Buddha once said, "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

Whether or not Tiffany Hamilton ever heard that, the Des Moines mother understands the self-defeating course of staying angry, especially at someone you love.

Two days after the accidental shooting death of her son, Corey, 16, on Oct. 12, Hamilton publicly embraced the mother of his killer and forgave him.

Now she's imploring Polk County authorities not to compound the pain by sending his best friend, Dontavius Sharkey, the 15-year-old shooter, off to prison with adult killers. That's not how she would honor Corey.

Dontavius turned 16 three days after the shooting. Under the law, adulthood begins at 18. But Polk County Attorney John Sarcone wants to try him as an adult for involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm.

Dontavius did not know the gun was loaded. He shouldn't have been playing with it, nor should a child have access to a gun in the first place. It's unclear whose weapon it was, but as Hamilton says, that's who should be charged, for letting it get into a child's hands.

"He's just a child, and he's going to live with it for the rest of his life," she said.

If even the victim's mother recognizes the shooting was an accident, why should the prosecutor try to make more of the case than it deserves?

Unfortunately, it's the knee-jerk response we have come to expect from Sarcone, who routinely asks judges to try juveniles as adults if someone died.

That's simplistic. It evades the necessary work of evaluating the circumstances, intent, maturity level and prospects for rehabilitation. The court system treats children differently and has special correctional facilities for them, because children do not have the impulse control, reasoning, knowledge or experience that adults do.

Rather than routinely trying to push children who accidentally killed someone into adult prisons, from which they will emerge (if at all) damaged, embittered, and without social or employment skills, prosecutors should reserve that option for the most heinous crimes. That means those that show a pattern of malicious or lawless behavior that couldn't be fixed in a juvenile correctional facility.

But that's not Sarcone's approach.

In 2003, he tried to have 16-year-old Franklin Sylalom prosecuted as an adult for vehicular homicide. The Laotian student caused a car accident that killed three of his friends. The crash happened two months after getting his license. He had been speeding, but hadn't used drugs or alcohol, and there was no criminal intent.

A conviction would have gotten him at least 10 years in prison. A prudent judge opted for 18 months of probation instead.

Five years earlier, however, Sarcone was more sympathetic to a Maytag executive who was driving between 77 and 82 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone.

Arthur Learmonth was passing in a no-passing zone when he slammed into a car, killing a new father heading home from the hospital and his 1-year-old daughter. The mother was hospitalized for nearly two months.

Police thought criminal charges should be filed. But Sarcone sent that case to a grand jury, which declined to indict Learmonth.

Nor did Sarcone file charges against the two bouncers who suffocated Charles Lovelady in 2000 at Graffiti's, a nightclub, in a skirmish over a dress code. Even after the Polk County medical examiner labeled Lovelady's death a homicide, Sarcone handed the case off to a grand jury. He protected the bouncers, Jeff Portman and Tom Dueber, by refusing to release their names. They were indicted by the grand jury but were acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

The county attorney has enormous discretion on whom to charge and how. Sarcone should make reasoned judgments rather than expect judges or grand juries to carry out his agenda for him.

A woman who worked in a Boys & Girls Club program with Dontavius when he was younger wrote to Sarcone's office urging that the youth not be charged as an adult.

"I think we all know that if he goes to prison his future is in the garbage can, so to speak," wrote Amalia Riordan. "Not to mention the abuses and horrors he could suffer while being so young in prison."

Sarcone's office responded, saying her input was appreciated and would be forwarded to the proper person. But the letter said it was up to a judge to decide whether the case would move forward in adult court or juvenile court.

That's only because Sarcone asked the judge to try Dontavius as an adult. That indiscriminate response has got to stop. And this tragedy should end at one lost life instead of two.