The Minnesota House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee held a hearing yesterday to consider the so-called “Emily’s Law” (HF699), which would lower the age of adult certification for violent juvenile offenses to 13.
The bill is named after Emily Johnson, a 2-year-old who, in June 2006, was sexually assaulted and killed by the 13-year-old son of her daycare provider in Fergus Falls. As this report from Minnesota public radio explains, Emily’s parents are vocal supporters of the bill, which is sponsored by Republican State Representatives Bud Nornes and Torrey Westrom.
Minnesota law, Lynn Johnson testified yesterday, should have allowed for that 13-year-old to be tried as an adult. “Why is our daughter laying in the ground and this person is in a group home?” she asked.
Emily’s father, Travis, who also testified, recited a list of states where juveniles can be tried as adults at ages younger than 14, the current cutoff in Minnesota. “In Kansas and Vermont, it’s 10. In Missouri and Colorado, it’s 12,” he said. “Why must the brain be fully developed before one is held accountable for his actions?”
Well, see, that’s a very good question. And if the committee members were interested in–or persuaded by–the answer, they might not have voted 12 to 6 in favor of the bill. Unfortunately, the testimonies of Washington County Attorney Doug Johnson (no relation, I assume) and psychologist Sue Foss, both of whom argued against passage, did not hold sway. The bill now moves forward to the House Finance Committee and, if it passes again, on to the House floor.