July 15, 1999, was an ordinary night for Kristopher Lohrmeyer as he left work at the Colorado City Creamer, a popular ice cream parlor. Kristopher had no idea that his life was about to end. When Michael Brown, 17, Derrick Miller and Andrew (Andy) Medina, 15, approached Kristopher and demanded his money and his car keys. Before the boys knew it shots had been fired and Kristopher was dead. About an hour after the fatal shooting of Kristopher Lohrmeyer, all three men were in custody and telling their version of the night’s events. Michael and Derrick who had run away after the shooting confessed to police and named Andy as the shooter. According to the three boy’s testimony, they had only recently met and needed away to get some quick cash, so they developed a carjacking scheme and headed to Andy’s house to pick up 2 stolen handguns. The three boys were uneducated and had spent most of their time on the streets in search of drugs. The judge ruled that they would be held without bail and there was probable cause to charge them all with first-degree murder (Thrown Away, 2005).
Michael and Derrick both struck a deal in exchange for implicating Andy as the one who fired the fatal shots. Under Colorado’s felony murder rule, Andy could be found guilty of first-degree murder just for simply participating in a violent felony. Of the three boys, Andy would be the only one to stand trial for first-degree murder, which could carry a mandatory sentence of life without parole. In May 2001, Andy went to trial, after a brief deliberation, the jury found Andy guilty of robbery and murder in the first-degree. Andy has been serving his sentence in a Colorado State Penitentiary, the state’s “supermax” high-security prison for the past 9 years and is in the process of requesting an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel (Thrown Away, 2005). Medina’s story was featured in the 2005 series “Thrown Away” published by Human Rights Watch.
The Juvenile Court System is Distinct from Adult Courts
How can a 15 year old boy be sent to an adult prison for the rest of his life? In order to answer that question we must first understand the history of the Juvenile Justice System. Social conditions during the progressive era, 1890-1920, were characterized by large waves of immigration and an increase in children left wandering in the streets (Reuters, 2011). According to Reuters, hundreds of indigent children were left to find ways to survive in a new place with little to no assistance, from family or government, many typically ended up getting involved in criminal activity. This led to a large increase of children in the adult court systems, as children were treated and punished like adults many were sent to adult institutions. For instance, under English common law, children who were under the age of 7 were considered to lack the cognitive capacity to know and understand the aftermath of their actions. Therefore, without criminal intent, or mens rea,...