A 17-year-old murder suspect must stand trial as an adult, in part because Arkansas does not provide enough support to its juvenile-justice system to ensure it operates effectively, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright ruled Tuesday.
The case of Anthony Fredrick “Lil June” Williams is the second time since early May that Wright has remarked on deficiencies in the state’s support of the juvenile system, which is jointly administered by the courts and the state Department of Human Services.
“This court hopes that all juvenile offenders may be rehabilitated within the system, but unless that system is provided with better resources, this will not happen,” Wright stated last month in a ruling denying a transfer to juvenile court for a teenager accused of armed robbery.
“The court wishes to point out that if we fail to attempt to examine and understand the circumstances of this behavior, society will continue to suffer the consequences of this problem.”
In consideration of the views of the U.S. Supreme Court, Arkansas courts have come to recognize that child offenders have a significantly greater potential for rehabilitation than their adult counterparts do, the judge wrote about Williams’ case.
But children accused of crimes cannot be redeemed if Arkansas does not do more for them, a failing that the state will pay for one way or another, Wright stated.
“The court notes that any prospects for [rehabilitation] will never come to pass until the state is willing to provide increased manpower and resources to deal with issues in the juvenile division,” the May ruling stated.
“Unless the state is willing to address this, it will eventually be required to use those same resources to expand prison capacity.”
Prosecutors charged Williams, of Little Rock, as an adult in the December slaying of 19-year-old Tyrone Leon Barrett