Kids who kill (5×8- 3/21/12)

Defining the line of holding kids responsible, the ‘ice out’ debate in Minnesota, the hidden Vietnam, pipe down for the pine trees, and that’s not Olive Garden; that’s an octopus!


When an effort stalled to change Minnesota law to allow children as young as 10 to be tried as adults for serious crimes, some supporters blamed DFLers who controlled the committees the bill needed to pass through. In the sessions since Republicans took control of the House and Senate, the bill has had no success, however.

The bill, called “Emily’s Law”, is named after 2-year-old Emily Johnson of Fergus Falls, who died a day after she was sexually assaulted and then thrown against a wall by the 13-year-old son of the daycare provider. He was just shy of his 14th birthday. Currently in Minnesota, persons as young as 14 can be charged as adults.

“The bill currently sits on general orders in the House and we are waiting for an opportunity to get caucus support to pass. The bill however has not been heard in the Senate and it’s looking doubtful that will happen,” Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, told me in an e-mail yesterday.

“Lowering the EJJ age to 13 from 14 makes good sense. First is gives the courts appropriate choices if another death is caused by a 13 year old…(I hope that never occurs again). The change is our language from current law prevents that young person from being sent to an adult prison if they commit another offense. Our bill would require the adult sentence be served in an appropriate juvenile facility.”

In Washington, yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on laws requiring life-without-parole sentences for kids who commit murder. Like lawmakers at the Minnesota Capitol, the justices appear to be searching for the line between adult and minor when it comes to crime, Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog reports:

For decades, the Court has been drawing lines on criminal punishment for the young, and it has not been an easy process. Although the Court has regularly accepted the notion that children are less responsible for their conduct than adults, and that the Constitution must account for that, it has divided deeply as it applied that to the severity of the punishment it will allow. So far, it has barred the death penalty for any youth under age 18 for any crime, and it has similarly nullified life-without-parole for any minor whose crime did not result in someone’s death. It turned Tuesday to life-without-parole as a sentence for murder in cases involving 14-year-olds convicted under mandatory sentencing laws in Alabama and Arkansas.

In the cases of Miller v. Alabama (10-9646) and Jackson v. Hobbs (10-9647), most of the Justices appeared to share the sentiment expressed early by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that the Court did not want to be forced to choose between two opposite choices: no life-without-parole sentences for any minor, or no limit on the sentence for anyone no matter how young. And there also seemed to be considerable support for Kennedy’s apparent willingness to focus mainly on the question of whether such a sentence should be mandatory and, if so, whether that should be keyed to a specific age. Kennedy’s views may be crucial, since he has been the author of the Court’s key rulings on youths’ sentencing.


It’s hard for Minnesota to get on the same page, sometimes. Take “ice out” dates, for example. The warm weather is leading to the earliest “ice out” dates on its 10,000 lakes in years. Or is it? The DNR has posted its “ice out” map while noting that there’s disagreement from lake to lake on what constitutes an official “ice out” date:

The definition of lake ice-out varies from lake to lake, and individual to individual. For some, ice-out occurs only when the lake is completely free of ice. For others, ice-out is defined as the moment when navigation is possible from point A to point B. And yet for others, ice-out is when 90 percent of the lake is ice free.

Due to the variable definitions of this rather subjective observation, the participating agencies attempt to contact the same individuals each year to maintain a consistent record.

The ice is out on Norway Lake in Pine River…


(Photo: Mn. Department of Natural Resources)

… if by “ice out” you mean, “the point at which two trucks go through the ice and so did the tow truck that went out to get them.” It happened on Sunday. In the Brainerd Dispatch, the drivers got no sympathy:

If it were not dangerous it would warrant a good snicker. I stopped by a landing on Sunday afternoon and saw twenty plus people ( many little kids) out on the ice (a good quarter mile from shore) and some four wheelers. I can’t print what I would like to say but what in the world are they thinking?



(Photo: Ken Kalish)

Newsweek has published not-seen-before images of the Vietnam war, renewing a discussion about Vietnam that, perhaps, only 50 years can place in context. That prompted MPR’s Jeff Severns Guntzel,of the Public Insight Network, to ask Vietnam vets what hasn’t been “captured” about their experiences and what can’t be captured?

