Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Reform A Step In The Wrong Direction

3540 words - 15 pages

Intro Sample...



THESIS STATEMENT: The Great and General Court of Massachusetts has erred in reforming the juvenile justice system by implementing policies and procedures that will harm juveniles and place society at risk.



On July 23, 1995, an intruder brutally attacked and stabbed Janet Downing approximately 100 times in her Somerville home. The revolting Downing murder and ensuing arrest of Edward O'Brien Jr., a 15-year-old juvenile whom prosecutors say committed the heinous crime, sent shockwaves through the state. When Somerville District Court Judge Paul P. Hefferman ruled that the Commonwealth try Mr. O'Brien as a juvenile, those shockwaves grew in intensity, and the citizens of Massachusetts, fed up with increasing youth... View More »

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Experts believe that if the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate juveniles and make them productive members of our society, it must address these problems as swiftly as possible. A de novo system encourages juveniles, many of whom want judicial help, to request a bench trial. Likewise, under a de novo system, defense attorneys are encouraged to recommend an initial bench trial because the court's decision does not bind clients if it is not in their interest. On the other hand, a single trial system discourages juveniles and defense attorneys from requesting a bench trial. Because jury trials are more lengthy than bench trials and may drag out for over a year, the current policy of encouraging juveniles to seek an initial jury trial denies them the rehabilitative help they need for a significant period of time. Therefore, the de novo system is the preferred choice when dealing with juveniles because it encourages bench trials and, concomitantly, the swift administration of rehabilitative help.



As noted earlier, one of the primary arguments for doing away with the de novo system is that it wastes judicial resources. However, upon closer examination one realizes that the de novo system actually furthers judicial economy. Under a de novo system, procedural safeguards can be done away with or relaxed at bench trials without fear of violating rights of defendants. Courts have found the elimination of procedural safeguards at bench trials in a de novo system to be constitutional because the judiciary will extend all safeguards to the defendant at a new jury ...

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