Wednesday, March 02, 2005


The Supreme Court, that is, with one doozy of a decision just handed down and another contentious one in the wings.

According to this fine AP wireservice article in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court declared Tuesday it is unconstitutional to execute killers under age 18, a landmark ruling that is expected to remove 72 inmates from death row.

The 5-4 decision forbids death sentences against killers who committed their crimes before turning 18. The court found that a growing “national consensus” opposes the practice and that juveniles, because of their immaturity and vulnerability, should not be subjected to the state’s ultimate punishment.
Lee Boyd Malvo, he of the 2002 Washington-area sniper killings, is rejoicing, as are Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal. You may not know their names, but as a former Houston resident, I do. It was in 1993 that two young girls, taking a shortcut home to beat their curfew, ran afoul of a gang of teenage thugs near the railroad tracks by T. C. Jester Park. The girls, 14 and 16, were brutalized, gang-raped, and murdered. Perez and Villareal were sentenced to die for their roles in this heinousness...a more-than-appropriate punishment, in my mind, and hardly cruel and unusual considering the horror these...turds inflicted upon the two doomed girls. But now, they get to live out their lives.

Maybe this particular case strikes too close to home for me. We lived in Houston then, and Elder Daughter was the same age as the younger of the two victims. It chills the blood.

There’s nothing magic about the age of 18. I believe that life-and-death decisions affecting juvenile criminals should be made by the judge and jury familiar with the particulars of the case. Juveniles may indeed be less culpable than adults, but I believe certain acts merit certain consequences, regardless of the age of the person committing them. A blanket decision by SCOTUS does not begin to address the facts in each case; it makes for weak justice and societal disconnection.

Let justice be tempered by mercy, but recognize that allowing predators to live among us has its price as well. Let’s remember the victims, for they do not get to walk, eat, and breathe - as their murderers do.

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