When Philip Chism, the 14-year-old Massachusetts high school student accused of murdering his math teacher, returns to court this month, he'll be treated as an adult. That wasn't always the law, says WBUR Radio in Boston. Until 1996, 14-year-old murder suspects were handled in juvenile court with rare exception. The law changed after a 15-year-old former altar boy was accused of murdering a friend's mother by stabbing her dozens of times.
Massachusetts decided that anyone 14 and older accused of murder would be tried as an adult. Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without parole for teens was unconstitutional. That decision poses a problem for Massachusetts, where automatic guidelines call for life without parole. It's unclear what Massachusetts is going to do in order to comply with federal law.