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A Stymied Court / Detective Martin Davin of the Sixth Homicide Zone investigated the recent subway killings.

ere was talk of a serial killer on the loose, and he knew that meant more pressure on him. e fact that Moises Perez's wallet had been found indicated that the killer might be from the neighborhood. A computer search brought up Willie Bosket and Herman Spates, picked up for the shooting of Matthew Connolly. He had not been able to identify them, so they had been released, but since this pair had repeat arrests, Davin thought they should be checked out. Willie was a juvenile at 15, and Davin knew he'd have to be careful. He decided to go after Herman, who was 17. Nevertheless, some ambitious transit cops grabbed Willie on the street and brought him in. at meant he had to nd Herman quick, because holding a juvenile too long meant the case might be thrown out. ey found Herman with his probation ocer. He willingly accompanied Davin, who told him that they knew where he was on the day of the fatal shooting. Herman said he was asleep in a movie theater, but they told him that Willie had already given him up. Herman then insisted that it was Willie who shot the man. He also spilled the beans on the previous murder and revealed the whereabouts of the gun. e detectives got a search warrant and ran into Willie's mother on her way out the door. She reluctantly showed them where the gun was. en she accompanied them to question Willie. Immediately he threatened the district attorney and then blundered by admitting he had the gun. In the past, Willie's case had always gone to Family Court. His various crimes since the age of nine had been dealt with by sending him to reformatories. However, with the growing rise of juvenile arrests in the mid-seventies, the Family Court system was being revised. In 1976, New York passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, which created a new category of juvenile crime, the "designated felony." is allowed kids as young as fourteen who committed violent acts to be given longer sentences than the traditional limit of eighteen months. ey could now be sent to a training school for three to ve years. e court was no longer to act as a parent, but to keep the protection of the community in mind as well. District attorneys now came into these court sessions. Assistant D. A. Robert Silbering acquired Willie's case. ey had the gun and a ballistics test that linked it to the murder, but Silbering worried that they had no witnesses and no confession. Anthony Lamorte picked Willie out of a lineup, and the D.A. pressured Herman to testify against his cousin in exchange for a lighter sentence. Even with all of that, there was not much a court could do to a juvenile, despite his long record and a clear indication that he might very well kill again. Willie had made the claim many times to juvenile authorities that his father was a killer and he was going to be one, too. Violence, he had learned, won him respect. Added to that was a mother who had distanced herself from her son, believing that he was just like his father and would come to no good. Growing up, he learned to throw temper tantrums, to hit his teachers, to steal, and in general to live life on his own terms. His grandfather had sexually abused him when he was nine. He repeatedly told people he did not care if he lived, and it seemed that he had nothing to lose. Nothing meant anything to him. He never even had to face up to any of his criminal acts against others, because a juvenile was considered incapable of criminal intent, so he easily maneuvered his way through the idealistic cracks of the system and always ended up back home. Violence became a sport that he was good at. By the time he was eleven, he was an angry, hostile, homicidal boy whom no one could reach. He showed grandiosity, narcissism, poor impulse control, infantile omnipotence, and a history of suicide attempts and daily threats against others. His diagnostic evaluation was Antisocial Behavior, just steps away from the Antisocial Personality Disorder diagnosis slapped on his father. Willie was not psychotic, but he was certainly dangerous. Even as young as he was at the time, it was predicted that he would eventually kill someone. With this background and whatever evidence he could gather, Silbering prepared to go to court. Willie's Trial / e trial for Willie Bosket was held in the Family Court building on Lafayette Street in lower Manhattan. He was charged with three separate felonies-two counts of murder and one of attempted murder, which meant three dierent trials. Judge Edith Miller had seen Willie before and she thought him too bright to be in so much trouble. Yet this time in court he was belligerent to the point of needing to be restrained, and his foul-mouthed manner surprised her. What disturbed her more was his lack of moral sense and his insensitivity to the victims' families. He forced the widow of Moises Perez to testify that it was indeed her husband's body that she had identied. Even at the Spoord Juvenile Center where he was conned, he had stabbed another boy with a fork, hit a counselor in the face, and choked a psychiatrist. Later