Thursday, February 19, 2009

what's just

What's just? The nine year old Arizona boy who killed his father and his father's room-mate has plead guilty to 1 count of negligent homicide. This was a deal arranged by the prosecutor, who frankly had no idea what to do with a 9 year old killer. Neither does the judge, or the court system.

The family of the slain room-mate is unhappy with the decision. The child took away their family member, he planned the act, he carried it out, he understood the consequences enough to concoct an "alibi". The will serve no jail time, and may get to go home with his mother. The family feels this is unjust.

The problem -- what is just?

This is a little kid, 8 years old at the time of the murders. He told a case-worker he was not going to be spanked any more. He had been taught how to shoot by his father. Is fear of spanking self-defense? Is being 8 years old diminished capacity? Does a child understand consequences in the same way as an adult?

But there are two dead adults. What of them? Is it just that their killer walks free? Is it just to pay more attention to the perpetrator than we do to the victims?

Is fairness the same as justice? How do we decide? What best serves society, whom the laws are written to protect? How much weight do the various parties have in this? Do the living outweigh the dead?

How we mete out justice is a defining action of what we are as a people. So, what's just?

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