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Published: Thursday, 9/10/2009

The wrong message

BY NOT charging Dai'Lahntae Jemison as an adult in the death of community activist Robert Brundage, Judge Connie Zemmelman missed an opportunity to stand up for justice and send a message to Lucas County youths that they are responsible for their actions.

The Jemison youth, 15 at the time, is accused of viciously striking Mr. Brundage on June 22, knocking him to the ground and stealing his bicycle. The 66-year-old died 15 days later from the injuries he received in the attack.

The Juvenile Court judge said she had no choice but to let the now-16-year-old stand trial as a juvenile, a decision that will mean young Jemison, if convicted, would be freed in five years, not because he's been rehabilitated, not because he paid his debt, but simply because he will have reached his 21st birthday.

Judge Zemmelman cited the teen's lack of a criminal record in making her decision but ignored a violent school history that preceded this horrendous attack on a defenseless man. According to Horizon Science Academy, the Jemison youth had been suspended from school 17 times in the last five years - including five times last year alone - for physical violence and threats of physical violence.

There will be no justice if Mr. Brundage's killer is freed without having first changed his life or paid the full measure for his crime. Yet Judge Zemmelman ignored prosecutors, who said that if young Jemison is convicted, five years in the juvenile system will not be enough to change his life.

And the area's youths are not well served if they believe they can commit the most horrible crimes with near impunity. Young people have to realize that adult crimes carry adult consequences.

Lucas County teenagers need to hear that they cannot hide behind their youth when they commit purposeful acts of violence. Judge Zemmelman failed to send that message, a fact that will be remembered by voters in future elections.

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