Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Death Penalty and Teenagers; What should the age limit be?

The topic of the Death Penalty is one that spawns as much argument from both sides of the coin as any other.  Both sides of the fence are adamant in their view and feel they are backed by facts, faith and opinion.  Just to add some serious gas to the open flame, where do you stand on the juvenile death penalty?  What is the age the death penalty should be applicable?  If you commit the crime at a certain age, should that make you eligible to receive a ride on the lightning?imagesa

In 2005 the US Supreme court ruled that anyone under the age of 18 when they committed their crime would not be eligible for the death penalty.  The case that went to the Supreme Court to establish this ruling is a case from right here in Jefferson County Missouri.  It involved Christopher Simmons, 17 at the time, and a couple of younger accomplices.  They broke in to the Fenton home of Shirley Crook, duct taped her mouth bound her to a chair and then threw her into the Meramec River and let her drown.  Simmons was sentenced to death and then later had it commuted to life after the Supreme Court ruling.

So that brings me back to what age to do you begin to be responsible for your actions?  I am a proponent of the death penalty.  I don’t think we use it enough.  However, when it comes to juveniles committing murder, I am not sure where I stand.  Honestly I think it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. The competency of the individual should be looked at in each case.  I don’t think there should be the broad brush stroke of kill ‘em all or don’t kill any of them.  It needs to be looked at.

s-BUSTAMANTE-largeLast year, we were all shocked when Alyssa Bustamante 15,   killed the 9 year old girl from the neighborhood.  Why did she do it?  Because she wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone.  She wrote in her diary how much of a thrill it had been.  She also talked about how she had planned it and pre-dug graves to put her in.  She was sentenced to life WITH the possibility of parole.  This was a premeditated.  It fits the criteria for a capital punishment case.  Should she receive it?  She said she was sorry.  Is she sorry she did it or sorry she got caught?  Do you think there is a chance for her to reform her thought process and someday be productive in society?  Does she deserve the chance?  I know how I would feel if it was my daughter she killed for the thrill of it.

When I became a cop in 1994 the first 4 inmates I dealt with for homicide were all under the age of 18.  Two of them killed a girl because she was fat.  They stuffed her body in a luggage carrier on a car and drove south with it and then eventually dumped her in a ditch.  One was a girl, she stabbed her mother to death because she was mad.  Another killed his baby by slapping his head on the floor until it popped.  They all received various sentences.  The slime that killed his baby is already out and has been out for years.  There is no doubt the age of the people committing the crimes played a part in their sentences.  Out of all of them the only one I ever saw show in remorse for what they had done was the girl that killed her mother.  The two that killed the girl, they would laugh openly about what they had done.  It made them cool.  The baby killer, well he is another whole story.  His Facebook page lists spending time with his kids his favorite thing to do.  I wonder if that includes the one he beat to death? 

So I don’t know where I stand on the juvenile death penalty.  I think there is an age when it is too young.  But I know the ones that I personally had interaction with would have prime candidates to be strapped to the table.  I don’t think abolishing it is the answer. It is truly in the gray area. 

011 On a side note, Chris Simmons when in the county jail would walk by the other suspects that helped him throw Crook into the river and would laugh.  He follow it up with saying, “bubble bubble.”  I don’t think he was very remorseful either.

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