Ken Kalish of Park Rapids, a gunner on a river patrol boat, has an answer:

The sounds of combat can’t be captured. A piece of film or a tape recorder might give an approximation, but those are modulated media. Movies offer up giant visuals with prolonged audio, both of which are fantasy. Depending on the source, an explosion can be just a loud, ear-ringing bang without any indication of where it might have come from or where it exploded. Mortars are a two-sound rythm, a soft poonk in the distance when it is launched followed by a body-shaking explosion that is often accompanied by the sound of “stuff” falling. Sometimes the “stuff” is gravel landing on a tin roof, sometimes body parts falling through leaves. Sometimes the sound of an explosion alone can cause injury or death, even if the person isn’t hit by shrapnel.

Different weapons make different sounds. The slow pok-pok-pok of a WWII “grease gun” is different from the thousand-round howl of Spooky, which is different from the sound of an old French bolt-action 7mm rifle or that of a semi-auto M-14, which differ from the M-16 and the M-60, which differ from an AK-47. The fading thizzzzz of a bullet passing close to your ear, a sound you aren’t even aware of hearing until after it is gone.

Then, too, there are the smells of combat. People killed by a single rifle round smell different from people ripped apart by a rocket or mine. People dead five minutes smell different from people dead five hours, and they both smell different from someone killed yesterday. There is a scent made by the various kinds of explosives or gunpowder as they are expended. Your own body smells differently, depending on whether you’re resting, waiting to spring an ambush, or finished fighting and catching your breath. Sometimes water stinks and dirt smells oddly reminiscent of home.

Sorting body parts, making sure this one has only two legs, both approximately of the same color, and that one has a hand.

Emotions, like being really pissed when you get hit, then overwhelming relief to discover you aren’t dead and have most of your important parts in place. The absolute terror of that first firefight. The joyous fear of going home – joy that you’re going home and fear that your leaving might mean someone might die because you won’t be there to cover your little corner of the killing zone.

Photographs show what’s going on here or there, and they show what your outside looks like. They can’t show what’s in your brain, how it interprets what you see and hear and smell and tactictile feeling.

If you’re a Vietnam vet, you can submit your answer here.


Yo, keep it down; some trees are trying to grow here! The BBC has details of a study showing noisy areas are more attractive to mice than birds. Mice ate seeds in pine cones but seeds don’t , umm, “survive” the digestive system of mice. Birds are better at spreading seeds, but they avoid noisier areas. This, the BBC says, is very bad news for trees.

In contrast, one western scrub jay can take hundreds or even thousands of seeds and hide them in the soil to eat later in the year. Some of these will eventually germinate.

The team went on to count the number of pine seedlings and found that they were four times as abundant in quiet sites compared with noisy ones.

“Fewer seedlings in noisy areas might eventually mean fewer mature trees, but because pinon pines are so slow-growing the shift could have gone undetected for years,” Dr Francis explained.

Researchers say the noise will lead to declining habitat for wildlife.


It’s Wednesday so Marilyn Hagerty has posted her latest restaurant review in the Grand Forks Herald, where her review of Olive Garden a few weeks ago made her a two-week star. Today she reviews the restaurants she visited on her trip to New York, where she appeared on several talk shows:

On Thursday, we were treated to the chef’s tasting menu. First course: caviar-waygu. Second course: octopus. Ryan said he had never eaten it before. I nodded and said, “Neither have I. Dig in.” Servings were light and inviting.

The sommelier, Aldo Sohm, stayed with us, describing in a delightful witty way of how he paired each course with the right wine. It was the kind of leisurely meal with small, very dainty servings. We were comfortable.

How are you going to keep ’em at Olive Garden once they’ve eaten octopus?

Bonus I: Ed Dobson, pastor emeritus of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has ALS. “Difficult news can sometimes make us feel like our lives are over,” the first documentary of his dying days says. In the most-recent installment, he considers what happens when someone who defines himself by what he does, loses what he does.

Bonus II: The problem with cycling isn’t a lack of funding as much as it is a lack of public acceptance of cycling. asks why cycling infrastructure isn’t part of the mix when transportation infrastructure is upgraded?

Bonus III: What can we learn from this film about the front pages of a newspaper in Hawaii over the years? The only constant in life is advertising.