he bragged that, though he was only fteen, he had committed over two thousand crimes, twenty-ve of them stabbings. Willie approached his trials with an air of total detachment. He did not realize that he was now going through a new procedure, dierent from only two years earlier, and things were fairly serious. He even thought he could skip the trial if he wanted to, but not by pleading guilty. As the trials went along, Willie nally tired of it all and impulsively told his surprised lawyer to enter a plea of guilty. Silbering insisted he must plead to all three counts, which he did. e sentencing date was set, and Silbering tried to think of ways to get more than the maximum ve years for these crimes. However, with no precedent, there was nothing he could do. Willie was placed with the Division of Youth for a maximum sentence of ve years. By the time he was twenty-one, he would be free. e State's Outrage / Two days after Willie was sentenced in a trial that had created massive local publicity, Governor Hugh Carey was ying from Manhattan to Rochester to make a campaign appearance. His Republican opponent in that election year was attacking him for being soft on crime and was proposing a tough new law that would permit juveniles to be tried as adults for violent crimes like rape and murder. Carey, a liberal Democrat, had resisted such a strong reaction. He thought it was too drastic, although he knew there were those in his party who supported it along with Republicans statewide. at morning, as he read the paper, he spotted the press report on Willie's sentence, which should have been condential, but obviously had been leaked. One account in the Daily News quoted Herman Spates saying that Willie killed because "he got a kick out of blowing them away." is newspaper also had uncovered the fact that one of Willie's assigned social workers had warned the Division of Youth ocials that he was dangerous. Carey acted at once to this horrifying story. It seemed that he had suddenly realized that some kids were not so easily rehabilitated, as was the primary focus of Family Court, with light or nonexistent sentences. Carey shifted his position and called a mid-air press conference. He was going to support trying violent juveniles as adults, swearing that Willie Bosket would never walk the streets again. " ere was a breakdown of the system," he told reporters, "and it is really on the doorstep of the Division for Youth. e blame is squarely on the shoulders of the department." e Division of Youth, for their part, felt they had done all that they could. ere were no programs or facilities for a child like Willie, who had such an explosive temperament. A week later, Carey called the legislature back to Albany for a special session, passing the Juvenile Oender Act of 1978. Under its terms, kids as young as thirteen could be tried in adult court for murder and would face the same penalties. is law reversed the tradition of the past 150 years that children were malleable and could be rehabilitated and saved. ere was now an attitude that there were truly bad kids and they should be locked away from society. It was too late for Willie to be tried under this law, but it certainly changed things for others his age. With the passage of this law, New York became the rst state to take this step. Yet as juvenile crime statistics worsened around the country, other states followed suite. e press, the public, and prosecutors in New York took to calling it the Willie Bosket law. He got the notoriety he wanted, but not quite in the way he had imagined when he bragged to everyone that he would become a killer just like his dad. Willie's Response / In fact, Willie's father, Butch, was not very happy to hear the Willie was trying to follow in his footsteps. Although he had escaped from prison in Wisconsin, he had been recaptured after robbing several banks in New York. He was sent to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Butch had tried very hard to nd opportunities in prison to better himself so he could show the parole board that he was worth another look. He had a cellmate who was an intellectual and who supported Butch's eorts to get educated. In Wisconsin, he had nished his high school courses and earned a diploma. en in Kansas, he took forty courses and graduated from college at the University of Kansas with a nearly perfect GPA. He was in the top three per cent of his class. He was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa ( a controversial event). When Kansas nally released him, he had to return to Wisconsin to see about getting his sentenced reduced there. No such luck. Butch ended up back in prison. Willie read about him in the newspaper. e Daily News had dug up information on Willie's background, noting that this "baby-faced killer's" father was also doing time for murder. Willie was thrilled. It was the rst independent proof, apart from what his mother and grandmother had told him, of his father's criminal exploits. Willie sat down and wrote his father a letter. Butch had tried to distance himself from his family, particularly his father, and he was not pleased to discover that his own son was now in prison for murder. He understood the boy's rage from neglect and living on the streets, but he tried to counsel him not to keep taking this road. Instead, he urged Willie to return to school. is is not what Willie had expected and the letter disappointed him. ey had one phone conversation and Butch sent Willie some books to help him with grammar and vocabulary. Willie turned away from this advice. Instead, he broke out of the Goshen Center for Boys with several other boys. Two hours later he was recaptured. What he had overlooked was that while in Goshen he had turned sixteen. Escaping from a penal institution was a felony for an adult, even a youth facility. He was sentenced to four years in a state prison. at was strike one. In prison, he fell in with some Black Muslims who gave Willie an idealistic context for his rage, particularly against whites. At this point, his relationship with Butch fell apart. He had his own way to go and his father, a fallen idol, was not going to be part of it. After serving four years, Willie was returned to the Division of Youth and placed in another facility for boys. When he turned twenty-one, he was released. He wanted to try to stay out of prison. He met a girl, Sharon Hayward, who had a child, and they decided to get married. He also enrolled in a community college and began to think about having a real future. He even started looking for a job. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. While visiting his sister one day, a man in her building had an encounter with Willie that ended up in a complaint that Willie had tried to rob him. When Willie explained that this was a misunderstanding, he was arrested. e whole thing seemed absurd but smelled of politics: Willie had gotten o too easy and the governor was taking the heat for his release. One way or another, Willie was going down. e system that had worked for so long in his favor was now reversing itself. His record now stayed with him and any little thing accumulated force. Although his juvenile record had been erased, he had developed a bad reputation with the law enforcement personnel. He was not getting o easy any longer. Willie's bail was too high for his family, so he stayed in jail pending his trial. While in court, an ocer put his hand on Willie to get him to move, and when he resisted, three ocers started to push him. Willie responded with obscenities and they pushed him against the defense table, which cracked under their weight, and the legs splintered o. One ocer clubbed him with a table leg. Willie's lawyer joined the fray, and when it was all over, Willie was charged with assault, resisting arrest, and criminal contempt of court. Willie got a felony conviction out of the trial, on the charge of attempted assault. With his escape attempt from Goshen, that was a second felony for him. Strike two. He was looking at three and a half to seven years. A third felony, no matter what it was, could get him twenty-ve to life under the 1965 persistent felony oender law. Willie had only been free for one hundred days. at was another turning point for him. Since going straight had gotten him nowhere, he decided to take on the system, become even more reckless. Once again, he felt he had nothing left to lose. He was destined for incarceration. At his sentencing hearing, Willie dismissed his lawyer and said he did not recognize the court's jurisdiction over him. He also said that he was not Willie Bosket, but Bobby Reed. e judge let him have his day in court, as preposterous as his claims were. In the end, the judge told him that he was a ticking time bomb, and gave him the maximum sentence, adding thirty days for court histrionics. Yet he still had to stand trial for his assault on the court ocers. He demanded once again to be his own lawyer. He put on such a show that the jury found him not guilty. He had beaten a third felony conviction. For the moment. In the meantime, Butch nally got out of prison and started on a new life. It was not long, however, before he molested a child in his care. He was arrested again. Desperate to get free, he tried to escape and died in a shoot-out with the police, taking his own life and killing his girlfriend before they could capture him. Willie heard about this and his belief was restored that his father was in fact a "bad man." To his mind, Butch had gone out in a blaze of glory. Now Willie was convinced he would never got out of prison alive. ey would keep him here forever if they could. He embarked on an all-out war against the system, targeting guards as symbols. Once of his many altercations resulted in further felony charges. Once again, he went pro se as his own defense. He had learned a lot about law and he knew he could win the jury. He did manage to elude many of the multiple charges, but was found guilty of arson and assault. Strike three. e three felony charges were all fairly minor: escape, attempted assault, and assault/arson. He could not understand how they added up to the same sentence someone got for murder. Nevertheless, that's what he got. He viewed that as a license to go to an extreme in everything he did. He was at war. At once point he stabbed a guard with a home-made knife, just barely missing the man's heart. For that he was tried for