When Amy’s Law – passed by the Georgia Legislature and awaiting the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue – was proposed some child welfare advocates cautioned against rushing to tighten laws against juvenile offenders on the basis of a single emotional case, the Los Angeles Times reports. That case, the 2004 strangling of 8-year-old Amy Yates, has since become even more emotional and more complex. The 12-year-old locked up for the crime, now 14, has been released. A mentally disabled 18-year-old, who was a minor at the time of the crime, confessed. Authorities don’t know which youth, if either, should be held accountable.
The father who fought for the law in his daughter’s name is struggling to see justice served – for her and for the two young suspects. The age of the initial suspect meant that the stiffest penalty he could face under Georgia law was two years in juvenile detention. Amy’s Law would give juvenile court judges the authority to lock up any child found guilty of murder until the offender turned 21. The Amy Yates case – which was picked up by news outlets across the world as a heart-rending example of the argument for stiffer penalties for juveniles – is now becoming a study in the difficulty of treating children like adults.