Lecturer Draws Link Between Poverty and Crime

El Vaquero Staff Writer

“The American story is about poor boys who find opportunity on every street corner, but poor boys are more likely to get the death penalty,” said Professor of history, human development and gender studies Joan Jacobs Brumberg. In the Humanities / Social Science Lecture Series yesterday, the author of Kansas Charley discussed youth violence and the severe form of punishment.

The majority of the lecture focused on the life of “boy murderer” Charles Miller, and his consequence for the murder of two men in 1892. Brumberg’s thorough study of Miller’s case the issues of youth violence to adolescents today.

Miller, who later identified himself as “Kansas Charley,” is portrayed as a juvenile with a lack of security in a poverty-stricken past. Brumberg described his unfortunate fate as an abused orphan after his mother died of an abortion procedure and his father committed suicide. “Kansas Charley” spent most of his childhood in the New York Orphan Asylum and later escaped homes.

The 15-year-old adolescent decided to relocate to Wyoming, in search of a successful future. After his incident in Omaha where Miller was gang raped by several men, he purchased a small and cheap gun for protection. Instead, two other men who befriended Miller by not sharing food with him, became the victims of his aggression. Brumberg said, “The murders were fueled by hunger and alcohol,” since Miller had not eaten for the three days.

While Miller had robbed watches and stolen $40 from the victims, his getaway was short lived. After confessing to his brother Fred, Miller turned himself into authorities and was immediately gained the attention of the media. The trial was unfair was Miller had no lawyer and had to represent himself while prosecutors depicted Miller as, “ragged, dirty and smelly,” to the judge and jury.

Although Miller was executed by April 1892, the issue of misbehavior in adolescents is a current problem. Brumberg said, “I don’t want to glamorize Charles

Brumberg refers to this as, “a familiar script,” and the death penalty should be exempted for adolescents due to age.

“It is obvious that poor kids that fall through the safty net get in big trouble.”