On February 23, high school student Samuel Goldston’s Letter to the Editor was published in the New York Times. Sammy’s letter was one of seven selected for publication from over 200 entries received in the Times‘ “Teenagers Look at the News” student letter writing contest. The letter is reprinted below and available on the Times‘ website here.
To the Editor:
Re “14-Year-Old Charged in Murder of Barnard Student” (news article, Feb. 16):
The decision to try Rashaun Weaver as an adult is a tragic mistake that lays bare a major flaw in New York’s criminal justice system. As a leading civil rights lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, argues in his book Just Mercy, “no child of twelve, thirteen, or fourteen can defend him- or herself in the adult criminal justice system,” and such trials often result in wrongful convictions.
We already have an alternate court system to try accused children, and it exists because juries, judges and lawyers accustomed to adult defendants do not create a just environment for child offenders. New York has therefore recognized that family courts run by professionals experienced in handling children are necessary to ensure fair proceedings.
If we have acknowledged the adult system’s inability to try most child defendants justly, why do we deny some of them that justice based solely on the nature of their crime? While the murder of Tessa Majors was a heinous act that demands punishment, an unfair trial of this 14-year-old serves no one.
Samuel Goldston, 15
Saint Ann’s School