Ever since the murder of Uber Eats driver Mohammad Anwar by two underage girls, questions have remained over how they should be punished. At one point, the possibility was raised that they might get off with little more than a slap on the wrist due to their age and various “sentencing reform” efforts intended to keep juveniles out of jail. The final result wasn’t quite as bad as it might have been, however, and now plea deals have been reached with both girls and sentences have been imposed. The younger of the two, who is now 14, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be held in juvenile detention until she turns 21. (The Hill)
A 14-year-old has been sentenced to juvenile detention over the fatal carjacking of an UberEats driver in Washington, D.C., according to multiple reports.
The sentence was the maximum sentence requested by prosecutors, according to NBC Washington. The girl, who was 13 at the time, will remain in juvenile detention until she is 21.
The unidentified girl was one of two teenagers who were arrested in late March for felony murder and armed carjacking for the death of Mohammad Anwar, an Uber Easts driver.
While I suppose this is better than just cutting them loose, it still seems a bit generous, doesn’t it? The younger girl had all additional charges for carjacking, robbery, and aggravated assault dropped. The older girl, who pleaded guilty to felony murder, similarly had all of her other charges dropped and will also be kept in detention until she turns 21.
What happens after that? Looking over the applicable laws for D.C. when dealing with juvenile offenders, it would appear that they will simply be released with their records being sealed, though there may be some parole involved. Is that really “justice” in this case? What happened to Mohammad Anwar, a legal immigrant who was just trying to earn a living through the gig economy, was something straight out of a horror movie.
We can talk about rehabilitation versus incarceration until we’re blue in the face, but it’s a heavy lift to claim that we’re just talking about “two children” here. Those girls didn’t just decide to drop their chalk and walk away from their hopscotch game one day and go after Anwar. They showed up with a taser and were prepared to execute a clinical carjacking. They had clearly already fallen under the influence of a gang. Their names and records are unavailable, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that this was far from the first violent crime they had engaged in.
And what’s going to happen when they are released? They will have few prospects for jobs with this hanging over their heads, but they will probably have achieved hero status among their peers. If they return to their old ways, the only difference will be that they will wind up in adult court after the next time they try to carjack someone.
This is yet another example of why we still need to offer judges discretion in sentencing laws (until they abuse that discretion too often) while leaving room for some mandatory minimum sentences. If some kid shows up in court because they had a lapse of judgment and tried something stupid with no previous history of criminal activity, by all means, we should offer them a second chance. Sometimes a frightening appearance in a courtroom can turn a kid’s life around, such as was attempted in the old “scared straight” programs. But in other cases, sometimes we simply have to admit that someone is too far gone and they need a lengthy period behind bars to see whether or not they take advantage of rehabilitation programs on the inside and might actually be ready to return to civil society.
What will happen with these two girls remains unknown. But the sentences they received certainly appear lenient given the shocking violence of their crimes and their prospects for reformation don’t look that great. Hopefully, they’ll prove me wrong, but I won’t be holding my breath.