October 23, 2013 Articles

The Aftermath of Steubenville: Implications for Future Juvenile Cases

There is currently no global procedure in the United States for determining whether a juvenile offender is eligible for a transfer into adult court.

By Anannya Tripathy

“Steubenville” became a household name after the horrific events of the night of August 11, 2012. After a night of heavy drinking following a football scrimmage of the small Ohio town’s beloved Big Red football team, an inebriated 16-year-old girl was publicly disrobed, photographed, and sexually assaulted at various house parties throughout town. While she was unconscious, two of the girl’s peers digitally penetrated her vagina, an act that constitutes rape under Ohio law. Nude pictures of the victim were circulated via text messages and splattered across social media with denigrating comments. Her assailants were 16-year-olds Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, both of whom were players on Steubenville’s football team. The cases of both offenders were initially sent to adult court before being demoted to juvenile court, where Mays and Richmond were formally charged for the rape of a minor in March 2013.

It is certainly understandable why defense attorneys and juvenile defendants strive to keep their cases in juvenile court. In adult court, judges typically do not have nearly as many alternative treatment options (e.g., counseling) at their disposal as do their counterparts in juvenile court. This leaves juveniles who are tried as adults more vulnerable to harsher sentences, as well as to the possibility of serving time in an adult correctional facility. In addition to carrying a greater social stigma than convictions in juvenile court, adult criminal-court records are also harder to expunge than juvenile court records. Kathleen Michon, “When Juveniles Are Tried in Adult Criminal Court,” Nolo: Law for All, Oct. 12, 2013.

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