Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams announced Monday that he would charge two 15-year-olds with second degree murder in adult court for the murder of a 52 year old woman – go back on an electoral promise never to try minors in adult court.
Williams said his office secured a grand jury indictment of Que’dyn Growe and Demond Thomas for the January murder of Anita Irvin-LeViege, who was shot in her car while delivering food to family members in eastern New Orleans. If found guilty, the teens could be sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
“The limits of the juvenile sentencing guidelines would be inadequate to hold young people accountable for heinous crimes,” Williams said at a press conference announcing the decision. “And we refuse to send a message to young people who engage in criminal activity that murders committed by minors will receive less scrutiny and less accountability.”
The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, which serves as a juvenile public advocate in New Orleans, released a statement saying they were “disappointed” by Williams’ decision to renege on his campaign promise.
“While we respect the seriousness of the alleged offenses and the loss of a life, the research is unequivocal: children sued in adult court are more likely to reoffend than children who remain in the juvenile system,” says the communicated. âChildren are also more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, physical assault and suicide when they are imprisoned in an adult institution. The transfer of children to adult court is never suitable for development. “
While some other DA candidates last fall said they would rarely try juveniles as adults, they acknowledged that there could be exceptions. Former District Criminal Court judge Arthur Hunter, who ran for DA but was beaten in the primary, for example, said he would never charge anyone under the age of 16 as an adult , whatever the circumstances, and that for minors over 16, it would only do so in the most flagrant cases. Keva Landrum, whom Williams defeated in the runoff, said she would only transfer minors to adult court in “extreme circumstances”.
But Williams was the only one who promised never to do it – one of the ways he parted ways with Landrum and Hunter and became considered by many to be the most progressive contender in the race. He was the only candidate that two criminal justice reform advocacy organizations – Platform for Youth Justice and People’s DA Coalition – represented as having endorsed the part of their platforms that stated that a prosecutor should never prosecute a minor. as an adult.
In response to a questionnaire released by the Youth Justice Platform, Williams even went beyond that commitment, saying he would “lobby state and national levels to stamp out laws that allow children to to be treated like adults to protect children outside my jurisdiction. “
Williams has often referred to the fact that young people have brains that are not fully developed and therefore should be treated differently from adults.
But on Monday at the press conference and in a press release, Williams highlighted details of the crime he said warranted prosecution in adult court – including the use of “multiple rounds of large ammunition. power â, the fact that the woman was caring for her aging parents, and that the NOPD suspected the two of having committed an armed robbery within an hour of the murder.
Williams also warned that in other cities, minors are forced to commit violent crimes under the pretext that they will be given shorter sentences, creating a “cottage industry of young killers.”
âI won’t allow that to happen in this city,â Williams said in a press release. At Monday’s press conference, however, Williams did not directly respond to questions about whether, in this case, the minors had been forced by adults to commit the crime.
Aaron Clark-Rizzio, director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, told The Lens that beyond the prosecutor’s decision to prosecute minors as adults, he also found the rhetoric used to justify the decision disturbing.
âIt’s disappointing to hear the language of this ‘child killer cottage industry’,â Clark-Rizzio said. âHe calls the children killers and does not see them as children who could have done very, very damaging and harmful things. But it’s also very reminiscent of the kind of rhetoric that has been used around “super-predators” – primarily to criminalize and despise black children. And so I don’t think language is part of this discussion.