In 2011, two 12-year-olds threw a shopping cart from a walkway at a New York City shopping center. Marion Salmon Hedges, who was shopping with her 13-year-old son, was crushed by the cart, which dropped from four stories above. When all was said and done, after weeks fighting for her life, the mother of two lost the use of her left eye and would require daily physical therapy. One of the most miraculous things about this story was that Marion found a way to forgive the two boys who changed her life with a senseless crime.
When I first heard about what happened, and that the two boys who had dropped the cart were so young, I remember being filled with such sadness. Two young boys had irreparably changed a woman’s life, and the life of her son who witnessed what had happened, too. What’s more, it’s likely that they didn’t even consider the consequences of their actions. When they hoisted the cart over the railing and eventually tipped it over, it’s probable that they had never thought about what might happen if the cart hit someone below. They probably never thought about the damage that could be done. They probably never thought about the criminal charges that could be brought against them.
And criminal charges were brought. Despite the fact that juveniles can sometimes be tried as adults – typically depending on the seriousness of the crime, the age of the juvenile(s) in question, and the particular state’s laws on the subject – the two boys who dropped the shopping cart were charged as juveniles. This meant that the goal in sentencing was less about punishment and more about rehabilitating the two boys so that they could rejoin their community, make better decisions, and be more mindful of their actions.
This story brought to mind a subject that is often heavily debated: at what age should kids be held accountable for their actions in the same way an adult is? At what point should we say, this kid had the state of mind that leads one to conclude he or she should be treated and punished as an adult, and not as a juvenile? This is a struggle that Mia Quinn, a prosecutor in Seattle, is going to be dealing with in my soon-to-be-released novel, “A Deadly Business”. Mia finds herself facing a very similar situation and must decide whether three kids who made a bad decision, and severely injured someone else, should be punished as juveniles or as adults. She has to silence any pressure from peers and from her boss so that she can make what she believes is the right decision, given what she finds out.
I hope you’ll join Mia on her journey and let me know what you think of her decision.
“A Deadly Business” comes out on June 10th. But right now, you can pre-order the eBook version for just $7.99. Don’t miss this great deal!