Most teenagers who commit dumb, dangerous, criminal acts should be given a second chance. This is why, when they do go over the line, they are tried as juveniles, not adults.
But Georgia law recognizes that some crimes are so egregious that an adolescent charged with them should be tried as an adult - which calls for a much longer prison term if convicted. If 16-year-old Louise Egan Brunstad is convicted of the crime she's charged with, she could spend the rest of her life in prison, and deservedly so.
The girl, according to authorities, tried to commit suicide Oct. 4 by barreling her family's Mercedes-Benz into oncoming traffic on Roswell Road in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood.
As fate would have it, the teen survived the attempt with an injured ankle, but the smaller car she rammed contained Nancy Salado-Mayo, a mother of three. A 6-year-old daughter, who was strapped in a child safety seat, suffered broken ribs and other injuries. The mother died.
After reviewing the tragedy for several weeks, District Attorney Paul Howard said he was charging young Brunstad with murder. A particularly grim aspect to the fatality, of course, is that the person who wanted to die stands accused of taking another's life. Also, according to the D.A., "There was ... a countdown to the actual event - 10, 9, 8, then the crash" as an apparently lovesick Brunstad text-messaged a female classmate who spurned her affections.
What's appalling about the alleged suicide attempt is the depraved indifference it showed for other drivers on the road. This teen was seemingly so self-absorbed with her own sordid miseries that she didn't think of the hurt she could bring to others by involving them in her suicide. If she is found guilty of murder, the teen should spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Adolescents who commit suicide, say behavioral psychologists, don't fully understand on an emotional level that death is permanent. However, prison time should be permanent for those who survive suicide, but kill others in the attempt.