Free-Range Kids

Are the Parents of a Teen Murderer Guilty of Not Anticipating His Crimes?


George Bergman / Wikimedia Commons

In the fall of 2012, Justin Robinson, 15, strangled Autumn Pasquale, 12, both of Clayton, New Jersey, when she came over to trade BMX bike parts. He plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter and received 17 years in prison. But now, writes Lisa Belkin, Autumn's dad, Anthony Pasquale, is filing suit against Justin's parents (who are divorced). She quotes Pasquale saying:

 "Parenting comes with responsibilities, and one of those is to raise your kids right, to pay attention and know when they're a danger to someone else. That's a parent's job."

To fail at that job is a crime, he believes. He's recently taken his certainty to court, suing Justin Robinson's parents for, essentially, being bad parents.

….In addition to his civil suit, Anthony is urging a change in criminal law. Dubbed "Autumn's Law," at the moment it is just an idea — a petition, which currently falls 12,000 signatures short of its 20,000 goal. Its point is simple: If parents knew they would go to jail for their parenting, Anthony says, they would do a better job.

Bold face mine, because: Really? Not that we don't try to keep our kids on the straight and narrow —99.999 percent of us parents do—but it is obviously impossible to control our children's every move. What's more, we shouldn't want to live in a society that requires this.

Criminalizing parents for raising law-breaking children would not only reinforce the idea that good parents are always on top of their kids (even in their teens), it would also enshrine "worst-first thinking" as the law of the land: If parents aren't constantly imagining the worst-case scenario first—"Gee, my son seems moody today. I hope he doesn't stab his playdate"—they would be guilty of not paying enough attention.


A policy like "Autumn's Law" should also seem ridiculous when anyone considers brothers like David and Ted Kaczynski. One was the Unabomber. One turned him in. If the parents created the murderer, how did they also create his brother, who worked as a youth counselor and then, after making the difficult decision to turn his brother in, became an anti-death penalty activist and eventually director of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery?

Parents cannot program their children or predict their every move. So while I can't even imagine the sorrow and horror that Autumn's parents have gone though, I hope they do not win their lawsuit. Parents already face enough criticism and blame for their child-rearing. ("Why did he eat the extra cookie?" "Why is he so scared to eat one extra cookie?") Heaping more criticism and blame on them will not make them parent better. It will only make them more paranoid.

That's not a quality most parents today are lacking.

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  1. This country needs some effective “guilt by blood association” laws. Society should be able to wipe out entire families based on the actions of an individual.

    Rewrite the Constitution!

    1. Gonna get lonely around that country. 😉

    2. +1 honor killing

  2. Rarely is it appropriate to say something bad about someone whose child was murdered, but Mr. Pasquale provides such an occasion. What a self centered, inhumane fuck that guy is. It wasn’t that kid’s parents who killed his daughter. They didn’t tell him to do it and I am sure did the best they could raising the kid. If there is one hell that might be comparable to having your kid murdered, it would be having your kid turn into a murderer. I can’t imagine the kind of grief and guilt that kid’s parents feel. Yet, Pasquale is such a narcissistic immoral fuck, he apparently can’t see that. Is suing some grief stricken mother whose kid turned into a murder going to bring your kid back Mr. Pasquale?

    1. The Robinsons should countersue Pasquale for creating an attractive nuisance by not teaching their daughter to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Makes almost as much sense.

      1. Similar to what I was thinking — he must be a bad parent for not knowing where his daughter was going to be or who she was hanging out with.

    2. They didn’t tell him to do it and I am sure did the best they could raising the kid.

      As usual, Skenazy leaves out the context of the situation in order to squeeze every event into her grand narrative:

      Justin’s father, Alonzo Robinson, who gave a few interviews to waiting reporters. Yes, his sons were known for stealing bikes in the neighborhood, he said, adding that police had told him a stockpile of bike parts had been found in the basement of his former home. … There was significant history as outlined in [Justin’s psychiatric report] of domestic violence in his household when he was young. Justin also suffered abuse, physical abuse, by his father. This was learned behavior, Your Honor. Justin saw his father strangle his mother on more than one occasion. Justin has inappropriate responses to stressors as a result of his disabilities. ..

