LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – The family of a Lafayette teen who was killed by a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old is calling for changes in the juvenile justice system.
They say the 15th Judicial District is taking a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. District Attorney Don Landry announced a new change in the juvenile system Thursday. They will now be prosecuting 15 to 17-year-olds who commit violent crimes as adults. The Carter family says the laws now needs to be changed for teens younger than 15-years-old as well.
In January of 2020, 17-year-old Matthew Carter was sitting in his prized red Camaro. A 13-year-old and 14-year old attempted to rob Matthew and shot him in the head while he was sitting in the driver’s seat. Matthew clung to life for two weeks in the hospital, before he ultimately died. His family says the two young teens who killed him went through the justice system, but they can’t discuss anything about the case, due to them being juveniles. Though they can’t speak on the case, they’re calling attention to laws they believe still need to be changed.
“We knocked on the door, but we haven’t kicked it down yet,” Matthew’s sister, Nichole Carter, said, referring to the new law that allows 15 to 17-year-olds who commit violent crimes to be prosecuted as adults in the 15th Judicial District.
“It’s a good step in the right direction. Things are changing, but we really need to start looking into, you know, it just doesn’t stop at 15. It’s younger, and we know first hand,” Nichole added.
Matthew’s killers were only 13 and 14-years-old. Louisiana law says if a 14-year-old commits a violet crime like murder, a judge can decide if that juvenile should be tried as an adult. That’s only happened once in the 15th Judicial District. If a 13-year-old or younger teen is charged with murder, the law says they have to go through the juvenile justice system.
“There’s no other way. If you’re 13 and you kill one person or you’re a mass murderer and you kill 20 people, you’re going to go through the juvenile court system,” Matthew’s dad, Jerry Carter, said. Jerry says in juvenile court, the max penalty is juvenile life. That means when they turn 21, they’re released back into society, and their records are sealed.
“As a convicted juvenile murderer, you can go and apply for a job, and you’re potential job may run a background check, and nothing is going to come back. They’ll end up hiring a convicted murderer and never know,” he added.
He says they’re not asking for every 13 and 14-year-old to be tried as adults. They want the district attorneys in the state to look at each case individually and decide. Jerry says Louisiana wouldn’t be the first state to change these laws. Five states have no minimum age requirement. In eight states, he says the minimum age to try a juvenile as an adult is 12 to 13-years-old.
“I think all we have right now is the power to hold Matthew’s legacy and continue this because none of us can bring him back,” Matthew’s sister, Nichole said.
“I feel like at this point, now is the time to really start moving forward and change the laws and things to continue Matthew’s legacy and story. We don’t want any other family to feel the things that we have to continue feeling because it doesn’t just stop. We’re still dealing with this. It’s continuing,” she added.
Matthew’s family says the laws will only change if people contact their representatives and senators to discuss these juvenile laws. They say they’ve already started the discussion with their representatives because they don’t want to see Matthew’s case repeated.