On Monday in a Waukesha, Wisconsin courtroom, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both twelve years old, were charged with first degree attempted homicide as adults for the stabbing of a classmate. Each girl faces up to 65 years in prison and is being held on $500,000 bail.
According to the criminal complaint, the girls took their alleged victim to a local park Saturday. One of the girls, after much prodding from the other, shoved their classmate to the ground and stabbed her 19 times with a kitchen knife. The victim was discovered by a bicyclist and taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she is now recovering.
Geyser and Weier were arrested by the Waukesha Police the same day as the attack. According to police they both waived their Miranda Rights and were interrogated without a lawyer or their parents present. Asked by the Guardian newspaper why the girls had been interrogated without a lawyer, Waukesha police Captain Ron Oremus responded, “If they didn’t request we’re not providing it … That might happen at a different point when they’re charged, that did not happen on our end.”
According to the police report, both girls expressed remorse for the stabbing during their interrogations. Asked if she knew what it meant to kill someone, Weier purportedly responded, “I believe it’s ending a life and I regret it.” She also reportedly told the police, “The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live.” Geyser reportedly stated that what she did was “probably wrong.”
The girls are accused by Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel of plotting since December of last year to kill their classmate during a birthday sleepover. They were allegedly inspired to commit the murder by reading about Slenderman, a fictional character that the two sixth graders followed through the paranormal and horror microfiction web site, creepypasta.com.
The criminal complaint alleges that the girls believed Slenderman to actually exist. By committing a murder for him they could prove their dedication, and he would invite them to live in his mansion in northern Wisconsin.
Geyser’s attorney, Anthony Cotton, called for his client to receive medical attention rather than being held in jail. “From what I know, we’ve got a young girl here who has no previous criminal record at all, and if the record is accurate, probably suffers from very serious mental health issues.”
Cotton is also seeking to have his client’s case moved to juvenile court. He noted that if the allegations of months of plotting were true, then his client would have been only 11 at the time that the plan was first developed.
Responding to questions from the media about charging the youths as adults and possible efforts to move the case to juvenile court, District Attorney Schimel, who is running for State of Wisconsin Attorney General in the November elections, replied, “At this point it’s a little early to say what the outcome is going to be. But at this point I do intend to resist that effort.”
Children as young as ten years of age must be charged as adults in Wisconsin in cases of homicide and sexual assault. Wisconsin has the lowest minimum ages for charging children as adults in the US, with four states setting the barrier at 13.
As with many other states, Wisconsin reformed its juvenile code in the early 90s as part of a reactionary law-and-order campaign to treat all social problems with harsher prison terms.
The drive to prosecute youth as adults has come at the same time as a massive growth in the prison population and a general increase in the powers of the state. (See, “ Police violence and the American gulag”)
The Wisconsin state legislature passed a law in 1996 that moved all 17-year-olds charged with a crime out of juvenile jurisdiction and into adult courts. Approximately 250,000 17-year-olds were arrested in the state of Wisconsin between 1996 and 2005, with around 75,000 spending some time in an adult prison.
The Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the imposition of the death penalty on those who committed their offense while under the age of 18 in its 2005 decision, Roper v. Simmons. The 5-4 decision was based on clear scientific evidence that fundamental differences exist between the brains of juveniles and adults; differences which make it much more difficult for young people to make informed decisions and understand the consequences of violent actions. The Court subsequently outlawed the imposition of mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles.
Despite the fact that adolescent brains are still in the process of development, individuals under the age of 18 are routinely held criminally liable as adults in the United States. According to Human Rights Watch, there were at least 2,225 individuals serving life without the possibility of parole in US prisons in 2005 for crimes they committed before the age of 18.