By Paul DeMarco
Lawmakers in Alabama are in session and several proposals may be considered that could potentially address mass violence and the toll these criminal acts have on our state. There will be discussions on how this tragedy occurred and what leaders across Alabama can do to find solutions to this ever-increasing problem.
There appeared to be consensus in supporting the efforts of law enforcement to arrest the perpetuators and throw the book at them for the devastating results of their crimes. However, there is some opposition in the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party to trying some of the accused as adults.
Thus far, there have been six individuals that have been charged for their participation in the Dadeville murders. We know five of the six range in age from 16 to 20 and have all been charged as adults with reckless murder. A 15-year-old has also been arrested.
The prosecutor in the case has already said that two of the teenagers age 16 and 17-years-old will be tried as adults. By law, those individuals are automatically transferred to adult court based on the seriousness of the charged crime. We do not know how the 15 year old will be charged yet, but the Tallapoosa County District Attorney could petition the Court to have that accused also tried as an adult.
The Vice Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party Tabitha Isner asserted last week that the juveniles charged in these murders in Dadeville should not be tried as adults. Here is what that would mean in Alabama: If found guilty of reckless murder as an adult, the accused could face 20 years to life in a state prison. If merely found delinquent as a juvenile, they would, at most, be released upon turning 21 years of age.
Is that is the type of justice all Alabama Democrats want or just Ms. Isner? In one of the worst mass shootings in state history, it is hard to believe there is now someone advocating that those accused of this horrific crime should not stand trial as adults. The effect on the friends and family of the four killed and 32 wounded (and dozens at the location) will last a lifetime. Yet, Ms. Isner has said she would be satisfied with the juveniles’ punishment being limited to a few years. Has she discussed this with this victims’ families?
The good news is that Isner will play no role in deciding how these individuals are charged.
In addition, this statement by Isner follows recent opposition by Democrats in the Alabama Legislature to pending legislation that would mandate anyone accused of gang activity to be charged as an adult.
Alabama citizens have made it clear that they want to see those found responsible for these crimes in Dadeville to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and can be found on Twitter at @Paul_DeMarco.