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Thirteen Year-old Boy Sentenced To 28 Years In Adult Prison

An Article By Terence T. Gorski
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Published On: <DATE>          Updated On: August 07, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Thirteen Year-old Boy Sentenced To 28 Years In Adult Prison

A good man, Barry Grunow was shot to death at Lake Worth Middle School on May 26, 2000.  Today the horror of his death was compounded by the brutality and short-sightedness of a criminal justice system that fails to recognize child developmental issues in dealing with children and adolescence.  Nathan Brazill,  the thirteen year old murderer, was sentenced to 28 years in adult prison.  His history of child abuse counted for little or nothing in the criminal proceedings.  The key villain in this tragedy is not Nathaniel Brazill who shot his teacher to death in a fit of anger.  The key villains are

Let's look at exactly what punishment that

We have a serious problem with how we treat juvenile offenders in this country and the Brazill case is just one example.  There are at least three things that need to be done:  

First, the responsibility for decided who is tried as an adult and who is tried as a juvenile should shift from the prosecutor to the judge;  

Second, All youth should be tried in the juvenile justice system who are under the age of sixteen years old.


Fla. Teen Gets 28 Years for Killing

Associated Press Writer
JULY 27, 2001

Amanda Riddle of the Associated Press reported that an July 27, 2001, Nathaniel Brazill was sentenced to 28 years in adult prison.  Brazill, who was thirteen years old at the time, shot his favorite teacher to death when he went into a rage on the last day of school.  The victim, Barry Grunow was shot to death at Lake Worth Middle School on May 26, 2000

Brazill, who was tried as an adult, was sentenced to 28-years sentence without the possibility of parole or time off for good behavior.  In issuing the sentence, Judge Wennet had to decide whether the teen would be a danger to society or could be rehabilitated. But he made no public comment on his reasoning for imposing the 28-year sentence.  To add the absurdity of this, sentence the judge also ordered Brazill to earn his high school diploma, take an anger management course, and spend two years in a halfway house after completing his sentence. He also will serve five years' probation.

Defense lawyer Robert Udell said the family will appeal and will not seek clemency until the appeals process was completed.  The defense had sought the minimum 25-year term. Brazill's family rejected a plea deal of 25 years offered by prosecutors before the trial.

Kay Grunow, the victim's sister, said she was ``extremely disappointed'' with the sentence, calling it ``an insult to Barry's memory.''  

Brazill was tried as an adult and convicted in May of second-degree murder for killing the 35-year-old English teacher he called a ``great man and a great teacher.''  Brazill had returned to school after being suspended by a counselor earlier that day for throwing water balloons. He shot Grunow after the teacher refused to let the seventh-grader talk to two girls in his class.

At a daylong sentencing hearing Thursday, Brazill apologized for the first time, telling the judge: ``Words cannot really explain how sorry I am, but they're all I have.''  Brazill insisted, however, as he did during his trial, that he didn't mean to hurt his teacher.

In urging a life sentence, Grunow's mother and two brothers said Brazill was a danger to society and must be punished for the murder.  ``This was not an accident. I think Nathaniel should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,'' Phyllis Grunow, the victim's mother, said at Thursday's hearing. ``I don't think any family should have to go through this.''

Brazill's mother, Polly Powell, also testified Thursday, sobbing and wiping away tears as she asked the Grunow family for forgiveness and begged the judge to be lenient.

``Nathaniel is my first born and I love him like nobody else can. I just ask you that you please have mercy on him,'' Powell said.  A defense witness testified that Brazill was a ``pot boiling over'' following his suspension and after years of silence about physical abuse of his mother by boyfriends.  ``All this other stuff was exploding inside of him,'' said Jacqueline Patterson, deputy superintendent of Milwaukee schools.

Asked why Grunow was targeted, child psychologist James Gabarino, a Cornell University professor, testified that Brazill was in such a frenzy over his love life and the suspension that who the victim was ``may not have mattered.''

Prosecutor Marc Shiner asked for a life sentence, but made a second recommendation of 40 years in prison and probation should the judge not sentence Brazill to life.  ``This young man deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail without parole,'' Shiner said. ``That's the only way we can be sure he won't hurt someone again.''

About the Author

Terence T. Gorski is internationally recognized for his contributions to Relapse Prevention Therapy. The scope of his work, however, extends far beyond this. A skilled cognitive behavioral therapist with extensive training in experiential therapies, Gorski has broad-based experience and expertise in the chemical dependency, behavioral health, and criminal justice fields.

To make his ideas and methods more available, Gorski opened The CENAPS Corporation, a private training and consultation firm of founded in 1982.  CENAPS is committed to providing the most advanced training and consultation in the chemical dependency and behavioral health fields.

Gorski has also developed skills training workshops and a series of low-cost book, workbooks, pamphlets, audio and videotapes. He also works with a team of trainers and consultants who can assist individuals and programs to utilize his ideas and methods.
Terry Gorski is available for personal and program consultation, lecturing, and clinical skills training workshops. He also routinely schedules workshops, executive briefings, and personal growth experiences for clinicians, program managers, and policymakers.

Mr. Gorski holds a B.A. degree in psychology and sociology from Northeastern Illinois University and an M.A. degree from Webster's College in St. Louis, Missouri.  He is a Senior Certified Addiction Counselor In Illinois.  He is a prolific author who has published numerous books, pamphlets and articles.  Mr. Gorski routinely makes himself available for interviews, public presentations, and consultant.  He has presented lectures and conducted workshops in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  

For books, audio, and video tapes written and recommended by Terry Gorski contact: Herald House - Independence Press, P.O. Box 390 Independence, MO 64055.  Telephone: 816-521-3015 0r 1-800-767-8181.  His publication website is

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