Collateral Damage? Juvenile Snitches in America's "Wars" on Drugs, Crime, and Gangs

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION: WHERE'S WALLACE?

    I. OPERATING OFF THE RADAR: THE REGIMENT OF JUVENILE
       INFORMANTS
       A. Mission Defined
       B. Recruitment Efforts
       C. Deployment Levels
       D. Operating Procedures

   II. BORDER CONFLICT: PARENS PATRIAE, POLICE POWER, AND
       JUVENILE INFORMANTS IN THE "WARS" ON DRUGS, CRIMES, AND
       GANGS
       A. The Government as Child Protector
       B. The Government as Warrior
       C. Juvenile Informants behind Enemy Lines
          1. The Government's Perspective
             a. Efficient and Necessary Crime-Solving Strategy
             b. Juveniles Are Miniature Adults
             c. Promotes Rehabilitation
          2. Through the Eyes of a Child
             a. Physical Harm
             b. Psychological and Ethical Harm
             c. Family Tension

  III. DRAW DOWN; MODEL APPROACHES TO CURTAILING THE USE OF
       JUVENILE INFORMANTS
       A. Model #1: A Categorical Rule
          1. The Rationale
          2. The Pros and Cons
       B. Model #2: Prior Judicial Approval
          1. Procedural Matters
          2. Proposed Standard #1: The Best Interests of the Child.
          3. Proposed Standard #2: Informed Consent by a Mature
             Minor
          4. The Pros and Cons
             a. Best Interests of the Child Standard
             b. Mature Minor and Informed Consent Standard
             C. Plotting the Course

CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION: WHERE'S WALLACE?

Sixteen-year-old drug dealer Wallace wants to get out of the Baltimore City drug trade. Orphaned and homeless, Wallace previously dropped out of school and now wants to go back. He's tired of the drug "game" and conflicted about his role in it. He tells this to D'Angelo, his boss and friend. Always supportive, D'Angelo gives Wallace some money to help him get out of the business.

Shortly thereafter, however, Wallace is arrested. Still eager to get out of the game, Wallace tells the arresting officer he is willing to give up information he knows. He identifies three of his drug crew members who were involved in the torture and murder of another teenager. He also explains his role as the one who pointed out the youth to the murderous thugs. To keep him safe before he testifies, the officers take Wallace to stay with his grandmother in the Maryland countryside.

Meanwhile, Wallace's and D'Angelo's bosses, who ordered the teenager's homicide, decide that Wallace needs to be eliminated because he can link them to the crime. When D'Angelo's bosses ask him where Wallace is, D'Angelo tries to protect Wallace. He assures them that Wallace is not a threat because he is no longer in the drug business and has moved out of town.

Out in the country at his grandmother's house, Wallace is homesick and bored. Not knowing that he's been tagged for elimination, he decides to go back to the city projects to ask for his "job" back. When he returns, he is immediately killed by the organization's "muscle." D'Angelo, unaware of Wallace's death, is later arrested by officers after completing a drug run. During interrogation, officers show D'Angelo pictures of Wallace's dead body and accuse him of not protecting his own. D'Angelo is upset but non-responsive to their accusations. Later, when D'Angelo's boss and the crew's lawyer visit him in jail, D'Angelo repeatedly implores them: "Where's Wallace?" He gets no answer to his question. (1)

America has long had an ambivalent relationship with its children, especially regarding criminal and juvenile justice issues. On one hand, society views children as vulnerable incompetents requiring protection from themselves and others. Thus, the government invokes the doctrine of parens patriae, meaning the authority of the sovereign to protect vulnerable individuals, (2) to create and maintain juvenile delinquency systems. On the other hand, at times, children are "adultified," i. …