NAACP: Youth brains not fully developed, don’t try 14-year-old as adult

Charging 14-year-old as adult shows ‘potential for bias’

Republished from Rutland Area NAACP website

Recently in Bristol, Vermont, a 14-year old Somali American child was accused of fatally shooting a peer.  

First and foremost, we are deeply pained by the tragic loss of life as the result of gun violence. The life of Madden Gouveia matters and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Gouveia family. 

As complex and painful as this situation is, we also know that the life of the 14-year-old child that found himself with a gun matters as well.

The initial reaction by States Attorney Eva Vekos was to charge the child as an adult. “A life was lost because of what happened, so we have to address that in the most serious of terms,” said Vekos. While the Rutland Area NAACP agrees that accountability for loss of life is of utmost concern, we also know that charging a child as an adult is not the way to honor that life, nor does it prevent such a loss from happening again. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that such an approach to accountability actually increases the likelihood of future harm—both to the child who is charged and to the broader community. 

The NAACP has always been an organization dedicated to accountability, and so we commend the swift action of those who responded to the tragedy in Bristol. But there is a difference between accountability and punishment. There is also a difference between punishing people commensurate with their offense or delinquency and punishing people because of outrage or bias. This statement is a call for analysis and reflection to Addison County State’s Attorney Eva Vekos and the decision to charge this child as an adult. 

When tragedy happens, it is a normal response to want to place blame immediately; to find a ”bad guy” and to institute punitive measures as a way to protect others from experiencing the same loss. However, at times, in our haste to find someone to hold accountable for such a violent offense, we may rely on our instinctive reactions and overlook a comprehensive analysis both in our approach to actualizing justice and in our approach to understanding the situation. This rush to judgment can lead us to oversimplify our intervention, hampering our ability to create an environment conducive to prevention and leaves us far from truly addressing the root of the issue.

In essence, a lack of in-depth scrutiny inhibits both the holistic understanding of the situation and the development of effective intervention and prevention measures.

There is a history and a present day reality that we draw upon. The NAACP is an 115-year-old organization whose mission includes supportive policies and institutions for all marginalized people.

In these years of advocacy, political and moral change, here is what we know:

While we don’t know all of the evidence in this particular case, we do know the history and present day reality of bias in our criminal justice system. We do know that human nature wants to blame someone immediately and we know that digging for the root of the problem is a difficult conversation. We know that boys like this 14-year-old Black child are not inherently valued by a system and dominant culture that will determine the fate of his humanity. 

Difficult conversations like why children have access to guns at all is messy. It’s wrought with debate and reference to rights and the constitution. Regardless, it’s a conversation and an analysis that really needs to happen before jumping to punitive measures. The lack of resources for youth who commit delinquencies is another serious issue that is also exemplified by this case. 

Charging a 14-year-old as an adult and subjecting them to the possibility of a life sentence in prison for what seems to be a mistake is an instinctive response driven by the desire to find accountability through punitive actions. However, shouldn’t our ultimate goal and vindication be centered on preventing such incidents from recurring?

As long as we overlook the broader and often complex aspects of these discussions, including the role of bias in the decision to charge a child as an adult and the means by which minors access firearms, we may never truly achieve justice. Instead, we risk perpetuating the same harmful cycles.

In the following days, we hope to have a conversation with States Attorney Vekos to talk about the potential for bias in the decision to charge this child as an adult. We will discuss the larger, more difficult conversations to be had if she is open to that. We will also continue to have these difficult conversations about bias in our criminal justice systems, the application of charging minors as adults and access to guns with the legislators in our state.

Categories: Commentary

14 replies »

  1. But apparently they’re developed enough to have their bodies mutilated? Got to love the NAACP. LOL

  2. This article’s author’s key words are: “we don’t know all of the evidence in this particular case”, should tell us that the author is rushing to a plea for leniency without knowing all the facts.
    And the statement Mohamed “found himself with a gun” is ridiculous. What? A gun magically appeared in his hand? Give me a break.
    What is clear is that 14 year old Hussein Mohamed killed a 16 year old boy, and a 14 year old, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, should know right from wrong. Making excuses is not justice. He will be afforded the right of a trial by jury.

    • Not only did he “find himself with a gun”, the original story reported that “the handgun discharged, police said”. Sounds like Little Mohammed is a victim of one of those uncontrollable, autonomous guns, just like Alec Baldwin was.

