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Christopher Lane killing
August 20, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
What leads a kid to kill "just because he's bored" and how can they be salvaged?
Last Friday, Chris Lane, a 22-year-old college student from Australia, was shot once in the back in Duncan, Okla., as he was jogging, allegedly by three boys who were bored.
Lane was white; at least two of the three boys – James Edwards, 15, and Chancey Luna, 16, who are charged as adults with first degree murder, and Michael Jones, 17, charged with use of a vehicle while a weapon was discharged and accessory after the fact of first degree murder – appear to be black. That has led to some predictable commentary, particularly in online forums, about the Trayvon Martin case and New York's unconstitutional "stop and frisk" policy. I don't know that either has any direct bearing on this case, aside from the fact that the boys, like Trayvon Martin, are black teenagers. The vast majority of young black men walking down the street are not criminals and feel justifiably angry over police who stop them simply because of how they look.
However, the case might invite some scrutiny into sentencing differences for black and white kids who commit the same crimes. Edwards' older sister told The Brisbane Times, an Australian paper, that she believes racism had something to do with the charges being harsher for the two black boys and slightly less serious for Jones, who appears to be white in photographs. Jones, the driver, apparently isn't suspected of being the trigger man and is the one who seems to be cooperating most with the police. He could get status as a "youthful offender." The boys' alleged use of a gun is also calling attention, particularly overseas, to America's "gun culture." There are some Australian papers urging Australians not to visit the United States.
The investigation is probably still in its early stages, but some things have started to come out about the background of these boys. According to the Enid News, Jones told police that "they just wanted to see some die, or kill someone." Luna's mother, Jennifer, quoted in the Enid News, sounds horrified, sorry for Lane's family and in denial that her son could do such a thing. She told the Enid News that her boy had been kicked out of school last year after falling behind, but was getting ready to start his sophomore year at the high school. She insisted that Duncan, Okla. may have its "wannabes," but she's sure the boys were not involved in gangs. The Daily Mail, however, reported that Edwards and Luna both have Facebook pages filled with pictures of them making gang signs. The Daily Mail also reports that Edwards' page also shows pictures of him holding guns. Jennifer Luna told the paper she did ask one of the boys not to come to her house anymore. Edwards has a juvenile record, but his father told the Australian papers he's never been in really serious trouble. The Herald Sun reported that Jones has a pregnant girlfriend who was in court Tuesday, crying all the way though the preliminary hearing. So, it looks like Jones might have left his own child essentially fatherless before the baby is even born.
I find myself wondering if there might have been something that could have been done earlier in these boys' lives to make them less prone to this sort of violence, less likely to idealize gangsta culture, less likely to devalue human life. At some point, someone failed all three of these kids.
And, while it might be an unpopular opinion, I don't think they are unsalvageable. Kids of this age are more impulsive, more susceptible to influence by their peers, less able to foresee the consequences of their actions. Seemingly heartless monsters of 15, 16 and 17 could be different once they have grown up. But, given the realities of today's criminal justice system, it's likely that they will spend most of their lives in prison, probably becoming more hardened and more violent after exposure to adult criminals. If they get out at all, it probably won't be until they're in their 50s.
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