'7 deadly sins' law gets another look

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ATLANTA --- Mitchell Bieber will have spent almost two-thirds his life behind the walls of a Georgia prison by the time he's 50.

Declaring Mr. Bieber impossible to rehabilitate, an Effingham County Superior Court judge in February sentenced the 16-year-old, who admitted to murdering his 7-year-old half brother and stabbing his mother and stepfather with the same knife, to 45 years in prison. The sentence was "so it doesn't happen again," the judge said.

Most lesser crimes would have landed Mr. Bieber before a juvenile court judge and would have come with a sentence geared more toward rehabilitation than punishment. But Mr. Bieber committed one of the "seven deadly sins" under Georgia law, giving jurisdiction of his case to adult criminal courts and their lengthy mandatory sentences.

Now 17, Mr. Bieber is one of 66 youths younger than 18 sentenced to state prison for convictions under the seven deadly sins law, enacted in 1994. He could be among the last.

Set to land in legislators' hands in 2009, a proposed rewrite of the state's juvenile code would back off from get-tough statutes that automatically send cases involving youths 13 and older who are accused of the most heinous crimes to adult criminal courts. Instead, juvenile court judges would decide which cases are fit for superior court.

"By and large, most juveniles (charged as adults) are kids who are exercising very poor judgment, but they can be rehabilitated," said Sharon Hill, a retired Fulton County juvenile court judge who is the executive director of the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit public interest law center that is a partner in the code rewrite project.

But several prosecutors call the proposed policy shift a mistake and say juvenile courts are not equipped to hand out sentences matching the severity of today's violent youth offenders.

"They're not throwing eggs at cars anymore. They're killing people, committing armed robberies, with guns. It's different," said Effingham County District Attorney Richard Mallett, whose office prosecuted Mr. Bieber.

In the mid-1990s, a number of states enacted statutes to handle what was seen as an emerging class of young offenders -- juvenile "superpredators," a remorseless breed of violent criminal -- after violent crimes committed by youths reached a peak in 1994. Most of the new laws allowed youths to be tried as adults.

The superpredator theory never fully materialized, and the juvenile crime rate began falling by the time many of the tougher sanctions took effect, leaving many to question whether prosecuting children as adults was the right way forward.

Reach Jake Armstrong at (404) 589-8424 or jake.armstrong@morris.com.

THE '7 DEADLY SINS'

Under Senate Bill 440, enacted in 1994, juveniles 13 to 17 are automatically tried as adults for committing murder, rape, armed robbery using a firearm, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery or voluntary manslaughter.

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Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 05/04/08 - 02:52 am
0
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Judge Hill and her group

Judge Hill and her group operate from the best of intentions. However, their efforts remind me "that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions." To back off from a tough approach with young offenders who commit egregious crimes is to send their cohort the wrong message:You can get away with murder and its ilk in GA if you do your killing et al. before you're 18 y.o. By the way, ask DA Ashley Wright what she thinks about this? Ask Juvenile Court Judge Bill Sams? Ask RCSO Sgt. Richard Roundtree? Ask the sister of the 69 y.o. man recently shot and killed by the 12 y.o.?

Reality
3
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Reality 05/04/08 - 03:31 am
0
0
Well, Mitchell Bieber seems

Well, Mitchell Bieber seems like a fine upstanding citizen. If you don't think this 16 year old (able to drive a car) could make the right decision when it came to stabbing his brother, mother and step father to death you are sadly mistaken. They should put him in juvenile jail until he is 21 and let him back on the street, I think not...Predators that commit these types of crimes deserve to be locked up for good, not rewarded with a slap on the wrist......

Dark Lord
2
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Dark Lord 05/04/08 - 06:25 am
0
0
I totally agree with the way

I totally agree with the way the statue is right now. If the young kids do the crime then they need to be punished for the crime. Society cannot allow soft feelings to dictate punishment. If some kid killed or raped someone in that judges family and the only punishment given was a slap on the wrist the judge would be up in arms raising pure hell. Young kids today do not understand rehab but you can bet your last dollar they understand prison. Ask the victims family what they think about juvenile detention instead of prison for young unremorseful violent offenders. Just how many young violent pyscho kids did this judge turn loose on society? good thing she retired before anymore people got hurt or killed. Good riddens lady.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 05/04/08 - 06:51 am
0
0
After the law (seven deadly

After the law (seven deadly sins) was enacted, juvenile crime fell off. Seems obvious to me. If Judge Hill gets her way, will the juvenile violent crime spree pick up where it left off? If so , will it be reenacted?