  3. We can argue the science behind our modern-day leftists believing that ongoing measurable brain development is an excuse for extreme violent crime or we can go with the Catholic Church declaring that 7 years old is the “age of reason” where someone is supposed attain the capacity to understand the consequence of their actions. Or we can go with the legal age of adulthood of 18, or with the argument that if you are old enough to vote, you are old enough to buy a gun…after all, the pen is mightier than the sword. We can also ponder the reasons why when someone transitions from a bleak existence in a war-torn hellhole like Somalia and wins the lottery of life by being welcomed into the United States of America that they choose to identify with our own third-world gansta culture instead of aspiring to be like Booker T. Washington, Dr. Ben Carson or Sen. Tim Scott. It is not surprising to hear these excuses from the far-left, race-baiting NAACP, who like all leftists and race-baiters, shun the concept of personal responsibility.

  4. Neurology and psychology experts resoundingly agree that youth brains are not fully developed and therefore, unless there is an extreme circumstance, should not be treated as adults. So they admit a Childs brain is not fully developed enough to face consequences of his actions and not understanding the outcome of what he did but is able to make life altering decisions about changing his sex. What happened requiring parental consent before any medical procedures can be done to their child until he reaches 18????? If a child goes to the hospital they won’t perform an operation until the have written permission to do so!!

  5. ANY 14 year old, regardless of race, should have the common sense to know that you don’t wave a loaded gun around. EVER. And since he was well aware that the gun was indeed loaded, his disregard for the safety of those around him wins him the prize of being tried as an adult. I also hold this young man’s parents responsible. He has been in trouble before, they could have done the parental thing and gotten him on the right path. Instead, he was left to his own devices with what appears to be little supervision. And as far as racial bias…why do I suspect that if the 14 year old shooter had been white and the victim black, the NAACP would be demanding that the shooter be tried as an adult?

  6. “Youth of color are disproportionately represented in cases sent to adult court (even in Vermont) as shown in 18 of the largest court jurisdictions, where 82% of juvenile cases filed in adult court involved youth of color.”

    Just stop with “disproportionate” nonsense already. We all know exactly why that is now- ESPECIALLY here in Vermont. It’s not even a debate anymore. That racist bs is what got us where we are. That’s right, I’m calling out facts here. Personal accountability. Content of character.

  7. Perhaps they missed the point he shot somebody dead.

    Does being a person of color lend itself to not following some basic rules of civilization? It would appear so . Fortunately , NAACP is there with their safety net of excuses to equivocate this youth to the path of innocence.

    In the end, given current cultural norms in Vermont, the court system will cave , the youth will walk, a full bore college scholarship awaits followed by reparations to help undue the stresses he has endured.

  8. Their brains are developed enough to have sex reassignment surgery, I guess they’re developed enough not to play with weapons’ and face the consequences when they do

  9. And what were these “children” all getting together from various towns at 7:30 PM on a school night for? Isn’t it time to be winding down not up, I’m quite sure they weren’t going to a junior varsity game. It’s quite obvious they were gearing up for a night of mischief and for whatever reason kicked of the festivities a bit prematurely. If you’re adult enough to pull a crime spree, you’re adult enough to own the outcome.

  10. Dear NAACP of Rutland, if you sincerely care about the youth, of any color or creed, perhaps consider speaking out and speaking up for the children that are sexually exploited from toddler to teen by the school system. By the way, any thoughts or concern about the thousands of missing children of color that are drugged and dragged across the borders? Any idea where those Haitan children are that were scooped up by the Clinton Foundation? Stop cherry picking a headline for self-serving, self-promoting, fake rightousness – God sees and hears it all.

  11. One would like to think that Alec Baldwin’s brain is “fully developed”, and look at how much jail time he has faced…zero, being a Hollywood “beautiful person” and a consummate and outspoken liberal and opponent of gun rights. This case will be no different in terms of actual penalties to this person who also violated every common sense gun safety rule but has the additional victimhood protections of being an immigrant/refugee from a third-world hellhole, being a juvenile and being a Person of Color living in a society “plagued with institutional racism”. He will walk free after this “terribly tragic accident”. He will be seen as a “victim of our lax gun laws”. The punishment will be reserved for the law-abiding, responsible gun owners of Vermont, meted out by the likes of legislators like LaLonde, Baruth and Vyhovsky.