On October 31, 1997, eleven-year-old Nathaniel Abraham was at school and enjoying Halloween with his grade school classmates. The festivities ended, however, when members of the Pontiac, Michigan police department entered the classroom and arrested Nathaniel for first degree murder. Two days before, on October 29, eighteen- year-old Ronnie Lee Greene was walking out of a convenience store in Pontiac when a .22 caliber bullet struck him in the head and killed him.' Police suspected Nathaniel who, at the time of his arrest, had over twenty encounters with law enforcement. Once in custody, Nathaniel eventually confessed to shooting Greene and signed a form waiving both his right to remain silent and his right to have his attorney present during questioning.3 Prior to trial, however, Family Court Judge Eugene Arthur Moore barred the confession as inadmissible at trial, finding that Nathanial was unable to understand the Miranda rights as they were read to him." The court relied on psychological evaluations that placed twelve-year-old Nathaniel's mental and emotional level at that of a six or an eight year old.' On April 1, 1998, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the confession was in fact admissible in court.'
After the appellate court's decision, Nathaniel's trial proceeded and received heavy coverage not only in Michigan but nationally as well. During the trial, news cameras followed the 4'9", sixty-five pound boy in and out of Michigan courtrooms.! In the fall of 1999, a jury convicted Nathaniel Abraham of first degree murder, making him one of the youngest people convicted of murder in the history of the United States.' Amid the publicity stemming from the murder trial, jurists, attorneys and commentators have begun to re-examine the juvenile criminal law system and the constitutional rights afforded juveniles in that system.
Robert E. McGuire,
A Proposal to Strengthen Juvenile Miranda Rights: Requiring Parental Presence in Custodial Interrogations,
53 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol53/iss4/5