A MORE JUST SYSTEM OF JUVENILE JUSTICE: CREATING A NEW STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY FOR JUVENILES IN ILLINOIS.

Author:Troutman, Brooke
 
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TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 198 I. WHY THIS PROBLEM EXISTS 201 A. A Brief History of Juvenile Justice in the United States 201 B. Juveniles Are Different from Adults: A Scientific 203 Approach C. Juveniles Are Different from Adults: The Supreme Court's 208 D. Accountability Law: Illinois's Approach 211 II. ARGUING FOR A DIFFERENT JUVENILE STANDARD OF 215 ACCOUNTABILITY CONCLUSION 221 INTRODUCTION

It is not a new or innovative concept to say that juveniles are different from adults in a legal sense or even in common sense. (2) William Blackstone, the architect of common law, built his theory of criminal justice upon the foundation that only two types of people were incapable of committing crimes--those that were insane and those that were considered "infants." (3) Though in the present day, an infant may be defined as someone who is a baby or a young child in the most basic stage of life, Blackstone's definition was far wider reaching. (4) Blackstone believed that "infants," a category of people not capable of committing crimes, encompassed all young people possessing a "defect of the understanding." (5) The United States internalized this concept and expounded upon it through its legal system, establishing a separate criminal justice system altogether for juveniles. (6) In 1899, Cook County in Illinois created the country's first juvenile court, catalyzing a trend that spread to almost every state in less than three decades. (7) With this movement to separate juvenile criminal justice from adult criminal justice came an understanding that juveniles deserved different treatment in criminal law than their adult counterparts. (8) As such, juvenile courts across America adopted rehabilitation as their primary purpose. (9) This goal diverged from the punitive goals that characterize the adult criminal justice system. (10)

This rehabilitative treatment of young offenders has remained a component of the juvenile criminal justice system. However, in recent years, the Supreme Court has made a substantial effort to expand upon this, carving out distinct protections for juveniles. (11) In the past ten years, the Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to subject juveniles to the death penalty, that juveniles deserve individualized consideration in life without parole sentences, and that a juvenile's age must be taken into consideration when analyzing Miranda waivers. (12) The Supreme Court has acknowledged, through these legal advancements, that a new body of psychological and physiological science has changed what we know about adolescents, the adolescent brain, and adolescent development--mainly that the brain is still developing in its adolescent years in many key areas that impact decisionmaking skills and foreseeability. (13)

While the Supreme Court has taken a multitude of steps to expand the rights and protections of juveniles, courts in the state of Illinois have taken similar steps to substantially develop and expand the State's law of accountability. (14) Though the Supreme Court's developments in the areas of juvenile law are reasonably viewed as progressive in their protection of juveniles, changes in Illinois accountability law are increasingly expansive and broaden the reach of accountability law. (15) In Illinois, accountability law is not a separate crime but rather a method courts use to prosecute individuals when the individual was not the primary actor but provided some semblance of assistance. (16) Juveniles have not been so lucky to escape the grasp of this extraordinarily powerful law and are prosecuted in an identical manner as their adult counterparts. (17) While the law has changed in many areas to adeptly recognize the new psychological and physiological findings about young people, accountability law in Illinois remains a substantial challenge to overcome for juvenile offenders. (18)

This Comment argues that a new standard should be used to analyze the culpability of juveniles adjudicated under the Illinois accountability statute. (19) Part I.A begins with a brief survey of juvenile law in the United States. Then Part I.B highlights the recent advancements in science and psychology pertaining to adolescent brain development that were essential for the success of the aforementioned cases. This is followed in Part I. C by an in-depth analysis of the recent Supreme Court cases that have effectively established different standards and new protections for juveniles during the Miranda process and sentencing. Next, Part I. D presents the Illinois accountability law as it stands today, illustrating the history and purpose of accountability law and acknowledging the recent case law that has interpreted the statute expansively, leading to its wide reach. Finally, Part II argues that the same reasoning and understanding that the Supreme Court used to bolster its holdings in these recent landmark decisions surrounding juveniles should be used to inform an analysis of juvenile accountability in Illinois.

