As most of you know I write about juvenile offenders on an almost daily basis. Not only have I written about school shootings but I’ve also written about such teenage murderers as Patrick Armstrong, Scott Dyleski, the Zarate brothers, and Esmie Tseng. So I like to think I have a little bit of knowledge on the subject.
I am of the opinion that most juvenile offenders know the difference between right and wrong and that most know that murder is wrong. That being said I have no problem whatsoever with teenage killers being tried as adults and being subject to adult sentences.
In California voters approved a law known as Proposition 115 which allows judges to sentence 16-year-olds who have committed murder with “special circumstances” to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The most infamous teen killer to receive that sentence was the aforementioned Scott Dyleski.
Scott Dyleski was tried and found guilty in the brutal slaying of Pam Vitale, the wife of famed criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz. Dyleski was 16 when he bludgeoned Pam Vitale to death with a piece of crown molding that he beat her with 39 times before carving a cross into her back. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Now a California politician, Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who also has a doctorate in child psychology, wants to repeal Proposition 115. He has proposed The California Juvenile Life Without Parole Reform Act which would block judges from sentencing minors to life without parole. Under the proposed legislation the most a teenage killer could receive is 25 years with parole. Yee believes that youthful offenders have the best chance of being rehabilitated.
I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve heard all the arguments. It’s always the same old buzz words and phrases. Rehabilitation, they’re not mature enough to understand their actions, they had hard childhoods, jail is not a deterrent. The Helen Lovejoy’s of the world who are always bemoaning “Won’t someone please think of the children?” never use the following words. Punishment, personal responsibility, or justice for the victim. They’re more concerned about the quality of life of the killer rather than the victim who has no life anymore. In my opinion rehabilitation in adults or teens is the exception rather than the norm. Proponents of this bill also claim it would help alleviate the prison population. Do you know what would be a surefire way to alleviate the prison population? If people stopped killing each other. So just because the prisons are crowded were supposed to lessen the burden on the killers? Logic like that would make Aristotle roll in his grave. Not only that teens are not as stupid as supporters of this new legislation make them out to be. Who do you go to when you can’t work a feature on your cell phone or computer? Especially with the degradation of parenting in our society teens are rushed into adulthood faster than ever.
Repealing Proposition 115 would be devastating in a state like California where gang violence is the most active in the country. All they would have to do is have their under 18 members carry out their killings so they’ll have shorter sentences if they get caught. California has also had its share of school shootings such as the Santana High School shooting. Again if Prop 115 was repealed school shooters like Andy Williams would have no deterrent whatsoever from creating another Columbine.
This isn’t the 1950’s anymore where the worst thing juveniles did was graffiti, shoplifting, or smoking. This is the 21st Century where unfortunately teens are more capable of killing than ever before. And I know this is cliché but I wonder how many supporters of The California Juvenile Life Without Parole Reform Act would still be supporters if one of their family were the victim of the teen murderer.
Justice is supposed to be for the victim not for the condemned.