PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The shock of a six-year-old shooting a teacher was exacerbated when the police chief said it was no accident.
However, Alexandra Dufresne, Director of the State Policy Advocacy Clinic at the Brooks School of Public Policy at Cornell University tells WAVY, “A six-year-old is not capable of forming criminal intent.”
Dufresne continued by saying that it would be inappropriate for a prosecutor to press charges in this case.
“Punishment would not have a deterrent effect for someone who is not capable, cognitively or emotionally, of forming criminal intent. It would not incapacitate the child, prevent him from committing this crime in the future,” Dufresne said.
As far as the legal system goes there is not much precedent. “It immediately reminded me of the case in 2000 in Flint Michigan,” said David Riedman, Founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database.
In the Flint, Michigan case, a boy shot and killed a first-grade classmate. The Michigan child was not charged but his Uncle was convicted of manslaughter.
Riedman said that there can be rare cases where young children are capable of violence.
“We think that young children are not capable of violence but there are these rare cases where that is the case,” Riedman told 10 On Your Side.
The UN committee on the rights of the child and the American Bar Association recommend 14 as the minimum age of criminal responsibility. The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychological Association endorses age 12.
As far as the Newport News case is concerned Dufresne said, “Of course this is a very serious crime everyone’s thoughts are to the victim of course, but the way to prevent children from being a harm to others is of course to give them the services they need and to keep firearms locked safely out of their control or their hands.”
She added that with the proper medical services, intervention, and counseling a six-year-old is absolutely able to be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society.