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A gruesome crime and subsequent surprising charging decision in Tyler Hill, Pennsylvania raised eyebrows across the country last week.

“A 10-year-old boy apparently angry that a 90-year-old woman had yelled at him held a cane against her throat and repeatedly punched her, killing her in her bed, prosecutors said,” reported the Associated Press Tuesday. “The boy was being held without bail Tuesday, charged as an adult with criminal homicide in the death of Helen Novak, a woman who was being cared for by his grandfather.”

Defendants of such a young age being charged as adults aren’t unheard of, even here in Indiana.

“An 11-year-old [Martinsville] boy charged with killing his brother is likely the youngest person to face a murder charge in Indiana in about 90 years,” reported the AP’s Charles Wilson July 2, 2011. “The Indianapolis Star reported Saturday that the last time someone so young was charged with murder in Indiana came in the early 1920s, when an 11-year-old was charged with murder and tried as an adult in northwest Indiana's Starke County. That boy wasn't convicted.”

So, we wanted to know: "What age, if any, should be the minimum to try someone in court as an adult? Why?"

18

“18. The law/government shouldn't be able to randomly pick and choose what constitutes an ‘adult.’” — Elizabeth Alexander

“18 should be it. I don't like how we can pick and choose if someone under 18 can be tried as an adult.” — Collin Nuss

“18.” — Cody Widner

17 and under

“If a child commits an adult crime try them as an adult. Doesn’t matter. They are adult enough to commit the crime as an adult let the punishment fit the crime.” — Andreia Vice Varnell

“10 years old is way too young to be tried as an adult. It'll be years before he is able to process and really understand this. Maybe 14 or 15 years old?” — Melissa LeBeau-Weselek

“I think 16 if the crime is bad enough.” — Peggy Shelton

Depends

“Everyone wants to try a minor as an adult — until it's THEIR child — but you cannot do that because development of a child is different in each individual. Each case should be evaluated for evidence of intent as well as the crime that has been committed. It must be a case by case decision.” — Annette Rockhill

“It has to be decided, each situation, each kid. [I] worked in the juvenile world for years; no two alike. Not a cut and dried thing. No cookie cutter answer. What if your kid is accused of a big crime and is learning disabled? Just something to think about.” — Linda Eckels

“Depends on the circumstances. But, I think if the child commits a crime under the age of 18, both parents should be tried right along with them. Perhaps that will bring more responsibility to knowing where your child is and what they are doing.” — Ed Helvig

Our answers

“I think around 14 sounds reasonable. But I would limit it to cases in which an adult, if put into the same position, would qualify for life in prison or the death penalty, and for when the juvenile suspect shows no remorse. In lesser cases, the goal should be rehabilitation rather than punishment in prison.” — Patrick Caldwell

“15. If a child is legally considered responsible enough to drive a car, the child ought to be at least responsible enough to not commit serious crimes.” — Sarah Einselen

“Seriously, think back to when you were 10. (If you can even remember back that far.) Would you want to be judged for the rest of your life for something that happened in grade school? We’re all products of the circumstances we grow up in, but this is especially true at that age. What life experience does someone have at 10? If 10-year-olds can be charged as adults, why not just let them drink, smoke and vote while we’re at it? Throwing the book at this kid at such a formative age is going to do nothing positive for anyone, except maybe satisfying some petty need for vengeance. I believe there are people under 18 who should be tried as adults, but the bar would have to be set pretty high for me to sign on. You’re basically ruining them for the rest of their lives, so you’d better be sure.” — Rob Burgess

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

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