Atlantans were shocked a couple of weeks ago by the story of a home invasion robbery attempt in which teenage males approached a young father on his front porch, forced their way into the house and shot the father twice. His wife fled out the back door with their six-month-old infant while the invaders fired shots at her, and called 911 while hiding from them.
The alleged shooter, 18-year-old Brandon Jerome Smith, was arrested several days ago. Now three younger teenagers — 15-year-old Trequan Sutton, 15-year-old Quindarius Slade, and 14-year-old Veshawn Smith — have turned themselves in. They are being charged as adults for charges, including armed robbery, home invasion, aggravated battery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, cruelty to children and theft by taking.
Any prosecutor and judge addressing this case will make sure these thugs are locked away for a long time. As a young prosecutor years ago, I would have relished the opportunity to introduce them to the prison system. They have thrown their lives away in a senseless act for nothing. Perhaps it was a gang initiation. Perhaps something else. But it was surely a senseless waste of human potential. They are fortunate they did not succeed in killing anyone, as easily could have happened.
As a father, I wonder where their parents were and what kind of parental influence results in young men thinking this kind of conduct is even marginally acceptable. I know that good parents can have kids who get involved in drugs and go off track. But violent home invasion, shooting a father on his front porch and trying to shoot a mother with a baby in her arms? That’s not just off track. That is deeply evil.
These young men will pay a severe price for their horribly bad choices. They will be behind bars for the next 10 to 20 years, tragically wasting their lives. It is too late to take away what they did.
But what about the parents who abdicated any responsibility for guidance and discipline? Georgia law does provide a limited degree of parental accountability for parents of young thugs who should reap some of the consequences along with the sons they failed to raise.
O.C.G.A § 51-2-3 provides for liability of parent or guardian for willful torts by minor children as follows:
(a) Every parent or guardian having the custody and control over a minor child or children under the age of 18 shall be liable in an amount not to exceed $10,000.00 plus court costs for the willful or malicious acts of the minor child or children resulting in reasonable medical expenses to another, damage to the property of another, or both reasonable medical expenses and damage to property.
(b) This Code section shall be cumulative and shall not be restrictive of any remedies now available to any person, firm, or corporation for injuries or damages arising out of the acts, torts, or negligence of a minor child under the “family-purpose car doctrine,” any statute, or common law in force and effect in this state.
(c) The intent of the General Assembly in passing this Code section is to provide for the public welfare and aid in the control of juvenile delinquency, not to provide restorative compensation to victims of injurious or tortious conduct by children.
The three minors supposedly have six parents among them. Each of those six parents could be held liable for $10,000 plus court costs. Even if the victim has other resources to pay medical bills, each of the parents should be sued and then subjected to the most severe possible collection efforts to enforce the full amount out of whatever meager resources they may have.
I know from experience that parenting is hard. Poverty and race are not excuses; listen to Ben Carson on that topic. Single moms in poverty without education can raise good men who succeed. Even fathers in prison can try hard to influence their children not to follow their bad example.
Someone should hold their feet to the fire and squeeze out of them every dime of $10,000 per parent to help defray the medical expenses, even if it requires garnishing the prison cigarette accounts of absentee fathers.
Ken Shigley is an Atlanta trial attorney focused on serious personal injury and wrongful death cases. He is currently chair of the American Association for Justice Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Previously he served as president of the State Bar of Georgia and chair of the board of trustees of theInstitute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia. He is lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice and a board certified civil trial attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy.