Robin Ledbetter was 14 when Hartford, Ct., police charged her with felony murder in the fatal stabbing of a taxi driver during a 1996 robbery, says the Hartford Courant. Sentenced to 50 years in prison, Ledbetter, now 23, is challenging whether she was properly advised of her rights before she confessed to police her involvement in the crime. In arguments before the state Supreme Court yesterday, Ledbetter’s attorneys claimed she cooperated only because she believed she would avoid harsh punishment as a juvenile. While detectives read Ledbetter her Miranda rights, they never told her she might be tried as an adult and exposed to lengthy prison time, the attorneys argued.
In an era when more juveniles are being prosecuted as adults for serious crimes, the case raises critical issues about the rights of juveniles accused of crimes. Seven states – New Hampshire, Minnesota, Nevada, Missouri, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin – require that juveniles be told they could be tried as an adult. Connecticut does not. Ledbetter’s case has captured some national attention. The Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia argued that developmental differences in the minds of minors affect their abilities to understand fully their Miranda rights and other consequences of their actions.