A Stymied Court
Detective Martin Davin of the Sixth Homicide Zone investigated the recent subway killings. There was talk of a serial killer on the loose, and he knew that meant more pressure on him. The fact that Moises Perez's wallet had been found indicated that the killer might be from the neighborhood. A computer search brought up Willie Bosket and Herman Spates, picked up for the shooting of Matthew Connolly. He had not been able to identify them, so they had been released, but since this pair had repeat arrests, Davin thought they should be checked out.
Willie was a juvenile at 15, and Davin knew he'd have to be careful. He decided to go after Herman, who was 17. Nevertheless, some ambitious transit cops grabbed Willie on the street and brought him in. That meant he had to find Herman quick, because holding a juvenile too long meant the case might be thrown out. They found Herman with his probation officer. He willingly accompanied Davin, who told him that they knew where he was on the day of the fatal shooting. Herman said he was asleep in a movie theater, but they told him that Willie had already given him up. Herman then insisted that it was Willie who shot the man. He also spilled the beans on the previous murder and revealed the whereabouts of the gun.
The detectives got a search warrant and ran into Willie's mother on her way out the door. She reluctantly showed them where the gun was. Then she accompanied them to question Willie. Immediately he threatened the district attorney and then blundered by admitting he had the gun.
In the past, Willie's case had always gone to Family Court. His various crimes since the age of nine had been dealt with by sending him to reformatories. However, with the growing rise of juvenile arrests in the mid-seventies, the Family Court system was being revised. In 1976, New York passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which created a new category of juvenile crime, the "designated felony." This allowed kids as young as fourteen who committed violent acts to be given longer sentences than the traditional limit of eighteen months. They could now be sent to a training school for three to five years. The court was no longer to act as a parent, but to keep the protection of the community in mind as well. District attorneys now came into these court sessions.
Assistant D. A. Robert Silbering acquired Willie's case. They had the gun and a ballistics test that linked it to the murder, but Silbering worried that they had no witnesses and no confession. Anthony Lamorte picked Willie out of a lineup, and the D.A. pressured Herman to testify against his cousin in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Even with all of that, there was not much a court could do to a juvenile, despite his long record and a clear indication that he might very well kill again. Willie had made the claim many times to juvenile authorities that his father was a killer and he was going to be one, too. Violence, he had learned, won him respect. Added to that was a mother who had distanced herself from her son, believing that he was just like his father and would come to no good. Growing up, he learned to throw temper tantrums, to hit his teachers, to steal, and in general to live life on his own terms. His grandfather had sexually abused him when he was nine. He repeatedly told people he did not care if he lived, and it seemed that he had nothing to lose. Nothing meant anything to him. He never even had to face up to any of his criminal acts against others, because a juvenile was considered incapable of criminal intent, so he easily maneuvered his way through the idealistic cracks of the system and always ended up back home. Violence became a sport that he was good at.
By the time he was eleven, he was an angry, hostile, homicidal boy whom no one could reach. He showed grandiosity, narcissism, poor impulse control, infantile omnipotence, and a history of suicide attempts and daily threats against others. His diagnostic evaluation was Antisocial Behavior, just steps away from the Antisocial Personality Disorder diagnosis slapped on his father. Willie was not psychotic, but he was certainly dangerous. Even as young as he was at the time, it was predicted that he would eventually kill someone.
With this background and whatever evidence he could gather, Silbering prepared to go to court.