This was written for Washington State University’s SOC-362 Juvenile Delinquency course.
At opening, ethically, I neither agree nor disagree whether Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser should have been tried as adults. Due process is a delicate matter for sociological imagination and three reasons shall be offered as to abstention. First, I have now been exposed to public partiality (see rights to an impartial jury; Legal information Institute, n.d.). Second, I have no intimate experience with, nor am a mental health worker that may diagnose Weier and Geyser (see Goldwater Rule [American Psychiatric Association, 2022]). Third, I am not familiar with a tremendous sociological context of the norms and laws of social interactions, structural functions, and conflicts constrained to Wisconsin. Regarding sentencing, I do offer agreement with judicial proceedings: Weier & Geyser through testimony, do suffer distress and impairment in social function due to mental disorder, and were subject to a tough on crime spirit of law the author does not agree with. Yet, if tried as juveniles, a loophole would have thrown these two girls’ much needed treatments and their futures into serious jeopardy.
Goodbye to Waivers
Wisconsin passed A.B. 130 (1995) to create a juvenile justice code during a “getting tough period” on crime between the late 1980s to 1990s (Agnew & Brezina, 2018, p. 14). According to ruling on Weier’s appeal seeking transfer to juvenile court, it is revealed that the state defaults to adult court where “a juvenile over the age of ten is charged Wis. Stat. § 940.01(1)(a) with attempted first-degree intentional homicide” (Wisconsin v. Weier, 2016, pp. 5-6; see Wis. Stat. §938.183[am]). The appeal sought a “reverse waiver” to transfer Weier to juvenile court, which was declined due to Wis. Stat. § 970.032(2) (Wisconsin v. Weier, 2016). The appeal was denied because of state code that requires a juvenile accused to prove “by a preponderance of evidence” that: (a) adequate treatment would not be offered in the criminal justice system, (b) transfer would not “deprecate the seriousness of the offense”, and that (c) transfer would deter the juvenile or other juveniles from committing the offense (pp. 5-6; watch out for the double negative). It should be noted that all three conditions must be met for the reverse waiver (p. 6). The court found testimony that Weier would receive the same treatment in the criminal justice system until 18, that transfer to juvenile court would deprecate the offense, and that the “‘juvenile system does not offer deterrence’” (pp. 6-11). The same situation applied to Geyser (Wisconsin v. Geyser, 2016).
Wisconsin code does indeed evidence a “get tough” approach of the late 1980s to 1990s, sending more serious crimes by juveniles aged ten and up to adult courts, with difficult to apply waivers. In legal review, Martin (2021) offers in-depth analysis of these issues and is careful in reviewing scientific evidence of significant psychological development differences throughout teenage years (pp. 500-505). Considering Martin’s analysis and experience in courses on psychology, I find it disturbing that a mental health professional could determine that a disorder’s resultant maladaptive cognitions and concomitant behaviors are somehow disconnected from the disorder because of the timing of diagnosis. It is like saying a car accident was not caused by distracted driving because the texting driver hit the car in front of them a fraction of a second after letting go of their phone. It is like saying that the U.S. Civil War wasn’t rooted in slavery because slavery wasn’t pulling the triggers of rifles, lighting the fuses of cannons, and lowering Grant’s flames to scorch the earth. It’s absurd.
Weber et al.’s (2021) episode covering Weier and Geyser focused on their mental health and ability to stand trial in adult capacity yet misleads an audience as to the deftness of skill in a court’s navigation of Wisconsin’s criminal and juvenile justice systems. As evidenced, the decision regarding Geyser’s denied reverse waiver to access juvenile court was a matter of Wisconsin statutes influenced by tough on crime laws. As clearly reasoned, the absurdity of considering mental health disorders uninfluencing of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors has also been offered. As with Geyser, so appeals denied reverse waiver for Weier (Wisconsin vs. Weier, 2016).
Weier and Geyser were sentenced to mental health institutions for 25 years and 40 years, respectively (Weber et al., 2021, 00:18:30-00:20:18). The Wisconsin justice system followed an elected state’s legislature’s laws and tried them as adults, but for good reason. Embedded in the appeals is a highly consequential situation that would have resulted if tried as juveniles. The state would have released Weier and Geyser at 18 without control over the duration of mental health treatment at Copper Lake (Wisconsin vs. Geyser, 2016; Wisconsin vs. Weier, 2016). If 5 days of uninsured psychiatric care is $21,000 (Ungar, 2019; a poor worst case mental health statistic for rough estimates) then 25-40 years of uninsured care is $38,325,000-$61,320,000. It appears that the justice system may have been aware of this “loophole”, knew nobody could afford proper care, and took the role of parens patriea—the state served as parent, a parent with vastly unequal income, and wealth. I stand firm in neither agreement nor disagreement—so imagined.
Agnew, R., & Brezina, T. (2018). Juvenile delinquency: Causes and control (6th ed.). Oxford University Press.
American Psychiatric Association. (2022). Goldwater rule. American Psychiatric Association. https://psychiatry.org/news-room/goldwater-rule
Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Right to an impartial jury: Current doctrine. Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/amendment-6/right-to-an-impartial-jury-current-doctrine
Martin, R. (2021). Waiving goodbye to juvenile offenders: A multi-state analysis of juvenile transfer laws, 54 UIC J. Marshall. L. Rev. 481 (2021). UIC Law Review, 54(2), 3. https://repository.law.uic.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2846&context=lawreview
Ungar, L. (2019, October 31). 5 days in psychiatric care led to $21,000 hospital bill. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/days-psychiatric-care-led-21k-hospital-bill/story?id=66662495
Weber, J., Abrams, D., Stockman, R., & Russon, C (Executive Producers). (2021, January 22). Slender man stabbing: The horrifying true story behind a fictional character [Television series episode]. In Weber, J. (Executive Producer), Prime Crime. Law & Crime Network, LawNewz.
Wisconsin v. Geyser, 844 N.W.2d 535 (CA. 2016) https://law.justia.com/cases/wisconsin/court-of-appeals/2016/2015ap001845-cr.html
Wisconsin v. Weier, 884 N.W.2d 535 (CA. 2016) https://law.justia.com/cases/wisconsin/court-of-appeals/2016/2015ap001836-cr.html