      1. the Pasquale suit says that Anita should have known. Good parents should have known that Justin was “possibly engaging in the theft of bicycles” and that he “posed a risk to third parties,” it says. Good parents should have realized that the domestic violence he saw as a child would teach him to be violent himself. Good parents should have recognized that his emotional, psychological and developmental problems meant he needed “proper treatment and proper supervision,” which, the suit alleges, he did not get. His parents should have predicted what he was capable of, because, the suit concludes, it was their parenting that created a child who could kill.
        “My light bulb went off so fast when I heard that,” Anthony remembers. “My lawyer was next to me and I said, ‘We have to do something about that.’ If it was a learned behavior, then teach a different behavior. If you taught your son to kill, then you need to be punished, too.”

        Gee, Officer Skenazy, we’re very upset;
        We never had the free-rangin’ that ev’ry child oughta get.
        We ain’t no delinquents,
        We’re misunderstood.
        Deep down inside us there is good!

        1. Pasquale is worse than I thought. He is not only self centered and nasty, he is apparently profoundly stupid as well. There is no way that you could reasonably expect anyone to predict that that kid was going to do what he did because he was stealing bikes and had seen his father be violent. That is bullshit.

          And what exactly where the parents supposed to do? Unless they had insurance, they couldn’t have afforded to institutionalize him.

          1. All good points. None of which are served by Skenazy’s intentional mischaracterization of the situation.

        2. That does put a somewhat different spin on the situation. And why does the picture Skenazy used look nothing like the kid being locked up?

          1. We call that The Trayvon Effect

            /too soon?

            1. Don’t Trayvon that blunt man! I’m still hittin that.

              1. I should probably call this the “Reverse” Trayvon Effect.

                If ya know what I’m sayin’ and ya see what I did there….

          2. That’s a picture of a young Ted Kaczynski, I believe.

          3. How does it put a different spin on the situation? They still didn’t tell him to murder anyone.

            1. How does it put a different spin on the situation? They still didn’t tell him to murder anyone.

              It counteracts Skenazy’s implication that Justin’s parents were the prototypical “good parents” and thus Justin’s actions were purely the result of random genetic dice-rolling (or nature) as opposed to the environment in which he was raised (nurture). Claiming either one in purity is ridiculous as we know both play a role in the development of an individual. Is Justin, in fact, mentally ill or merely a thug who was allowed to run amok under the lax discipline of his caregivers? Or both? I don’t know. You don’t know. And sure as hell Skenazy doesn’t know.

              Personally, I wouldn’t leave my 15 year old son unsupervised in the presence of a 12 year old girl for fear he’d might create life, much less take one away.

              Jus’ sayin’

          4. Who the hell is pictured?

            1. I’m guessing the departed’s father.

              1. No, HM has it right. Still an odd juxtaposition.

      2. So what? That doesn’t make them responsible for what their kid did. Lots of kids grow up in bad homes. They don’t all become psychotics and a lot of psychotics come from good homes.

        This was learned behavior, Your Honor. Justin saw his father strangle his mother on more than one occasion. Justin has inappropriate responses to stressors as a result of his disabilities. ..

        That is just horseshit. Did the dad tell him to go out and strangle women? I am pretty sure his mother didn’t.

        1. What John said. Life isn’t a Skinner Box.

          This kid, alone, made the decision to murder that girl. Who the fuck knows why, but anyone who thinks that they can divine the one or two events, out of billions of interactions we encounter throughout life, that drove him to make this decision, should be punched in the neck.

    3. I am sure did the best they could raising the kid.

      citation needed

      1. Innocent until….

    4. I would have to agree with you guilt by association is ridiculous in this instance.

  3. Whenever they name legislation after a child, you know it’s going to be terrible.

  4. I’ve seen both; good parents who raised monsters and monstrous parents whose kids turned into good adults. Sometimes both in the same family. Yes, a parent has influence, but once the teen hormones hit it’s hit-or-miss.

  5. It’s well settled law that there’s such a tort as negligent supervision of a minor child. On paper, the plaintiff has to show negligence; one element is that the parents knew or should have known that they could do something about it. In other words, it isn’t supposed to be strict liability. The way it works out in reality is different, as noted in the article:

    “Lawyers bring these cases because that’s how they make money. Suing a parent for an act of negligence in the home very commonly brings in the insurance company, and they often settle because it’s cheaper to pay some money than to defend a case.”

  6. If his parents had just aborted him we could have avoided all of this! I’m taking a bold stance and calling for forced abortions of any kid that has the potential to commit a serious crime!

