KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Juvenile justice experts expressed shock Thursday that police said they were treating the death of an 18-month-old boy who drowned in a bathtub as a potential homicide, after a 5-year-old girl told social workers that she held him under water to stop his crying.
Kansas City police said the girl, who was left with other children in the care of a teenager, was considered a possible suspect in the toddler's death last week, raising complicated legal questions about how a court could proceed with a case against such a young suspect.
Bart Lubow, the director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national child advocacy organization based in Baltimore, said a 5-year-old is incapable of forming intent, and likely wouldn't even know what drowning means.
"You can imagine a child responding to other children's crying by saying, `I know how to stop that.' But the notion that there was intent there is silly," Lubow said. "For a 5-year-old, this is well beyond the pale of what our criminal or delinquency laws are intended to address."
He said the case should proceed with a "very child-centered approach."
Police said the 5-year-old was not arrested, and the case was referred to the Jackson County's family courts division.
Thoughts on this???
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