ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —
The Associated Press is not naming the boy since he is being tried as a child in children’s court.
If found guilty, the boy will be in state custody until he is 21 and must take part in a plan for rehabilitation.
There have been few other cases where young children have faced murder charges, according to the Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.
The most well-known example came in 1989 when Cameron Kocher, then 9, shot a 7-year-old playmate with a high-powered rifle in rural Pennsylvania after the playmate said she was better at the video game than he was. Kocher was tried as an adult but eventually pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter. He was placed on probation until he turned 21.
In 2000, a 6-year-old Michigan boy shot a first-grader at school with a gun he found at the house where he was living. The prosecutor declined to charge the boy, saying common law doesn’t allow a child under the age of 7 to be held criminally responsible.
In California, a boy who was 10 when he fatally shot his white supremacist father was convicted in January of second-degree murder. Saying the child knew what he did was wrong, the judge weighed the severity of the crime versus whether the amount of abuse and neglect suffered by the boy played a significant role in the father’s slaying.
Only 13 states have set a minimum age at which children can be tried or face adjudication in juvenile court, according to the National Juvenile Defender Center. In eight of those states, the age is 10.
New Mexico does not have any such law.
Terry A. Maroney, a Vanderbilt Law School professor who specializes in juvenile justice, said while such prosecutions are considered rare, it’s hard to know exactly how many young children have faced or have been charged with first-degree murder since most of proceedings are typically sealed and laws vary by state. Those cases also are hard to prosecutor because it’s difficult to prove if the child “was too young to determine the finality of death, and if the child had the capacity to make moral decisions,” Maroney said.