  7. If parents knew they would go to jail for their parenting, Anthony says, they would do a better job.

    and if congresscreatures knew they would go to jail for their lawmaking, they would do a better job.

  8. Maybe they should sue Rob Zombie, too.

    1. At least sue the school Justin attended.

    2. +1000 corpses

  9. I assume that he would also be in favor of the defendant being charged as a juvenile, right?

    Kinda hard to claim that parents should be responsible for their kids’ acts while that kid is being charged as an adult for that act.

  10. Jesus, the stupid is delicious in this one. Yes, it’s the parents’ fault.

    I suggest “Anthony Pasquale’s Law”, which says, If parents knew or should have known that their kids were hanging out with JD’s who might kill them, they would go to jail for their bad parenting, for not protecting their kids and helping guide them through the world during their formative years. If they knew they’d go to jail for being bad parents and not preventing their kids from hanging out with potential deviants who might kill them, they would do a better job.

    Howzat sound to you Anthony, you stupid fucking twat? PS Your daughter’s blood is on your hands. I’m sorry for your loss, murderer by proxy.

    1. If I were Mr. Pasquale’s ex wife and non custodial parent of the poor victim, I would be all for such a law. Why was he letting his little girl out wondering around alone?

      It makes just as much sense as his proposed law.

      1. I think my law makes MORE sense than his proposed law. Cause – preventive. You have the kids, it’s your duty to protect them.

        Don’t want that burden? Better not have the kids.

        Ridiculous…LET’S MAKE A TRAGEDY WORSE! Thanks, Mister Pasquale, you miserable FUCK.

  11. became…eventually director of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery

    So Kaczynski’s brother is even WORSE than he is. That takes some doing.

  12. The idea that anyone is responsible for someone else’s actions–the abdication of personal responsibility–is possibly one of the most pernicious and evil concepts to enter our society ever. People are responsible for their own actions, that is all.

    “I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

    I blame the lawyers, mostly ProL.

    1. Him and Sugar Free, who is the secret brains behind the Pro L operation.

      The root of this kind of shit is the absolute inability to confront the unpredictability of life. Reality is that sometimes people blow a gasket and do horrible things and there is not a damn thing anyone can do to prevent it. For people like this guy that is too terrifying to contemplate. It just can’t be true. Everything in life must have a rational cause so that all bad things in life can somehow be prevented.

      When people like this are confronted with one of these random and horrible acts like this, they can’t accept the truth and go looking for someone to blame. There has to be someone to blame. Someone has to be responsible for this otherwise that means things happen that are beyond anyone’s control. And people like this guy just can’t accept that.

  13. So what the fuck is wrong with those Robinson boy? What pieces of shit.

  14. What a great idea! The Fuehrer tried to reintroduce it into German law, under the name of Sippenhaft.

    (There. Had to get Godwin out of the way.)

  15. “Parenting comes with responsibilities, and one of those is to raise your kids right, to pay attention and know when they’re a danger to someone else. That’s a parent’s job.”

    I know he’s still grieving, but fuck this asshole.

    Still, at least we now know who to call for the formula on perfect parenting. There is a formula, right?

  16. The whole point of our system is to isolate the judgments from the passionate emotions of the victims, thereby ensuring a rational application of sensible laws. Obviously, families of victims are going to overreact if allowed to mete out punishment. Look how many parents of molestation victims have murdered the suspected molesters.

    The problem here is that we have chosen as a society to react just as mindlessly. It’s a descent into madness. Eventually, you end up with record amounts of incarcerated citizens, laws so complex they cannot be followed, certain offenses that result in punishment in perpetuity,zero tolerance for even minor things, a police that feel entitled to use any force, deceit and secrecy they want to punish just about anybody they want. Remember when that stuff was a scary distant possibility?

  17. By this suit’s “logic” why wouldn’t a parent have life-long liability for the actions of a child? Corporations are often found liable for actions taken by companies they purchased years after the wrongdoing had occurred? This seems like a lawyer generated attempt to get access to the killer’s parents’ home owner’s insurance. Nice work dad, you may have lost a daughter but at least you got paid.

  18. Wait. Why didn’t Anthony Pasquale foresee that his daughter might be murdered and prevent her from going to trade bicycle parts? Is he a bad parent because he didn’t protect his little girl better? Because he didn’t foresee the future?

    Using his logic… he must be!

  19. “I know he’s still grieving, but fuck this asshole”

    Why do you have to bring your “orientation” into this?

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