opinion

Juvenile sentencing offers ‘zero accountability’ for murder

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(Trina Coolman is the mother of Noah Sisung, an 18-year-old man from Holt who was shot and killed in Lansing last October in an incident that involved a 13- and 16-year-old, who were both charged as juveniles in his murder last month. Both teenagers pleaded guilty to lesser charges of assault with intent to commit armed robbery. The seventh grader also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon’s decision to charge them as juveniles effectively allowed them to escape the possibility of a decades-long prison sentence in favor of court-ordered treatment and supervision — and possibly only until age 21.) 

I am writing in response to the April 13 City Pulse editorial about my son Noah, who was killed in October by yet more gun violence in Ingham County. The unnamed author said the kids who were charged in his death deserved to be punished for their actions and that there are few crimes as heinous as taking a life. What do you consider proper punishment for taking a life? 

How would you feel if it were your child? Is it possible to ‘age out’ of killing someone? We did not ask for revenge. Those are your words. We are not “skirting the century-old juvenile court system.” We simply asked for what is available under current Michigan law. 

We don’t live in centuries past. We are here in 2022 where gun violence and children killing children has become commonplace. And making sweeping gun policies to keep people out of jail sends a very clear message to those committing these crimes. And they are listening. 

Since Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon took office in 2016, the homicide rate has risen every year — to the point it is now more than triple the rate of when she began her “vision for the justice system.” 

In our case, the prosecutor had the opportunity to negotiate with these boys to take a gun off the streets. She didn’t do that. She had the opportunity to ask for a blended sentence where the boys could be evaluated on their rehabilitation prior to release. She didn’t do that either. 

These are things we asked for. Instead, they could be summarily released with sealed records on their 21st birthdays, regardless of whether they are rehabilitated.  

As a result of these actions, another family will undoubtedly suffer the same consequences. 

And last week’s editorial is absolutely wrong: Siemon was not elected to focus on underlying causes of crime and bring her personal agenda to the county. While Siemon is busy standing up to community pressure (the citizens who hired her) and bringing a more progressive vision to Ingham County, the people who elected her to prosecute deserve to have accountability. It’s blatantly clear that her policies don’t work and don’t keep the citizens of our community safer.  

It certainly did not keep Noah safe. If Siemon chooses to rally for change, do it with the legislature and change the laws — not gambling with our lives and our children’s lives. 

For anyone at City Pulse to say that it would feel good for our family to see another person “stoned to death on the Capitol lawn” is disgusting and disrespectful. We have to suffer the loss of our child for the rest of our lives. So, yes, it doesn’t feel like punishment that they will have fresh starts in just a few years with zero accountability. 

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