We Cannot Deny Due Process To Minors in Slenderman Stabbing Case

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

What do you do with two 12-year-old girls who stabbed a friend in the woods multiple times to appease a sinister character from popular horror fiction? It’s a tough question, and there aren’t any easy answers, but I’ll tell you what you don’t do: You don’t deny them their Miranda rights, and you don’t charge them as adults.

But that’s exactly what’s happening to two girls in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

We essentially have two different criminal justice systems in the United States: one for children and one for adults. We do this because, as a society, we have come to recognize that children are often products of their environment — that they sometimes lack the cognitive ability to make fully rational decisions and that we are to teach, and redirect, our children rather than just punish them.

The sentences we mete out in our justice system are designed to punish, to rehabilitate, and to keep dangerous individuals away from the rest of society. The standards for what are effective punishment and rehabilitation for a juvenile — who has not fully developed their capacity to reason — are and should be different that the standards imposed on adults.

A child who is a danger to society, with proper care, may not necessarily grow to be a danger as an adult. This is why, in many states, we’ve banned the death penalty and life sentences for minors.

It's Time to Outlaw Bullying

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

I got involved in the conversation about bullying after a young Central Florida girl, Rebecca Sedwick, leapt to her death from a water tower in an abandoned industrial plant on September 9, 2013. She had been aggressively bullied by other girls. After one of the girls commented about the suicide on Facebook -- essentially admitting to the bullying and showing no remorse -- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd arrested the girl. The charges were soon dropped, however, as bullying is not a crime.

In my practice of family law and criminal defense, I know firsthand that while bullying may not be a crime, it can have devastating effects on young victims.

I've seen bullying victims' grades sharply decline. I've seen victims have to change their class schedules -- or change schools completely -- because a school was unable or unwilling to address the behavior of the bully. And, of course, there have been suicides.

Bullying is not name calling. It's not a little harmless schoolyard razzing. Bullying is the systematic harassment of an individual with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress.

The important elements here are "systematic harassment" and "substantial emotional distress." It can include social ostracism, "slut-shaming," extortion, sexual extortion, and more.

Racist Remarks Cost L.A. Cops Trust

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

A Los Angeles Police officer was caught on an audio recording allegedly making racial slurs during an encounter with some young black men outside a bar in Norco, California.

The incident took place in 2012, according to a report this week by CBS-LA reporter David Goldstein, which included audio of the the officer's remarks. And a panel assembled to conduct a formal disciplinary hearing subsequently recommended that the cop, Shaun Hillmann, be fired. But LAPD Chief Charlie Beck overruled the decision, issuing a 65-day suspension instead.

Apparently, Chief Charlie Beck thinks it is tolerable to have officers on the beat who use the N-word -- as a bar security guard alleged Hillman did -- and refer to young black men as "monkeys," as Hillman can be heard doing on the audio recording.

Smart Gun-owners Shouldn’t Fear Smart Guns

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

I’d like to buy another gun. Most people don’t know that I own more than one firearm--and despite some unfounded suggestions that I’m a “ban and confiscate” gun-control guy--I’m actually a supporter of the Second Amendment.

I’d like to buy another gun, but this time, I would like to buy one of those new smart guns. It’s the type of gun that has a radio chip in it, and you can’t pull the trigger unless it’s in very close proximity to a reciprocal chip -- perhaps one embedded in your watch.

The first time I saw something like that, it it was in a movie with Sylvester Stallone called Judge Dredd. His weapon, The Lawgiver, was programmed with his hand print, and only he could fire the gun. What a cool idea that was: a gun that could never be taken and used against you. Back then that was science fiction, but now such a weapon is a reality.