The Hawaiian Star from Cyrus Kiani on Vimeo.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)


Employers are turning to social media for information about prospective employees. Some are asking candidates to log onto Facebook during job interviews, and a few have gone so far as to ask for usernames and passwords. Today’s Question: Would you be willing to share your Facebook information with potential employers?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A new study shows that teacher morale is at a 20-year low. With the recent focus on teacher evaluation and the heated rhetoric surrounding education policy, many teachers say they’re not surprised. Is this drop in morale affecting classrooms and what does the future of teaching look like?

Second hour: The United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows children under 18 to be sentenced to life without parole. Should juveniles be given a second chance to change? Or are some minors incapable of rehabilitation?

Third hour: Neuroscientist Marc Lewis tells his story of addiction through his memories and then reconstructing those memories based on the science of what a particular drug was doing to his brain at that time.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): The future of the auto industry. Dan Akerson, the chairman and CEO of General Motors speaks to the Commonwealth Club of California.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Political Junkie recaps the week in politics. Plus, C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb as he leaves the network he helped create.

Second hour: The evolution of the quarterback,

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Many rural Minnesota counties have studied the idea of consolidating 911 dispatch centers. But local officials often reject closing their local 911 dispatch center. Now, several counties are trying virtual consolidation, using technology to make law enforcement more efficient. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

For 10 years, volunteer Jean Belau has been a fixture in the lobby of the Gonda Building, the Mayo Clinic’s main building. A greeter of sorts, actually she uses her musical talents and one of the Mayo’s concert grand pianos to welcome visitors to the clinic. Dan Olson reveals the stories she can tell.

  • No I will not share my social media logins with anyone. Any company asking would be met with a laugh and the sound of me putting on my coat to leave.

    I went on numerous job interviews lately. None of the businesses I met with even Googled my name as part of their pre-employment screening, let alone ask me for passwords.


  • Robert Moffitt

    In defense of Olive Garden: it may not be octopus, the the Garden’s Mussels di Napoli appetizer is quite good. I’ve had it as a meal with a glass of their house white.

  • Conner

    A future employee can Google me, and I’ll even consent to a background check if it makes sense for the position. But I’m not giving someone my password. I’d be appalled if I was ever asked. And I can’t imagine being desperate enough to tolerate that kind of invasion.

  • Carrie

    Kids Who Kill – The 13 year old who sexually assaulted and killed a 2 year old should not be tried as an adult. I agree he needs some punishment, but most important he needs extreme psychotherapy. For a 13 year old to do that, he must have been a victim of violent crime and assault himself. The people around him need to be investigated for what they must have done to the boy, as well.

  • Roseann Elizabeth Swillville

    About trying a child as an adult, I agree, especially if it involves murder. These days there are adults who pay children, or coerce them in some fashion to do their dirty work. Showing the children that they will not get off due to royal connections would be a good attempt at getting to the root of the problem, in black and white or black and red.

  • Kassie

    Giving up your password sounds like a scam. I’m not even allowed to give up my network password to IT professionals at my own place of employment.

    And whenever I’m involved in hiring I always google every person interviewed. And I expect the same. And I put stuff out there that may be questioned by some employers, but I’m okay with that. I don’t expect those things to be private. But I do have an expectation of privacy with my emails and facebook emails.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re The Hidden Viet Nam: Brilliant writing by Ken Kalish. Unfortunately, you can’t make that stuff up.

  • Tyler

    I’ve heard the sharing your Facebook login credentials is against Facebooks’s Terms of Use. Those rarely stick, but it should be your first line of defense if you’re ever asked to give them up.

  • chris

    What evidence do you have of this children-hitperson Roseanne? We don’t treat 10/13 year old kids as adults in any other legal sense, I can’t imagine how one can’t just curl up in horror at the thought of a child being in person from 10 til death.

  • roseann elizabeth swillville

    The 12 snf 14 yr old boys who shot the young Hmong mother at point blank in a park about 12 years ago. they were hired by the father of the 2 year old child present.

  • Jim Shapiro

    “What evidence do you have of this children-hitperson Roseanne?”

    Perhaps Roseanne is confusing the famous Kony child killers video for real life in the United States.

