A double homicide in suburban Washington, D.C., has ignited strong opinions across the region over whether very young children accused of violent crimes should be punished as adults, even as such crimes have become more rare, reports the Washington Post. The 12-year-old boy is accused of bludgeoning and stabbing his mother, Katrina Denise Powe, 31, and brother, 9, in their Forestville, Md., apartment. The boy, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, would face a life sentence in prison if he were tried as an adult. But as in many other states, a Maryland resident younger than 14 cannot be charged as an adult with murder.
The number of killings committed by juveniles has been declining nationally since 1994, and arrest rates for juvenile violent crimes are at their lowest in a generation, according to the Department of Justice. FBI statistics point to 5,233 children age 14 and younger who committed homicides across the nation between 1976 and 2002, accounting for 0.9 percent of all killers. It is even more infrequent for children 12 and younger to commit murder. Over the studied period, that group consisted of 990 children, or 0.2 percent of all murderers.