Cold-blooded Killers, or Stupid Preteens? A Jury Will (Probably) Decide
Earlier this week, two 12-year-old girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, were arrested for stabbing their friend 19 times in hopes of appeasing a mythological character known as “Slenderman.”
The girls had allegedly been plotting the attack for months. They invited the victim to a sleepover the night before, and took her into the woods the next day, where the crime occurred. The girls allegedly stabbed the victim 19 times, missing an artery in her heart by just a millimeter. The victim then crawled to a road where she was found by a cyclist. Her condition was said to be stabilizing as of June 4.
In this case, under Wisconsin law, the girls are being tried as adults- meaning they will not be tried in juvenile court, which is the “default” for most minors who are arrested. Instead, they will face prison terms with the potential to extend far beyond their 18th birthdays.
In Wisconsin, juveniles over the age of 10 who are suspected of homicide have to be charged as adults. This law was enacted in 1996, as a way to curb violence among young people. The girls, if convicted, will face up to 60 years in prison- meaning at most, they will not be released until they are 72.
At least one of the girl’s attorneys is petitioning to have the case moved to juvenile court, but it could take months for a judge to decide whether or not that will happen. So while the fate of these girls is being called into question, here are factors that may influence how the trial plays out:
1. Mental Health
The girls claimed they stabbed their friend in order to appease a fictional character known as “Slenderman.” Originating in 2009, this character was created and depicted online in stories and pictures. The character is often depicted as being very tall, thin, and not having a defined face. The girls allegedly carried out this stabbing to get the approval of this character, and thought he had a mansion in the woods where the crime took place.
If their legal teams can prove these girls are deranged in some way, it could help their case. And if these preteens honestly believed in this character, and then acted so violently in its name, it could point to signs of mental illness. At this point, we do not have any information about whether the girls had histories of other violent actions. But if the court deems them unfit to stand trial by reason of mental insanity, they may be heading to a psychiatric hospital rather than prison.
If the girls had been planning the attack for several months, it could be a strike against them in the eyes of the jury- planning implies intent, and would show that the girls had multiple opportunities to re-think their plan. It shows this was not a freak act committed by two young girls who were not thinking clearly. Careful planning and consideration would definitely add weight to the homicide charges these girls are facing. During police interrogations, the girls said they went back and forth before one of them actually stabbed the victim. And one of the girls went so far as to say she had no remorse for committing the crime. All of these things would make a jury weary at giving these girls a second chance.
This could be both harmful, and helpful. If the girls claim they committed this crime in order to appease this mythological figure- a jury could easily say they are old enough to know real from fake. After all, most states allow 12-year-olds to legally babysit younger children, so they are deemed to be at least somewhat responsible. It is an excuse that may work for a 6-year-old, but these girls have had plenty of time to learn right from wrong- and there is no gray area for stabbing a “friend” 19 times.
On the other hand, 12-year-olds cannot even drive, and these girls were in middle school. If they have a compassionate jury, it is possible they would rather see the girls given a second chance at reform rather than being locked up for life after one terrible act. After all, a lot of people are fed up with how punitive, rather than rehabilitative, the prison system is.
It seems like the best case scenario for the girls is if the case is moved to juvenile court. But with the media attention and violence associated with the case, that is unlikely to happen. Determining the girls’ motive and intent will be critical when a jury deliberates this case. The victim is alive to tell the story, the girls have apparently told their side to the police, and the weapon was collected. Unless they are found to be unfit to stand trial, the girls are probably going away for a long time.
Featured image courtesy of [ mdl70 via Flickr]