Teen charged as adult in arson case will spend 7 – 20 years behind bars

JACKSON, MI (WLNS) – Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John McBain is known to be tough on people convicted of serious crimes.

But on Wednesday the judge found himself in an unusual spot.

He had to sentence a teenager as an adult, even though he wasn’t convinced it was the best thing to do.

Alexis Penn will serve somewhere between 7 and 20 years for setting fire to her family home last year.

Before learning her fate, she apologized to the court, police and firefighters and to her family for all the trouble she has caused.

“I was scared confused and overwhelmed with my situation,” said Alexis Penn, defendant.

Crying, shaking, shackled and appearing even younger than 15-years-old, Alexis Penn addressed the court.

In an extensive and emotional sentencing hearing on Wednesday Judge John McBain heard from Alexis Penn’s psychologist, a researcher on children in adult prisons and Penn’s father who is also the victim in this case.

“I had first and second degree burns (attorney: Where?) on my arms and face and ears and um hands (attorney: Were you hospitalized?) yeah five days at the U of M Burn Center,” said Charles Penn, victim, defendant’s father.

But despite the pain he endured Charles Penn as well as other witnesses say Penn should be sentenced as a juvenile.

After all she was only 14 at the time of the fire and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and persistent depressive disorder.

But Michigan’s Automatic Waiver Statute keeps young people in Penn’s situation from being sentenced as a juvenile.

“The outcome of Alexi’s trial yesterday was extremely disappointing, we have laws set up in this state that allow judges and prosecutors and essentially force their hand to sentence children as young as 15 as adults,” said Kristen Staley, Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Judge McBain seemed to agree.

“I put on the record that this case would be better handled as a Juvenile,” said Judge John McBain, Jackson County Circuit Court.

If the automatic waiver statute does not change in the next seven years, Penn will be in her early 20’s by the time she is eligible for parole.

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