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Ending charging kids as adults: Juvenile Justice Reform Council holds heated discussion over proposal

Posted at 4:49 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 21:57:15-04

BALTIMORE — Thursday's meeting ended with an unclear vote.

In a 13-3 vote, council members overwhelmingly favored ending the automatic charging of kids as adults in all cases.

However, there was a discussion about the voting rules -- whether the vote required a majority of the people in the meeting, or the majority of the 29-person Council.

It was later determined that the because a majority of the members present voted affirmatively, the measure did pass.

We've put the issues at the heart of the Juvenile Justice Reform Council In Focus before.

Today's recommendation vote on one proposal, though, was just the beginning.

"It looks like we'll be making that recommendation," said Scott Shellenberger, the Baltimore County State's Attorney. "[But], it's not up to the council to decide. They have to just make a recommendation to the legislature. So, this is just the first step.

Shellenberger was one of the three people who voted against the recommendation.

"What I did was I asked all the state's attorneys around the state, tell me about the worst of the worst - the juveniles who have committed some horrific offenses," he said.

Shelleneberger brought up the case of Nicholas Browning who was convicted of murdering 4 family members when he was 15 and Lee Boyd Malvo, dubbed the Beltway Sniper.

"He committed very adult crimes, and I think they should all start in the adult court."

Jenny Egan, a Juvenile Public Defender feels the evidence is more telling than the extreme examples.

"Those dissenting members had meetings and months to present any evidence," she says. "And there's no evidence in the record to show that charging kids as adults makes our communities safer, or improves outcomes for young people."

She, and others who voted for the recommendation to pass, argued that this wouldn't stop some younger defendants from being tried as adults.

"It would just make sure that every kid started in juvenile court and a judge got to make the decision about whether or not their case was moved up," she said.

You can watch today's full meeting here.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 16.