Local News

Judge Allows Public Access to Trial of 11-Year-Old Twins Accused of Killing Father

Posted July 27, 1999

— Trials involving children under the age of 13 are generally closed to the public. The judicial system follows that rule to protect child defendants. However, in the unusual case oftwo 11-year-old twin boys accused of killing their father, comes an unusual ruling from the judge.

Their trial will be open, and it could change the way all juvenile courts operate.

"The crimes are much more serious, and the kids are younger," says Marcia Morey, who worked on the Governor's task force on juvenile crime.

The 11-year-old Bawcum twins turned their Vance County home into a house of horror when they killed their father and wounded their mother and sister. Now, through open juvenile court proceedings, the public will know how it happened.

"People are going to look askew at this family," says Al Singer, who is an attorney with Durham's Child Advocacy Commission. He says the entire family will be open to ridicule.

"We're not thinking about that, and we're not thinking about the privacy of the children and the chances of re-integrating them into society at a later time," Singer said.

In the last two years, children and teens taking up arms and killing classmates have created a shift in the way the judicial system handles young guns.

"Younger kids are committing more serious crimes," Morey said. "It's a nationwide attitude."

Morey says the more serious the crime, the more insatiable the public's appetite for answers.

Morey says the gory details of the Bawcum trial should educate not only adults, but children on the brink of a life of crime.

"They need to know it's serious when you commit a crime as a juvenile," she said. "It's not some closed door proceedings when their rights may be violated or justice is not being done."

The boys' trial begins next week. While the judge has opened the courtroom, cameras will still not be allowed inside.

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