    And her assertion that “Showing the children that they will not get off due to royal connections” indicates that she is ignorant of moral developmental stages findings, but sadly, she is in line with what occurs in the courts:

    “The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that permit children to be sentenced to LWOP [Life Without Parole]. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia, forbids this practice, and at least 132 countries have rejected the sentence altogether. Thirteen other countries have laws permitting the child LWOP sentence, but, outside of the United States, there are only about 12 young offenders currently serving life sentences with no possibility of parole.”

    (Human Rights Watch)

  • This is NOT jim

    “And her assertion that “Showing the children that they will not get off due to royal connections” indicates that she is ignorant of moral developmental stages findings, but sadly, she is in line with what occurs in the courts:”

    Regarding Ignorance,

    Where I come from we have a wise saying where I come from that goies like this:

    The one who smelt it dealt it.

    That said, I would like to add to Roseann’s comment that it is more about taking responsibility for your actions. Yes, in the case provided it was an adult instructing children but there needs to be a line drawn here that says for these potential children to commit crime in the future,

    You are responsible for your actions. Hopefully this will help them think twice about taking a life or injuring another.

  • Jim Shapiro

    This is NOT jim – I’m honored ( I think.)

    Regarding ignorance- Pretty funny stuff. That said, while lots of books have been written and will continue to be written on subjects that I know absolutely nothing about,

    I know perhaps more than my share about the psychology of children and when they begin to understand the repercussions of their behaviors. And at what point children should be held responsible by the courts.

    Re -“there needs to be a line drawn here that says for these potential children to commit crime in the future,”

    I’m sure that there’s a coherent thought intended there, but I’m not clear as to what it is.

    And – “You are responsible for your actions.” Yup. I am. That’s part of being an adult. That’s kinda the point. Kids need to LEARN to be responsible for their actions.

    And finally – “Hopefully this will help them think twice about taking a life or injuring another.”

    Who is the “them” that you’re referring to? All the ten year old kids that watch the news or read the paper?!?

    Or is “them” the ten year old kids that kill, get life in prison, and if they survive into their teens, probably become psychotic.

    Yeah, you’re right. That’ll probably learn ’em.

  • This is NOT jim


    Wonderful job of taking what I had to say out of context.


    “Re -“there needs to be a line drawn here that says for these potential children to commit crime in the future,”

    I’m sure that there’s a coherent thought intended there, but I’m not clear as to what it is.”

    That is not what I initially wrote. There is something stupid that happens between the time I hit the ‘post’ button and the time it is actually submitted in black and white on the News cut.

    What I intended to say was that the children who are confronted by adults WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER and are paid to commit crimes for the ADULTS WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER, need to see that the action they take has consequences. These consequences involve the victim, the familiy and friends of the victim and the outcome of their (the child’s outcome- for clarity’s sake) existence.

    You have two children. How would you feel if someone had approached them to harm another individual? Or how would you feel if another child harmed them?

    In the case provided above, the adult, the father of the child who witnessed their mother’s face being shot off didn’t want to pay child support anymore so he hired two young boys to do the dirty work.

    If you can’t get my pooint after all this explanation…I can’t help you.

  • Bob Collins

    *************** NOTICE ***********************

    Starting immediately, I’m no longer allowing the “This is NOT XXXX ” username.

    Use your real names. Please read the terms of service for more information.


  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – Thanks for the name rules clarification. I must admit that to see someone writing using the negation of my name was a bit unsettling.

    I gathered that it was for the purpose of satire – which I’m a big fan of – but I wasn’t sure if others would take it as me writing under another name, which was not the case.

    To the former This is not jim – I agree that context is key. I don’t think that I took what I read out of context.I attempted to be clear as to each point that I addressed in the CONTENT that I was able to read.

    Your additions today clarify the context significantly, and I agree with your points.

    100 years ago when I was doing the law school thing, I came up with 6 theories of the purpose of justice: Revenge, Rehabilitation, Repayment, Punishment, Prevention, and Protection.

    Each of us prioritizes one or several and rejects others, and there’s potential crossover. I think it’s important to recognize what we want to achieve when we take away a child’s life or freedom when they commit a wrong, and be sure that our action will actually realize that desired goal.

    What do we want for and from children who kill? What’s the best way to go about getting it?

    Is there information out there that can help us achieve our goals? Are there some solutions that are counterproductive to those goals?

    Yup and yup. Since Al Gore invented the internet, there’s no reason to be ignorant about this stuff – it’s literally a matter of life and death.