Musings on today’s local news

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that a nine-year old girl playing in her back yard was grabbed by a would-be kidnapper. He was described as a black man wearing a mask, jacket, and blue jeans. A Highway Patrol canine unit failed to locate the suspect.

The Tribune also reports that a 13-year middle-school student waiting for a school bus was dragged towards the woods in Riverside, a suburb of Kansas City. Cries from others nearby caused him to flee the scene. He was described as Hispanic, in his thirties, 5’8″ tall, with a thin goatee.

Do any of us not believe that these men will attempt future kidnappings and that they will eventually be successful? What would be an appropriate penalty had these men been apprehended?

TV station KOMU, the outlet for the University of Missouri’s journalism school, carried a story about mandatory sentences of life without parole for people convicted of first-degree murder. A recent Federal Supreme Court ruling states that this policy is cruel & unusual punishment when applied to criminals younger than nineteen. The TV coverage centered largely on an interview with one Eddie George. Given the extent of the coverage, one might think he was being portrayed as the victim of an unjust system, not as a vicious mrderer. Sixteen at the time of the premeditated murder in 2006, George now claims he is no longer the same person. But for a previous Supreme Court decision (which reversed an earlier one,) he would likely now reside on death row.

It should not be the business of the US Supreme Court to overrule state law in this manner. Life sentences are far from unusual. Nor are our prison conditions cruel. Far from it. These issues should be left to the states and not federalized by unelected judges. Chronological age is an uncertain guide for serious decisions in cases of horrific murder.

Most journalistic coverage of issues like this one neglects to consider justice, which should be the primary concern. Not someone’s age, murderer or victim, not the prisoner’s possibly having changed for the better, not claims he was created that way. Justice should be served, first and foremost.

Child predators and pedophiles are notorious for indulging their murderous and sadistic sexual fantasies until well into their seventies. Is the death penalty not an appropriate response and just punishment? Would not any other punishment be unjust?

We hope that Mr George is indeed somehow reformed. But it is disingenuous to claim that he is not the same person who wielded the knife on his best friend’s mother. The sentence is just. Should he not simply accept it and work on his own redemption within the penitentiary? He is barely four years away from the trial. Our justice system already has a method for him to gain parole: the Governor has been given that authority precisely to handle cases such as George’s may turn out to be far in the future. Mr George should be grateful that having been spared the death penalty he now has the opportunity to do much good while in prison. The media should bring the concept of justice to the fore in their reporting. Empathy with murderers is very bad form.

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