Thursday, November 15, 2007

It All Started With A Rock

This morning in St. Louis a 15 year old by the name of Sherman Burnett Jr. was sentenced to 60 years in prison due to a crime he pleaded guilty to committing when he was 13.

The crime? He admitted to sodomizing, torturing and kidnapping a 6 year old girl. Why? The little girl allegedly threw a rock at him. The little girl picked him out of a yearbook while still in the hospital suffering from wounds that a 6 year old should never have to endure. She had half of one of her ears ripped off, her liver suffered from lascerations, her skull was fractured and bruises covered her all the way from her head to her thighs. Police found the little girl the morning after she was reported missing after the little girl crawled (she was not able to walk) through a hole in a fence next to a railroad track. As the night pressed on she tried to cover herself with leaves for warmth.

You can read more here.

Some questions:
-Do you think the punishment fit the crime?
-Burnett will be 66 before he is able to enter into society again. Is this fair for the crime of a 13 year old?
-Should those under 18 be tried as adults?
-What do you think Burnett's parents are thinking now that the verdict has been given? The little girls parents?
-If this was your child who committed this crime what would your response be to the sentencing?
-If this was your little girl who endured this torture, what would your response be to the sentencing?


Anonymous said...

I cant wait till Jesse Jackson opens his big mouth on this...

But he basically left her for dead...there is no way to rehabilitate him...

Timm said...

As a father of a 5 year old little girl, i have to say. The punishment fits the crime.

They don't take this stuff lightly. I would have to assume that they put him through testing with trusted phycologists and counselers to make sure that this boy was in his right mind and capable of knowing the severity of what he was doing.

Anyone want to make an argument for the "innate goodness of man" now?

j razz said...

I am curious as to why the law will sometimes not allow a child to be tried as an adult but in other cases they will. I understand that 18 is a relative age that one should be adult-like and that is why that benchmark is given. Puberty is over, experience is gained and responsibility is something that should ear-mark an 18 year old.

But here we have a 13 year old who committed these crimes and will not see society again until well after he is 50 years old.

Granted, in days of old, 13 year olds could marry and were responsible "adults". Today adolescence is extended and children are encouraged to be so by societal standards (why I don't know).

And going back to the 13 year old being tried as an adult; I wonder what the criteria is that deems him as an adult? If he is deemed as an adult, why can other 13 year olds not vote, not serve in the military, not drive, etc. I just don't agree with the double standard.

j razz

Timm said...

After reading the story a second time, it almost sounds like the problem was that there were two extremes. If tried as a juvinile, he would have been elegible for parole at the age of seventeen. (two years) If convicted as an adult, it's 51 years before he's elegible. They deemed him a threat to society and went with the harsher punishment to avoid even the possibility of him being out in just two years.

Like I said, he would have undergone extensive testing to make sure that he was mature enough and well aware of the severity of the crime as he was beating and sodomizing this little girl. He was committing an adult crime in what they apparently thought was an adult mindset.

Do you have any idea the amount of time and energy they would have to put in to review each and every child to determine if they were "grown up" enough to drink, smoke, get married or join the millitary? They have to set a fair and consistant number. obviously some are mature enough long before this age, but too many others aren't. However, they simply can't judge everyone on a case by case basis due to the lack of time and resourses. That's the reason for the double standard.

j razz said...

I guess a better question is, "is the double standard fair?".

I don't think the time and energy would be any different than what already goes into it now at the DMV, the military recruiting office, marriage, etc. Now, when it comes to drinking, smoking, etc. that might take more money and time to figure out, but if we can pay (as tax payers) for this guy to get psychologicals to see if he is fit to stand trial as an adult, why can't others pay to test maturity and be deemed competent?

As for the crime being an adult crime... I don't know of any crimes that aren't. If I remember correctly, didn't some of the kids behind the school shootings get tried as children instead of adults? And they took lives.

I don't disagree with punishing crimes or even punishing crimes with long sentences, but I do question the double-standard and find it convenient at best.

j razz

Timm said...

I don't remember hearing anything about the school shootings as far as how any of them were tried, so I guess I can't really comment on that one.

I do believe that there is a difference between granting privileges and dealing punishment. When I was a church youth director, we had a Michigan State Sr. High Youth Convention. I will say quite frankly that I had some sixth and seventh graders in my group who were more mature than some of my high schoolers. However, going to Convention was not a earned privilege, but rather a granted privilege. Setting a hard age limit on that is fine by me. Just as setting a hard age limit on granted privileges like driving, voting and drinking is fine by me.

When dealing out punishment, you have to make sure you get it absolutely right. That's why I'm fine with paying the tax dollars to make sure this kid is acting in an adult mindset, rather than a child’s. Call me naive, but I do trust our justice system. It seems to me that they get it right most of the time. If some of the school shooters have been tried as juveniles, I'm forced to trust that the system got it right there too.

j razz said...


I appreciate the dialogue. I hope you stick around and contribute regularly.

As for the legal system... I used to work for the deptarment of children's services for several years and saw way too much to retain much faith in my regional judicial system... poor defense attorneys hired by the state to provide free services to those who couldn't pay. They would discuss the case right before the hearing (literally seconds before the hearing) and then attempt to defend against a DCS attorney who has had nothing but time to build a case for their end goal. I have seen judges allow closed room conversations, I have seen disputes settled based on moods as opposed to facts. I have sat in on a number of psychological reviews and found the meetings to be less than professional... I just don't have much faith in our judicial system. Pretty much, based on what I have seen, the one with the most money wins.

j razz

Timm said...

like I said, "call me naive." :)

I'll be back for sure. This is a good site. I'm on vacation and away from my computer for the next week, but I'll be around after that. take a visit to my blog too if you get a chance.

Lauren said...

Well the headline is misleading. It did not start with a rock.

That was the defendant's belated excuse to Brent Brueck of the Missouri Division of Youth Services, who recently interviewed him as part of the pre-sentencing process. In the same interview, he also denied the sexual assault he had previously pleaded guilty to. His statements were seen as the lies they were.

Aocording to the victim's numerous consistent accounts to paramedics, police, social workers and others, Burnett asked her if she wanted to make some money. She replied yes. Then he asked her to go with him to the railroad tracks. When she refused, he dragged her away.

Attempting to entice a victim with promises of money was the same M.O. he used unsuccessfully the previous June (2005) with an 11-year-old, and that incident ended with Burnett assaulting the girl's brother when he tried to help his sister.

According to reports, Burnett was a troublemaker by age 7, and in the three years prior to arrest, the police had been called an average of once a month to his home. A neighbor said he did not go to school, period.

The judge in this case is a kindly-looking man of long experience, and I believe he made the right decision. Taking the victim's wishes into consideration in determining the sentence will go a long way to help her heal from this terrible ordeal.