Don’t forget juvenile victims in haste to protect juvenile perpetrators
Dec 14, 2019 | 4:16 PM
I am sorry to see that Jennifer Egan, the chief attorney of the juvenile division at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (“Baltimore state’s attorney should refuse to use child confessions taken without an attorney present," Dec. 6) is echoing a recent contribution to The Washington Post by Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her colleague Miriam Aroni Krinsky (“The Baltimore exonerees’ cases shed light on the need for reforming youth interrogations,” Nov. 27, 2019).
There can be no quarrel with the need to interrogate juveniles only in the presence of their parents and/or lawyers. But Ms. Mosby, Ms. Krinsky and Ms. Egan have failed to think things through.
In their commentary, Ms. Mosby and Ms. Krinsky single out “the need for elected prosecutors to implement changes in their offices’ practices and call for legislative reforms. To begin, we simply should not allow interrogation of youths younger than 14. Kids this young cannot be deemed to have ‘voluntarily’ waived their rights, and the risk of false confessions is simply too high. Statements from children under 14 should be inadmissible as unreliable, and we should not tolerate the risk of undue coercion or influence.”
I have been following a case pending in Baltimore where the victim of an alleged rape is 13 years old. Whatever happened between her and the alleged assailant took place in a private home with no other witnesses. Some days later, police questioned her in the presence of her mother. Is this victim “unreliable” because she is only 13?
Our town is going through a spate of random street assaults perpetrated by juveniles. I dare say that juvenile offenders can expect little interference from our state’s attorney. Under the proposed Mosby/Krinsky rule, anyone under 14 whose crime is not captured on camera or witnessed by an adult will be nearly impossible to detain and prosecute.