Ex-teen killer opposes trying juveniles as adults
May 14, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate is reviewing a proposal that would allow prosecutors to try some juveniles older than 14 as adults in federal court, but a man convicted of killing his mother when he was a teen-ager thinks that's a bad idea.
Senators are weighing tougher prosecution standards for juvenile offenders, partly because of last month's massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and other school shootings.
But Scott Filippi offers his own life as an example of why stricter laws wouldn't be in the best interest of young offenders.
He could have received a lengthy jail term, if tried as an adult. But the state judge helped Filippi turn his life around, deciding to let him be tried a juvenile instead.
Filippi seemed to be an ordinary child as he was growing up in California. Family snapshots yield no clue that, after what he said were years of parental abuse, he would fatally shoot his mother in the driveway of their home.
"Even to the point where it would be at the cost of my own life, I would most definitely undo that day," he says.
"If it would have treated as a straight case for the crime, I would have probably still been in jail doing time now," says Filippi, who at the time of his manslaughter conviction went by the first name Kari.
Despite Filippi's story, supporters of prosecuting juveniles over 14 as adults in federal court, if they are accused of federal crimes, are not convinced. Federal courts now rarely handle juvenile cases.
"There are an increasing number of extremely violent and malicious crimes committed by 14- and 15-year-olds," says former federal prosecutor Dave Schertler. "And those individuals should be held as adults, and the law doesn't allow us in many situations to do that."
However, Mark Solar of the Youth Law Center says the Senate measure is not the answer to youth crime.
"It looks like it's getting tough on kids and the people proposing it are able to claim they're getting tough on crime and it will lead to less crime," he says. "The truth is that this kind of legislation results in more crime."
According to studies, teens put through the adult criminal justice system are 30 percent more likely to be repeat offenders.
Senate closes 'gun-show loophole'
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