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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Juveniles sentenced to life should have way out of prison

Judge the accused, but show mercy

Thank you for the editorial “Give juvenile ‘lifers’ a path out of prison,” [Opinion, March 3].

You are right to say that punishments of this sort should not be driven by “inflammatory anecdote.”

Unfortunately, too often “inflammatory anecdote” is used by prosecutors to arouse high emotions in a jury. “Inflammatory anecdote” is nothing less than an effort to manipulate the state to exact the most severe possible vengeance on behalf of the victim. This is morally wrong and should be legally wrong as well. Vengeance has been banned from our justice system for centuries.

But the morality of giving life-without-parole sentences turns out to be bad twice over. Not only does the defendant find the door slammed in his or her face, the public finds the door to a change of heart, to acts of mercy, slammed in its face. It makes no sense to declare that today’s morality is and will always be better than that of anyone in the future.

It is right to stand in judgment of the accused. But however we judge our future, it is wrong to deny them their right to show mercy.

–Jeff Smith, Seattle

0 Comments | More in crime/justice | Topics: House Bill 1338, Juveline detention, life sentences

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