Posted by: Mike P. | August 17, 2010

Alex and Our Commitment to Society


A few months ago, the son of a friend made a mistake. It was, as mistakes go, a doozy of one. He committed two armed robberies, getting caught the second time.

A few details. The robberies appeared to be well planned and executed. He did not especially intend to hurt anyone, but he was carrying a gun. He was spotted leaving the second time, and the license tags of the car were obtained. The police converged on his home, where he gave himself up without incident. A small amount of drugs (marijuana) and cash were found. Since he was not yet 18 years old, he could potentially be tried as a juvenile. If tried as a juvenile, he would not serve jail time at a state penitentiary. After posting bail, he started with a live in program designed to help troubled teens. He remains with the program as of now.

The State of Maryland wished to try Alex as an adult since they believe this is an adult crime. The State of Maryland juvenile officers felt that the juvenile system was appropriate for Alex and wrote a recommendation to that effect. Various other professionals evaluated Alex and came to the same conclusion. Only the state prosecutor pushed for trial as adult. I should note that the state prosecutor is up for election in a few months. Many people who do not know Alex or the details of his life felt that he should be tried as adult because of the crime with a gun. These people I am referring to are members of the general public and are not particularly connected with the case.

Alex, A Few Years Ago

Alex Being a Camp Councilor


A hearing in a state court was held a few weeks ago to determine if Alex would be tried as an adult or remanded to the juvenile system. His mother, possibly at the suggestion of their lawyer, asked for a number of people to be prepared to speak. Additional people were asked to write letters, or simply show up in support of Alex at the hearing. The only specific victim in this case, the store owner – Alex robbed the same place both times – is not available and did not testify. The State offered the unsubstantiated assertion that the owner was too afraid to testify, but I suspect that if he had been cross-examined on that statement, he would have explained that the store owner is afraid in his own store, not afraid to testify. These words were said hurriedly and were not too clear.

Approximately 12 people were scheduled to speak on Alex’s behalf, and approximately 20 letters were written. About 100 people showed up for the hearing, clogged the hallways of the court-house and over-filling the hearing room when we entered. With the exception of the State’s Attorney, everyone present was there to support Alex.

Alex’s attorney called one person to the stand. The witness is a councilor for the troubled teen program Alex entered. This person stated how he knew Alex through the program, and that Alex was doing very, very well. The witness had himself been a troubled teen and was a “graduate” of the program Alex had entered. The witness spoke very highly of the program and how much it helped the witness.

The attorneys then argued for a bit. The defense found the state’s case “disingenuous” since the state juvenile officials had presented reports stating that Alex was a good candidate for the juvenile system. The state didn’t appreciate being called “disingenuous”, and mostly stipulated to Alex’s character. However, the state’s case rested largely on “adult crime committed in an adult manner should result in an adult punishment.” The defense showed that Alex was not functioning as an adult and therefore should be treated as such.

The judge then deliberated in public for all to hear. I have to say: I’ve often heard that court is boring, long and drawn out. However, this hearing was an absolute nail-biter. You never want your child in this situation. I suspect the judge did not know how he was going to rule until about the last second. In the end, he did rule that Alex should be tried as a juvenile. The judgement came out very low and hard to understand. I wasn’t really certain until I heard the sigh of relief in the courtroom what had been decided. The judge then offered the typical words you might offer to a teen in a situation like this and the hearing adjourned.

My purpose in writing this post is the following. Approximately 100 of us joined in support of Alex that day in court. However, none of us had any clue that he had issues that ran this deep. The day of his arrest completely shocked everyone who knew him. When we supported him in court, we were basically telling society that he is a good person worth saving.

But, furthermore, we now have a commitment to see this through and make sure that Alex does not commit crimes that harm people in the future. We have to involve ourselves in his life, whether he likes it or not, and do what we can to help him. This is what those of us who supported Alex that day must remember, for if we do not, we all bear the moral responsibility for his future actions.

This is the letter I wrote in support of Alex. Had I actually testified, this is what I would have said. These words were also submitted in written form. I have no idea if the judge read them or not. Probably not. I suspect the sheer number of people supporting Alex that day made the point with the judge.

To those involved in the Alexander Luther case:

My Name is Michael Porter. I been a resident of Cecil County for
the past nine years, and live a few a miles south of here. I am a
Systems Programmer for the University of Delaware, where I have
worked for nearly 30 years.

I have known Renee and Alex for about five years.

I have watched Alex grow from a pre-teen to a teen-ager. I have
watched him handle groups of children, including my child, at the
family run summer camps. He has always shown good judgement as well
as a humorous side to life.

I have watched Alex help his mom handle horses with handicapped
riders, and have personally been helped by Alex. He has always
shown a willingness to help, great care and respect for those
who visit the farm.

I watched Alex go through the experience of regaining his father,
and I watched as Alex lost his father again, this time permanently.

I recall the great trip they took together as a family before Carl
died. Since I both drove them to the airport and picked them up
after their return, I was able to see how happy they were as a
family. Considering that Alex was really sick on the way home, that
I could see this means something.

I watched Alex grow after his father died and during and after the
Makeover of their home. During this time, Alex experienced many new
things, but did not have the advantage of a father to guide him.

Alex is reaching out to us for help. The loss of his father and the
fact that he was not able to find someone else to communicate his
feelings to seems apparent.

We, as a society, have a choice to make. Is the Juvenile Justice
system the appropriate place to help him, or the adult system?

I firmly believe that the Juvenile Justice system would be the
best system to help Alex. He needs the sort of guidance and
counseling that can be offered in such a system. I hope that
our Juvenile Justice can find a place for him.

Alex is not yet an adult and should not be tried as one. The adult
system is possibly going to leave him very damaged. No matter the
outcome of an adult case, the adult system is not going to give him
the help he needs and society as a whole could lose the
contributions of a fine human being.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my support and belief in Alex.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Porter

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Responses

  1. Moving stuff… Trivia knowledge – this is one of the reasons that the US hasn’t ratified the Child Convention, the only other country besides Somalia – because they refuse to treat children up to the age of 18 like children. Down deep this is just one of the many reasons the US gets so much critique from human rights orgs.

    Very interesting post. Thanks for this one!

    • t’s odd, too. We have the “gun rights” groups running wild. And so when we have a crime with a gun, we want to treat the child like an adult. Usually, the gun rights people are the same ones demanding children be treated as adults.

      Some countries in Europe limit gun ownership (speaking from hearsay), but not all (again, hearsay, correct me if I’m wrong). And yet most other countries do not have the gun problems we have – regardless of the legal status of guns.

      Did you ever turn a knob, expecting it to have a particular effect, and yet nothing changes? What do you typically do? Keep twisting the same knob? We do, and it’s damned annoying.

      Maybe when more video gamers take part in politics, this behavior will change. You don’t get far in a video game twisting the same ineffectual knob.

      For the record, I do own guns. They are fun to shoot. I do not own one for self protection because I do not have that level of training. I have no military training, either. I have enough “range training” to know not to wave guns around in an unsafe manner. I am also out of bullets but the wackos went and bought them all, so now they are quite expensive from what I hear.


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