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Nathaniel Abraham Trial: 1999

Controversial Sentence

Although Nathaniel was charged with first-degree murder, prosecutors asked Judge Eugene A. Moore to allow the jury to consider lesser offenses. Moore did so, and on November 16, 1999, the jury found Nathaniel guilty of second-degree murder. He was believed to be the youngest American ever convicted of murder as an adult. Moore had three options for the sentence. The harshest was a prison term of 8 to 25 years. Prosecutors favored a more moderate, "blended" sentence: Nathaniel would go to a juvenile detention center, and then be reviewed between the ages of 18 and 21 to see if he had been rehabilitated. If so, he would be released. If not, he would go to an adult prison after turning 21. Moore, however, surprised the prosecutors by choosing the most lenient sentence. He ruled that Nathaniel be sent to a maximum-security juvenile detention center until the age of 21, and then freed.

As he handed down his sentence, Moore attacked the harsh Michigan juvenile justice law. The state, he said, "has responded to juvenile criminal activity not by helping to prevent and rehabilitate." However, most Michigan lawmakers and prosecutors continued to support the law. And across America, no states seemed ready to change their own statutes, even as some experts questioned their benefits.

Michael Burgan

Suggestions for Further Reading

Bradsher, Keith. "Boy Who Killed Gets Seven Years; Judge Says Law Is Too Harsh" New York Times (January 14, 2000): Al.

—. "Michigan Boy Who Killed at 11 Is Convicted of Murder as Adult." New York Times (November 17, 1999): Al.

—. "Murder Trial of 13-Year-Old Puts Focus on Michigan Law." New York Times (October 31, 1999): 22.

Hewitt, Bill, Champ Clark, and Amy Mindell. "A Life in the Balance." People (November 22, 1999): 197-99.

Michigan v. Abraham. Court TV Online (September 19, 1999): http://www.courttv.com/trials/abrahamlO1999_ctv.hml.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentNathaniel Abraham Trial: 1999 - Murderer Or Troubled Youth?, Controversial Sentence, Suggestions For Further Reading