In a bizarre case, a 75-year-old licensed gun owner came out of his home to approach a group of teens that appeared at his house in the early morning Tuesday driving a Lexus that turned out to be stolen. He apparently believed the group was threatening as one of the teens started to move forward towards him despite his protests for them to leave. After that, he pulled out his revolver and fired at least three bullets towards the group which scattered them. Unfortunately, one of them was hit in the head area and would die. This teen was a 14-year-old boy. The other five teens scrambled into the Lexus and headed off with their wounded friend in tow. They actually made it to some officers who got the wounded boy to a hospital but after his death, four were somehow able to escape in the stolen Lexus and create a large chase that took a while. The four made it to North Halsted and West Randolph before running out of gas. All four were charged with first degree murder due to their friend dying in the commission of a felony. This is what is called Felony murder, and it allows the state to charge someone for a person’s death even if they don’t directly kill them. Alice Yin, Dan Moran, Annie Sweeney, and Jason Meisner of the Chicago Tribune have the full story.
Plenty of controversy surrounds the case which isn’t surprising since it involves guns, the death of a kid, and the application of a controversial law towards juveniles. All four are being charged as adults while only one is actually 18 years old. This is a complicated, tragic case. No matter what you think, a young boy is dead and that is awful. A seventy-five year old man who seemed like he was in no way being malicious shot his gun in self-defense and a young kid making a terrible mistake died. That has got to be hard on him and it seems likely he’ll be dealing with legal and civil questions for a bit. The bar for this kind of use of deadly force of self-defense is when you find yourself faced with an imminent and importantly deadly threat where you believe there is a reasonably deadly threat to your person or another. It’s a higher bar than regular self-defense against non deadly force which just outlines “unlawful” force as the condition for which one can use regular force against. It should be noted that a Bowie knife was found at the scene of the crime so that could be an indication that there was a reason to believe the man firing had a justifiable fear for his own life. This comes along with the fact that this whole debacle appeared to be an attempted home invasion in a stolen car. But we need more information to be released to the public to be certain. It is highly recommended you read the article as it covers many of the angles relatively quickly.
I wanted to touch on the aspect of the other teens being charged for their accomplices death. This is one of those few issues that can be expanded upon without needing significantly more public information because it mainly comes down to principle. Some cases are so horrible that a juvenile needs to be charged as an adult like this, but in this context it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It feels like there is a general anger and hole that people want to fill in place of this fourteen year old’s death with some kind of justice. Certainly justice should be had, but is this actually justice? When thinking of crimes so bad that children should be charged as adults, my first go to would be looking at intent. Did these teens in any way when taking the stolen car that night towards the targeted home have any intention whatsoever of harming their friend? No. Did they have any intention of harming the man in the house? We don’t know, more facts will have to come out. So we don’t know if that had any intent whatsoever to harm anyone that night. Obviously people can point to the felony murder statute as why these kids can be tried as adults but just because you clear the bar for something doesn’t mean you should proceed with it. Can does not equal should, and just because the DA can get this charge to stick doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a gross injustice to see it happen. When thinking over whether the justice system should be used for rehabilitation, punishment, or both, it seems society has taken a step forward in the last few years to saying “both.” Charging these children with first degree murder won’t provide any type of rehabilitation, just punishment. And remember, these likely aren’t some sadists committing a thrill kill but rather stupid kids doing something stupidly dangerous. This feels like something where the perpetrators can be genuinely helped and led toward a better life. It won’t happen with a first degree murder charge. Plus, is ideally what felony murder is for? There are better arguments to be made that the eighteen year old should be charged as an adult but again, is there really a point to that? Five young lives hang in the balance because of the charges pending against them. It doesn’t have to be like this.