An eight-year-old Louisiana boy shot his grandmother in the back of the head with a .38 caliber handgun, just minutes after playing the violent and popular game “Grand Theft Auto IV.” Marie Smothers, the boy’s grandmother, was babysitting and watching television while the boy was playing video games four feet away on the household’s other television set. At some point, the boy saw his grandmother’s handgun in her purse, where it was allegedly exposed to him. Accordingly, he picked up the gun, formed the intent to shoot, and pulled the trigger from three to four feet from the grandmother’s head. During the investigation, the stated that he believed that the gun was a toy, and he did not expect its fatal outcome.
The Courts’ View of Eight-year-old’s Murder
Despite the fact that he shot his mother to death, the boy will not be prosecuted under Louisiana law. None of the American states will prosecute a child as young as eight, regardless of the crime, due to limits to the minimum age of criminal responsibilitythat each state has agreed upon. Instead, the boy will receive counseling in the form of Families in Need of Services(FINS), which is a state program meant to help the boy as well as his parents cope with the aftermath of his actions. According to the chief counsel of the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, Martha Morgan, FINS is intended to help children avoid becoming juvenile delinquent after traumatic events in their early development years. It is undisputed that the young boy did not appropriate the shooting at the time because he did not realize the effects of pulling the trigger. Counseling might help him understand that his action was his own, but it was not compelled by malicious intent.
The Video Game Debate
The case shook the media and reignited the debate about the noxious effects of video games. Opponents of violent video games claim that the eight-year-old boy was psychologically agitated and thus he shot his grandmother in real life because he imitated the violencein the video game. Grand Theft Auto is a ‘shooter,’ or a game in which the player chases different characters with the intent to kill them, and in return is rewarded for his virtual murders. Since the game is rated MA for Mature, the boy was far from the 17 and over limitation, and thus blame could be placed on his parents for making such a game available to a young boy at a debatably impressionable age. However, this paternalistic view is not looked upon favorably by the proponents of video games, who stress that there are no real links between violence in video games and violence in real life.
The young boy saw a weapon which he likened to the representation of the video game gun, and pulled the trigger in an attempt to continue ‘playing.’ However, he was unable to separate reality from the virtual imagination. Accordingly, even though he was not charged by Louisiana law, there is no doubt that his action will have long-term psychological effects.