In Ventura County in Southern California, Alex Medina, found guilty by a jury of killing another Ojai teenager, Seth Scarminach,for the benefit of a street gang, was sentenced to twenty-six years to life this week.
Eighteen-year-old Alex Medina received the maximum sentence today for the murder of an Ojai teen in 2009. Medina was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison, with the possibility of parole, by Superior Court Judge James Cloninger.
To a full courtroom, Cloninger expressed hope that if Medina ever applies for parole, the agents take careful consideration.
"I think the defendant is a psychopath and doesn't feel one bit of remorse for the crime or the people he's burdened," Cloninger stated just before pronouncing sentence.
Medina was fourteen at the time he killed a putative rival, slashing his throat, but was tried as an adult.
In Mexico, a teen who worked as an assassin for a drug cartel, was released after serving the maximum sentence for a juvenile -- three years. From the LA Times:
MEXICO CITY — He admitted being a salaried killer for a drug cartel, the kind of assassin who preferred slashing his victims' throats.
On Tuesday, after serving three years behind bars, he was released from a Mexican detention center and was on his way to the United States — where he would soon live as a free man.
Or, rather, a free boy.
The killer, Edgar Jimenez Lugo, known to Mexican crime reporters as "El Ponchis," is 17 years old. He was 11 when he killed his first victim, and he was 14 when he was arrested, in December 2010, at the Cuernavaca airport, along with luggage containing two handguns and packets of cocaine.
The AP version detailed his crimes a little more fully:
In 2011, at age 14, Jimenez confessed to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were found suspended from a bridge.
He was born in San Diego, California, but was raised in Mexico by his grandmother. Authorities quoted Jimenez as saying he had been forcibly recruited by drug traffickers when he was 11 and confessing to working for the South Pacific drug cartel, led by reputed drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva.
But the LA TImes version delved into the political aspect, and the changing attitudes in Mexico:
Jimenez's release is likely to rekindle the debate about the justice system's treatment of minors who commit serious crimes. In 2005, the Mexican Constitution mandated the creation of separate justice systems at the state and federal levels for offenders younger than 18.
More recently, there has been a push to take a harsher stance, exacerbated in part by the drug cartels' habit of drawing from the country's vast pool of poverty-stricken, poorly educated children to form their ranks.
In March, Morelos lawmakers increased the maximum sanction for children who commit serious crimes so that a suspect like Jimenez would serve five years, not three, behind bars, a change that came about as a result of his case. In July, the state of Veracruz went further, raising the maximum penalty for 14- to 16-year-olds from four years to 10 years of incarceration, with 16- to 18-year-olds now facing the possibility of 15 years.
Such changes have concerned some children's rights groups, but the clamor is not likely to die down. Javier Lozano, a senator with the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, sent a series of Twitter messages on Tuesday asking Mexicans to consider lowering the minimum age for trying children as adults.
"The liberation of 'Ponchis' speaks of a perverse system in which under the pretext of being a minor, one can be an assassin, but not a criminal," he wrote.
In the trial of Medina [which I covered] the focus was on his psychology: Was he a victim of abuse, as the defense tried to show, or a psychopath, as the prosecution alleged?
The answer from the judge and jury: Psychopath.
In the case of Jiminez, the boy's psychology -- judging from the reporting -- seems to have been besides the point. Although evidence suggested that Lugo's parents fought, neither story said he had been abused himself, and with a million underage youths at risk of being recruited to work for drug cartels, amidst much poverty, perhaps psychology doesn't matter so much.
Not sure which nation has a better grip on the question of how to handle boys who kill. But I can't imagine freeing after a short sentence anyone who confessed to beheading four people.
[Here's a file photo of Edgar "El Ponchis" Lugo in custody.]