Pinchgut
2
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Pinchgut 05/04/08 - 07:39 am
0
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They're not throwing eggs at

They're not throwing eggs at cars anymore. They're killing people, committing armed robberies, with guns. This says it all if you do the crime you do the time.

christian134
1
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christian134 05/04/08 - 07:53 am
0
0
This would be a mistake of

This would be a mistake of monsterous porportions since the young criminals who commit most of the murders today do so with an almost complete lack of remorse....They are proud of their actions it seems and consider it a right to murder if someone they don't care for stands in their way....The world owes them therefore they can and will do what it takes to acquire their wants....Leave the law as it stands.....

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 05/04/08 - 08:53 am
0
0
Let the well-meaning, but

Let the well-meaning, but misguided, folks at www.justga.org know what you think about their proposed juvenile code revisions before it's too late. At www.justga.org, there is an opportunity for public input.

getalife
4
Points
getalife 05/04/08 - 09:01 am
0
0
Leave the law as written! If

Leave the law as written! If anything, maybe the law should be strengthened. Rehab for rape and murder is not the answer.

christian134
1
Points
christian134 05/04/08 - 09:02 am
0
0
Thanks craigspinks will give

Thanks craigspinks will give it a look......

Waymore
103
Points
Waymore 05/04/08 - 09:11 am
0
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"By and large, most juveniles

"By and large, most juveniles (charged as adults) are kids who are exercising very poor judgment, but they can be rehabilitated," said Sharon Hill. What a laughable and, at the same time, a sad comment. Kids who rob, murder, shoot up houses, burglarize houses, etc. ARE NOT exercising poor judgment. They are committing serious criminal acts. One a person resorts to violence to commit a crime, there is no turning back. These young predators need to be put in cages like the animals they are. Since the majority of these young predators come from broken homes, I think that their parent should lose their "income check" after the first offense. Maybe if patents would learn to take a more active role in their children's lives, we wouldn't have to concern ourselves with young, violent predators.

grouse
1635
Points
grouse 05/04/08 - 09:27 am
0
0
There needs to be a separate
Unpublished

There needs to be a separate category of law that deals with teen-aged offenders. Treating them as adults is wrong since they are not afforded the right (e.g. voting) that adults are. One doesn't treat a 1st grader the same way one treats an eighth grader. An eighth grader is expected to have the maturity of a 25 year old, so why shouldn't the law recognize these differences?

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 05/04/08 - 10:28 am
0
0
Grouse, what does the right

Grouse, what does the right to vote have to do with a teenager killing someone. Sure you do not treat a 1st grader and an 8th grader the same. The 1st grader is a child and the 8th grader is a young adult. At 14 you know what is right and what is wrong. A 1st grader doesn't, they have to be taught. Put the violent offenders in jail and away from society for the rest of their lives. It might have been a bad decision for them but it was a very bad day for the other person. I do not feel sorry for any of these kids that kill. Hang 'm high like the old west.

mgroothand
5
Points
mgroothand 05/04/08 - 11:51 am
0
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An article on the Drudge

An article on the Drudge report spoke of a 16 year old boy using an Uzi sub machine gun in a street fight in Newark, NJ at two o'clock in the afternoon. How and where does a 16 year old acquire such a weapon? Both boys were killed.

common-sense-justice
0
Points
common-sense-justice 05/04/08 - 12:04 pm
0
0
Murder is murder at any age.

