Mitchell Johnson was 13 in 1998 when he and an 11-year-old friend and murdered four children and a teacher in Jonesboro, Ar. He was scheduled for release yesterday, says USA Today. Johnson and accomplice Andrew Golden were convicted, but the state could only hold them until their 18th birthdays. Federal gun charges kept them in prison until they turn 21, which Johnson did yesterday. Golden will be locked up until 2007.
Arkansas and many other states have rewritten laws so that teen criminals can be charged as adults and given longer sentences. Johnson’s mother has told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he will not live in Arkansas. Villanova University law professor Richard Redding says that from 1995 to 2003, the number of states that automatically transfer “serious juvenile offenders” to criminal courts rose from 21 to 31. By 2003, 46 states allowed juvenile court judges to waive jurisdiction so some underage offenders can be tried as adults in criminal courts, the Justice Department says.