Opinated Youth Offendera

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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Should the government toughen up on homicide charges against teenagers? This question is being debated amongst many, especially recently last month in West Palm Beach, Florida. A fourteen-year-old youth was convicted of shooting his "favorite" teacher. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison without parole, which re-ignited the controversy over appropriate punishment for youngsters convicted on homicide charges. In addition to his sentence, Brazill was given two years of house arrest and five years of probation afterwards.

Palm Beach County Judge Richard Wennet sentenced Nathaniel Brazill to three years more than the mandatory minimum as the teen. Nathaniel was shackled and clad in a red jail jumpsuit. Standing there staring straight ahead, showing very little emotion, he was awaiting his fate to be handed down to him.

Brazill's sentence for killing seventh-grade teacher Barry Grunow sparked immediate debate, with the victim's relatives contending it was too lenient and some child advocates declaring that long sentences for young offenders take the criminal justice system back "100 years."

The family of Brazill's victim, Barry Grunow, had a reserved reaction as the verdict was read. Many of Grunow's family members and loved ones had asked Judge Wennet to hand down a maximum sentence of life in prison. Although, asking the judge for a longer sentence may seem biased; one would be emotional when a loved one is lost. I believe they just want to make sure "justice" is served.

Brazill, who was 13 when he killed the language arts teacher, will be in his forties before he is freed. He was tried as an adult for the slaying at a middle school in Lake Worth, Florida, on the final day of school in 2000. The defense attorney's primary case was that Brazill was overwhelmed by anger, which was coupled with family problems at home. Nathaniel was suspended from school earlier that tragic day for throwing water balloons on school grounds.

Nathaniel Brazill, who was 13 at the time of the shooting, is the second teenager in South Florida to be tried as an adult this year on charges of first-degree murder. The first, Lionel Tate, was convicted of that crime in January and sentenced to life for beating a 6-year-old playmate, Tiffany Eunick, to death. Lionel was 12 at the time of the incident. His lawyer argued that Lionel killed the girl accidentally while imitating wrestling moves. Lionel is serving his sentence and awaiting the outcome of appeals. Governor Jeb Bush denied his request for an early clemency hearing.

Judge Richard Wennet ordered that Brazill serve part of his sentence in a youthful offenders facility, away from the adult prison population. But he will serve most of his sentence at the Hillsborough Correctional Institution. Nathaniel did get credit for the 428 days he's spent in jail since the killing.

This article from The New York Times is based on facts. In this article there are citations of real events that have taken place. All of these events are documented and can be referenced via carious newspapers or magazines.

I believe whether a teenager should be tried as an adult depends on the circumstances. It should not be up to our government to decide the severity of the case at hand. When a homicide case unfortunately arises involving a teenager, it is the judge's decision on the severity of punishment. The decision of Judge Wennet could have swung both ways depending on certain factors such as the remorse Nathaniel showed on trial. I think that the sentence was fair, but this was a brutal murder, and that's what the jury decided and the judge, using the discretion that the law allows him to do, made his decision. I think it would be hard to second-guess every decision that every judge makes.