Murder Victim's Family Supports NC Juvenile Trial Law
Posted March 25, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
FAYETTEVILLE — Under Arkansas law, the Jonesboro murder suspects can only be tried as juveniles. When they're 18, their records will be wiped clean. If this had happened in North Carolina, the boys would be facing a different kind of juvenile justice.
Under North Carolina law, children 13 and older can be tried as adults when charged with certain crimes. That started in 1992 after a 13-year-old in Durham was charged with murdering a woman, and had to be tried as a juvenile under current law at the time.
Is it better to throw children in adult jails, or try to rehabilitate them? That's the question that separates people on both sides of this issue.
"It's the same case in Arkansas as it is with us," says Wayne Eggleston. "It wasn't an accident. It wasn't a disease. This is just plain evil."
The Eggleston family lost their 16-year-old son Chris last year. Police say he was shot by a 17-year-old classmate. In that case, the suspects were old enough to be tried as adults. In Arkansas, the suspects are too young.
"I think what the public wants to hear in a case like this is a balance between accountability," explains Peter Morris, director of family and youth success in Wake County. "Here is a terrible act that's been committed by an 11 year old and 13 year old."
Morris says finding treatment is better than locking the children up. But they need to be evaluated for competency before any decisions are made.
"Did they understand the crime that they were committing? Did they understand the consequences of those crimes? If you put it into that context, these kids need a good psychiatric evaluation," Morris says.
The Egglestons say they feel better knowing the person they believe killed their son can be tried as an adult.
"Those kids in Arkansas, they are just like the person charged for killing our son," Eggleston believes. "He premeditated. They had to plan that. That should tell you those kids should be tried as adults."
There were 1,700 13- to 15-year-olds who had charges that could have sent them to an adult system. Only 114 were tried as adults.