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Law and Order "Killerz" Episode

The criminal justice system struggles to develop an ethical strategy on the rehabilitation and punishment of children who commit violent crimes. The Law & Order episode “Killerz” demonstrates how lawyers, judges and the police are ill-equipped to deal with the concept of child killers. This literature review discusses the ethical problems posed within this episode, treating it as a primary resource and then incorporating four additional sources that discuss the ethics of working with criminals who are also very young children.

Law and Order Killerz Episode

The Law & Order episode “Killerz” demonstrates the ethical and procedural problems faced by the criminal justice system when dealing with very young criminals. In the episode, the judge is surprised by the ages of the defendants, 10 and 13. The ankle bracelets used to monitor the children as a condition of bail had to be specially fitted. The defendant attempted to argue that the interrogation techniques, such as lying to the defendant or befriending the children, which would be legal if used against an adult defendant was illegal when used on a child. As a result, their confessions were suppressed.

The legal arguments focus upon protecting the defendant’s right and questioning whether a child so young can truly be responsible for her actions. In court, the child’s behavior is attributed to a car accident that harmed the frontal lobe of her brain, which handles impulse control, as well as her mother’s sexually active lifestyle. Because of her age, the judge determines that the defendant did not understand the consequences of her actions. As a result, she decides not to lock up the child in a state asylum but rather releases the child into the custody of her mother. The rights of the child defendant appear to be upheld at the expense of her victim, an even younger boy that she mercilessly bludgeoned to death.

One overarching question is the role of parents in shaping the development of a child who kills. In the episode, issues such as a brain injury from a car accident and a father in prison are blamed for the child’s delinquency. In “Delinquency during the transition to early adulthood,” researchers Klein et al. appear to confirm the link between parental behaviors and the development of criminal behavior in children. The study focused upon parenting behaviors and the appearance of delinquency among nearly 200 white families. The researchers found a strong correlation between a mother’s behavior and the marital status of parents upon a child’s likelihood of becoming delinquent.

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