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Poll: Should Juvenile Defendants Be Named?

The case of the 17-year-old defendant in the fatal accident on Treat Boulevard has generated a debate among Patch readers over whether his name should be published.

The question of whether to name a juvenile defendant in news stories is always a tough judgment call.

There is the argument that juvenile defendants should be named in cases in which the circumstances are serious or if they are being tried as adults.

There is also the argument that young people should be given a chance to redeem themselves without the stain of publicity. This is especially true in the age of the Internet when stories from years ago show up on web searches.

The issue has been debated at professional journalism organizations, such as the Poynter Institute.

The debate came to Patch last week when a 17-year-old Concord youth was in court to face manslaughter charges. The 17-year-old was at the wheel of a SUV that struck and killed a father and daughter on an April bike outing on Treat Boulevard.

Patch had previously decided, at the time of the arrest, not to name the youth.

In the ensuing weeks, other media organizations, including the Contra Costa Times, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC 7 television and CBS 5 television, named the defendant. So, Patch revisited the question. And we disagreed over whether to name him.

In the end, we stuck with our original decision. One of the primary reasons was that the case is in juvenile court. In part because of that decision, we decided that Patch would treat this defendant as it treats other juvenile defendants

Naming a defendant just because everyone else is naming him was not a good enough reason.

We'd like to know what you think. Vote in our poll and then tell us what you think in our comments section.

Please refrain from naming the defendant in your comments. We'd like you to respect our decision to keep his name off our sites. If you name him, we will delete your comment.

Althea Hathaway September 12, 2012 at 11:28 PM
It is of no benefit to youth and society that minors, esp. those close to legal adulthood, be coddled. Our youth suffer no tangible consequences, thus they are denied their right to fail and actually learn from their bad choices. A vehicle when used like a toy by an immature child, remains a weapon of destruction that can kill and maim humans and animals. Youth today are tragically emotionally neglected and materialistically indulged by negligent parents. These same adults, pseudo-parents expect our public schools to serve as their end-all, be-all resource for their own child's developmental needs. I have raised a child on my own and I am a displaced adult-ed and community college educator/staffer. Although I am a trained M.A. level K-16 schools counselor, I cannot no longer sub-teach in K-12 districts simply because too large a percentage of youth are sorely immature and sabotage my serious efforts to actually teach by being pre-occupied with food, socializing and using phones in the classroom to make it worth my while. I am a tough teacher and basic skills specialist. I never signed-on to be a social worker nor a professional baby-sitter or classroom manager. I laugh when I hear not only high school, but college level coaches and administrators call students and athletes 'kids'.
Kimberly Courtright September 13, 2012 at 03:31 AM
I laugh when I hear not only high school, but college level coaches and administrators call students and athletes 'kids'." That's very sad to me. When teachers blame the students to such a degree that they will no longer even acknowledge they are children, how is that different from parents abdicating responsibility? It's still a matter of this generation (mine) giving up on the next. How dare we. Every generation has more or less the same thoughts about the following generation, but never until now have I heard of adults giving up on kids! And we wonder what's wrong with the kids. Do we think they're not aware of our feelings about them? Far too many parents, and apparently teachers, are perfectly willing to actually speak those feelings, without shame. The kids definitely do have problems, but I'm beginning to very much fear their enemy may be us. How tragic to be a part of this generation, not theirs.
Kathy D September 21, 2012 at 04:09 PM
If someone is old enough to drive a car they are old enough to take responsibility for their actions, and that includes being publicly named when their negligent actions cause injury or death to another motorist or pedestrian. The same goes for "juveniles" who have weapons and wound or kill someone with that weapon.
Mary M. Webster September 26, 2012 at 07:15 PM
He's old enough to drive and put others' lives at risk - he's old enough to have his name posted. If this happened a month before he turned 18 or a month after, would that really make a difference?
Robert Smith September 30, 2012 at 11:36 PM
The seriousness of this incident constitutes naming the juvenile.

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