Murder is murder at any age. The same rules should apply across all lines. Especially in the case of a multiple homicide such as this. This one is just sadly too far gone to help. I would have given him life without parole though, because when he does get out he will surely be one more mean s.o.b.

common-sense-justice
0
Points
common-sense-justice 05/04/08 - 01:10 pm
0
0
The story is wrong on the

The story is wrong on the sentence. DCOR said he got Life on the murder charge, and 20 years on the ag assault.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 05/04/08 - 02:00 pm
0
0
The "strikes you're out" laws

The "strikes you're out" laws should not be in any State statutes because they are poorly written and are non-specific. Such laws are written when the legislatures over-react to public outrage. This does not mean that the publc should not be enraged when a heinous crime is committed, but it does mean that much THOUGHT should go into the wording of these statutes before they are written and then made into law. Therefore, it is imperative that the current law be thoroughly reviewed and rewritten in order to assure that everyone's rights are not being violated in any manner. Give some pause to thought: how many felons have been released due to a "technicality," whether it be from the written law, sloppy police work, or the negligence of the attorneys for both prosecution and defense? For a good number of the naysayers, these are the ones who cry 'foul' when a member of their family is affected by these poorly written laws and demand justice for the offender. This reminds me of when the public has demanded a law for certain infractions and the legislature does nothing UNTIL they, or a member of their family, becomes a victim.

Just me 2
0
Points
Just me 2 05/04/08 - 04:13 pm
0
0
Why did he not get the death

Why did he not get the death penalty? After all that is what he gave his innocent family. Why should tax dollars go to providing care for
a (triple) murderer when there are innocent people in our country who are hungry or sick and need help??? I swear some things done in this country are so stupid!!!

FedupwithAUG
0
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FedupwithAUG 05/04/08 - 11:51 pm
0
0
They should kill who ever

They should kill who ever kills another person such as this kid did. Better yet it should be a on public display at thier school they attend.

RichmondCo_HoodResident
0
Points
RichmondCo_HoodResident 05/05/08 - 12:07 pm
0
0
Cane Him.

Cane Him.

motherteresa
0
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motherteresa 05/07/08 - 01:01 pm
0
0
Parents need to pay closer

Parents need to pay closer attention to what they buy, and let their kids play. We never had as many problems, until they steal, kill, rape, and only God knows what else they find on these harmless games. If you put the thought in a child he/she will live it out. It is not the child's fault. We as adults need to step in and save as many as we can.

darth_froggy
0
Points
darth_froggy 05/07/08 - 02:17 pm
0
0
If you fatally stab someone,

If you fatally stab someone, I'm pretty sure you're guilty of murder, no matter how old you are.

kfennell
0
Points
kfennell 05/25/08 - 12:37 am
0
0
i am the mom of mitchell

i am the mom of mitchell bieber! yall just dont know what happen! my son was not a bad kid and what he did was wrong but that was not him!! a 42 year old women allow my son to stay with her all day when he was should have been in school and if that was not bad enough she drove my son around and got drugs and sat down and done them with him!! but is that ok to do!! yes it is in effingham cause not a thing was done to her!! and when a child is givein and done alot of drugs in one day and had never did it before what do u think happend to that child!!i do forgive my son for what he did and i still love him the same!! it is just sad that grown people get way prayin on are kids they are the ones that needs to be put away!!

AleahFrancesca
0
Points
AleahFrancesca 12/29/10 - 12:09 pm
0
0
I am an outsider, looking in

I am an outsider, looking in at the most corrupt system I've seen in America. Georgia is a for-profit state, with 1 in 13 people in your prison systems.... Does it really seem to be working for you? I know a kid, at age 15 he was arrested for armed robbery and under the 7 deadly sins was put away for 15 years. 15 years at 15 years old. Really? What kind of person do you think he will be at age 30 after spending 1/2 his life in one of your prisons?? Your state locks people up for longer than necessary sentences, doesn't pay the workers, and taxes the hell out of the loved ones associated with these inmates. Where is the reform? Trying your youth as adults sends a bad message to the rest of the country: Georgia doesn't trust it's residents or their own reform and rather than fix the problem it's cheaper and far more lucrative for them to lock these people up for as long as possible without giving them the necessary skills to become a respectable citizen for when they are released, resulting in repeat offenses and return revenue for the prison system. And to the people who think that killing a person because they committed murder? When did two wrongs ever make a right? Your reform system seriously needs to be revamped and it needs to start with the way you think.

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