  1. WHY THIS PROBLEM EXISTS

    1. BRIEF HISTORY OF JUVENILE JUSTICE IN THE UNITED STATES

      The first pronounced element of America's juvenile justice system emerged through specialized institutions for juveniles, mainly those convicted of truancy in large urban areas. (20) These facilities, such as the Society for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency and the Chicago Reform School, were built upon the foundation of rehabilitating youth and separating youth from adult offenders. (21) In 1899, after 575 Chicago children were convicted of various offenses within Cook County, Illinois was propelled to establish a system of juvenile courts to adjudicate the children. (22) These courts did not serve a penal purpose. (23) In fact, the juvenile court's first chief probation officer explained, "[i]nstead of reformation, the thought and idea in the judge's mind should always be formation... and [the child] certainly cannot be reformed by punishing him." (24) Within twenty-five years, almost every state in America had created a similar institution with similar rehabilitative goals. (25) During that time, Illinois remained steadfast in its dedication to the reformation of young offenders. (26) As Judge Julian Mack, one of the first judges to preside over the juvenile court in Cook County, explained, "[t]he child who must be brought into court should... be made to feel that he is the object of [the state's] care and solicitude." (27) Thus, in its early years, the Illinois juvenile justice system sought to nurture and reform the juvenile offenders that found their way into its grasp.

      Case law that emerged in the following century echoed the treatment of juveniles shown in the juvenile courts and sought to codify the appropriate treatment of juveniles in the law. (28) In 1984 in Clay v. State, three boys, all under the age of sixteen, were charged and convicted of first degree murder. (29) Though Florida's Supreme Court upheld the convictions, the court cautioned that all children under the age of seven possessed a conclusive presumption of innocence. (30) This meant that a child under the age of seven could not be found culpable regardless of the information provided by the prosecution. (31) In 1984, the California Supreme Court further extended this presumption of innocence in People v. Olsen, where the defendant allegedly raped a fourteen-year-old and tried to use a mistake-of-age defense to avoid a statutory rape conviction. (32) According to Olsen, criminal law maintains that all children between seven and fourteen have a rebuttable presumption of incapacity. (33) Though this presumption may be overcome, the burden to do so rests entirely with the prosecution. (34) In the same year that Olsen was decided, a sixteen-year-old in Oklahoma received the death penalty for murdering a police officer. (35) In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court spoke generally about the "condition" of youth rather than the specific implications of a certain age. The Court explained that youth is more than a "chronological fact" and creates a "condition of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage." (36) Thus, Olsen opened the door for the Court to utilize age as a tool for reasoning in its holdings.

      In 1988, in Thompson v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court began using dicta from these previous cases to expand upon the rights and privileges of juveniles. (37) In Thompson, the Supreme Court overturned a fifteen-year-old's death sentence. (38) Though the Court upheld the child's conviction of first degree murder, the Court determined that a death sentence was inappropriate for Thompson. (39) The Court determined that the likelihood that a teenage offender has made the kind of "cold blooded," "cost-benefit analysis that attaches any weight to the possibility of execution is so remote as to be virtually nonexistent," making a juvenile's "irresponsible conduct... not as morally reprehensible as that of an adult." (40) In 1989, in Stanford v. Kentucky, an opinion by Justice Brennan recognized that juveniles are generally less criminally responsible for their actions than their adult counterparts. (41) However, though the Thompson Court held the sentence inappropriate for its teenage offender, the Court did not yet extend this assumption to provide a categorical ban on implementing the death penalty for all juvenile offenders. (42) Juveniles would need to wait fifteen years for the Court to provide that guarantee. (43)

    2. JUVENILES ARE DIFFERENT FROM ADULTS: A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH

      Following Stanford, a great deal of scientific research helped establish that adults and adolescents differ in critical physical, mental, and emotional abilities. (44) For adolescents, these differences create obstacles in evaluating the long-term effects of actions, thereby making it more likely that adolescents will make poor decisions. (45) Recent advances in Magnetic Resonance Imaging ("MRI") and psychological research...

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