attorney involved. This might normally be fine however at some point during his statement they began to ask him incriminating questions and began to focus on him as a suspect. It appears true that he lied about the situation at first and then later 'confessed' to shooting both men on video tape.

Miranda rights apply to situations where the police have you "in custody" and they are "interrogating" you. What may start as witness interview can quickly turn into an interrogation and police officers and investigators are typically trained in identifying this kind of situation. It appears to me that perhaps these investigators were not aware of that. This is not a case of a spontaneous utterance on the part of the kid, their incriminating questioning led to his confession and when they knew they were going down that path, there is no way this kid was "free to leave" (in custody). Heck, the kid probably could not even conceive of this type of legal implication. At the point they started to focus on him as a suspect, even if he was an adult, they should have stopped and advised him of miranda rights AND contacted some adult who could understand the legal implications of what was going on. In my considered opinion, they are going to have a real hard time getting that confession admitted in court as evidence. I haven't even gone into the coercive language and tone they used in elicting his confession. In my mind, this was a textbook way of how NOT to handle the situation.

What's worse? They released this

to the press scant hours later.

Now I have some concerns that the kid was actually capable of formulating the intent necessary to committ murder. However, given sufficient evidence I'd certainly be willing to consider the possibility. However, these investigators appear to have dropped the ball, at least in this part of the investigation, if the media reports are accurate.

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I think the cops blew it on this - I am sure they were not trying to pressure the kid, but they should have never asked him incriminating questions at any point without a lawyer or his mother or another legal guardian present. That was just foolish.

And really, the kid was NEVER free to leave at any time, even before they started the incriminating questions. Would they really just let an 8 year old get up and leave out the building if he said he wanted to go if he wasn't under arrested? Absolutely not.

I wonder if what the kid said was true - that he was just putting his father out of his misery. So far what I have read in the press was that was how he explained it.

It seems like they are going to drop the charges on one if the killings - though I am having trouble pulling up the latest news on it (this is what I remembered from the other day).

I hope they get to the bottom of it, and actually uncover what really happened before too long. I cannot even imagine what the kid and his family is going through right now.

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I am sure they were not trying to pressure the kid,

Well, not with bright spot lights and such, but courts have recognized in the past 'coercion' based on appeals to say morality and religion, etc. I'll listen to the tape again and point out what it is that I'm referring to when I say "emotional coercion".

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Can we even consider a child of that age rational, much less capable of understanding what he has done?

It depends on the child.

Many years ago I was about 12 or so and my cousin was eight. He did something to his older brother's aquarium (I forget what) and all the fish died. The older brother was furious, naturally, but the little brother couldn't understand why. He said "But they'll be back to normal tomorrow, like in TV!"

Some children are like that. They don't nderstand yet that death is permanent. Some do understand it.

But to Rational Biker's point, the kid can't possibly be sophisticated enough in his understanding yet to comprehend the police's questions. That's why there should have been a parent or guardian present, even if they had to go to court to appoint him one.

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