“14-Year-Old Charged with Murder of James Bond in St. Louis: A Call for Juvenile Justice Reform”

By | December 17, 2023



Accident – Death – Obituary News :

Shocking News: 14-Year-Old Charged with Seven Felonies in St. Louis Murder Case

Last week, Wesley Bell, the St. Louis County Prosecutor, delivered a shocking announcement to the community. His office has charged Clifton Booze Jr., a 14-year-old from Hazelwood, with seven felonies related to the murder of James Bond, also 14 years old, on March 26, 2023.

The incident unfolded when Berkeley Police received multiple calls about a group of approximately 15 juveniles randomly firing gunshots in the 6800 block of Larry Lane. Officers who responded to the scene discovered Bond, who had been shot in the chest, dead in the front yard of a home. Witnesses at the scene identified Booze as one of the shooters, according to the police.

Multiple Defendants and Charges

Booze is now facing charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of armed criminal action. This array of charges places him in a precarious legal situation, as the Class A Felony charge alone carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison, or even life imprisonment.

Previously, two other defendants, La’Marrion Matthews and Taivion Kirk, were charged in connection with the same incident. They are currently being held on a $250,000 bond. In contrast, Booze’s bond has been set at a staggering $750,000, payable only in cash. Furthermore, Booze has been certified to stand trial as an adult, a decision that Prosecutor Wesley Bell acknowledged as one of the most difficult that a judge can make.

Societal Challenges and Calls for Reform

Bell’s statement following the charges posed a thought-provoking question to society: “What more can we do to avoid tragedies like this?” While justice for Bond’s family and crime victims is crucial, the incident highlights the need to address the underlying issues and circumstances that often entrap juveniles in criminal and, tragically, deadly situations.


The “State of America’s Children 2023” report by the Children’s Defense Fund sheds light on the vulnerability of children of color to over-criminalization and their overrepresentation within the juvenile justice system. Shockingly, the report reveals that out of the 265,600 children arrested in the United States in 2021, one in three were Black. Additionally, approximately 67% of children in the juvenile justice system are children of color, and around 85% of the 2,000 kids under 18 held in jails are being treated as adults.

To address these systemic issues, the Children’s Defense Fund recommends adopting healthier alternatives to harsh punishment, such as treatment, diversion, mental health counseling, and after-school programs. These approaches aim to provide relevant, appropriate responses to youth behavioral offenses without involving them in the criminal legal system.

Empower Missouri, an organization dedicated to securing basic human needs and equal justice, highlights the concerning fact that approximately 4,500 children are incarcerated in adult facilities across the country on any given day. In Missouri, children as young as 12 years old can be tried as adults at the discretion of the court. Empower Missouri is actively advocating for “Raise the Age” legislation to ensure that 12, 13, and 14-year-olds can never be tried as adults.

The Flaws in Charging Youth as Adults

According to the “Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: 2022 National Report,” serious violent crimes committed by youth have significantly declined since the mid-1990s. Yet, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) highlights the concerning fact that nearly 300,000 children are serving sentences in adult prisons each year. Additionally, almost 250,000 children have been transferred to adult courts annually, where they face lengthy prison sentences.

CJJ argues that charging minors as adults contradicts neuroscientific research and undermines the purpose of a juvenile justice system. The organization emphasizes that a child’s brain structure and function undergo significant changes during adolescence, especially when considering factors such as childhood abuse, psychiatric problems, poverty, and education.

A 2017 report by Human Impact Partners, a nonprofit organization promoting equity within social and criminal justice systems, asserts that charging youth as adults is not only ineffective and biased but also harmful to society. It perpetuates racial inequities, exposes juveniles to extreme violence, and imposes significant financial burdens on families living in poverty due to legal fees, court costs, restitution, and other expenses.

The Case of Clifton Booze Jr.

In the case of Clifton Booze Jr., who is now facing adult charges at the age of 14, it remains unclear what actions led to his classification as an adult offender. The Berkeley Police Department did not provide details regarding Booze’s intent or how he was identified as the sole killer of James Bond out of the group of individuals firing guns recklessly on the streets.

Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s statement emphasized that the charges against Booze are still allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. Bell expressed his desire for a world where 14-year-olds are not being shot dead and where they are not being tried for murder.

Addressing the fundamental issue of treating juveniles as adults requires action. Organizations like Empower Missouri advocate for legislative changes, while the Coalition for Juvenile Justice emphasizes the importance of prioritizing rehabilitation over retribution. Adopting these recommendations and taking immediate action to reform the juvenile justice system can help ensure that America truly lives up to its values as a nation of second chances.

Sylvester Brown Jr. is the Deaconess Foundation Community Advocacy Fellow.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis American.

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