I figured at some point someone in the media would acknowledge the similarities between the case in Georgia and the Ryan Harris case from Chicago. For those unaware of the latter, in 1998 Chicago police arrested and charged a 7-year-old and 8-year-old boy with murder, alleging that the boys beat, raped and killed Ryan Harris for her bike. One of the lawyers from that case weighed in on the Georgia case in a recent article:
Attorney Eugene Pincham said he never thought he’d see a child as young as 8 charged with rape again, not after what happened to his clients in Chicago more than nine years ago.
Two boys, ages 7 and 8, were accused of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl, Ryan Harris. The nation’s youngest-ever murder suspects were exonerated by simple logic: They weren’t biologically capable of producing the semen found at the scene. A convicted sex offender eventually pleaded guilty to the crimes, and the boys would later receive large financial settlements from the city.
“It’s outrageous,” said Pincham, who’s been following the case involving three Acworth boys, ages 8 and 9, charged with raping an 11-year-old playmate. “Everybody knows a boy that age can’t rape a girl. The prosecutor should know better. This is not right.”
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Pincham a few years ago. I thought quite highly of him considering what he had to do to get his client treated fairly by the police and the courts, and I still do. However, I do have a problem with his statement that a boy that age cannot rape. Rape is simply an act of violence that is sexual in nature. Any child, boy and girl, is fully capable of behaving violently and simultaneously finding it sexually gratifying. What children that age lack is the mental knowledge and capacity to understand what their actions are. So in terms of what Mr. Pincham may have meant, that boys this age lack the capacity to want to rape or desire, I would agree. To say that boys, or girls, that age cannot rape, I do not agree.
There is also an attempt to try to understand the position the prosecutor is in. Personally, I am not inclined to try to see it from District Attorney Pat Head’s position as I think it takes a certain level of sheer idiocy to charge any child this age with rape. However, that is my gut response. Logic demands otherwise, and unfortunately logic prevails in this instance:
Jones said he empathizes with Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head, who brought the charges against the three Acworth boys. Because of a court-imposed gag rule, Head cannot comment on the case.
“His hands are tied to a great extent,” Jones said. “In a case like this, if a parent wants to prosecute and there’s sufficient evidence presented, that’s what he has to do.”
Head finds himself in a no-win situation, at least as far as public opinion is concerned.
“It seems to me the prosecution in this case is being simultaneously punitive and silly,” said Frank Zimring, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley and an expert on legal issues involving children. Considering the ages of the children involved, Zimring said the alleged assault was not sexual in nature and shouldn’t be treated as rape.
Nor should it be viewed as criminal in nature, said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur), who is involved with a state bar association formulating revisions as to how juveniles are treated under criminal law.
“Research tells us that children as young as 8 and 9 do not have sufficient capacity to form criminal intent, in the way adults do,” she said.
All that said, I still have little sympathy for Head and I agree that the charges seem more about being punitive than actually addressing a real problem. And I would think that if the genders were reversed because it ridiculous to treat a child that age in the same fashion one would treat a 15-year-old or an adult.