what is just?

David 1

A Question of Sentencing

by David Childress

How should we quantify the length of a sentence? Once decided, the second question is does the country have the manpower to suffice? I believe that is the problem. That and lack of desire for just punishment.

For example, two murders stand trial. One is a sociopath and sadist who enjoys inflicting pain. He had no reason other than his enjoyment to kill. The other was an ordinary guy. Ordinary except for how his wife was raped and in a fit of rage, he mauled the perpetrator to death the next day when he found out.

Nearly everyone can understand, even sympathize, with the second guy. Some people would probably think about doing the same if they placed themselves in the same situation.

How do you determine the sentence? In Texas, man #2 would get the same charge–1st degree murder because he had more than 5 seconds after the circumstance triggering the murder to “cool off.” Is it a moral or legal reason why man # 2 would elicit sympathy for, say, 10 years rather than 60?

Now let’s muddy the water. Two more murderers. One is a guy who killed his wife for an insurance claim. Proof? He often spoke of this to a few friends who came forward. He showed a lack of sadness for the death. They found a gun with matching ballistics and all. He’s 35 years old. The other is a 14 year-old kid. He helped kill his mother. He was physically, mentally, and sexually abused all his life by her. The evidence is subtle, not concrete to prove. He is shy, terribly underweight, has a slew of neurosis and esteem issues. His neighbors hear loud shouting and banging a lot. He is reported to have said tidbits of his abuse to people. However, like many studies have shown, it wasn’t “officially documented”; out of abuse victim mentality, fear, guilt, and shame prevented it from being told. But it’s all there: no friends, awkwardness, bruising and scars, acting out in school, everything which a solid database from psychologists and government agencies publicly taught are signs of abuse.

To compound this, studies also show, consistently, that adolescents have not fully developed reasoning skills. Ritalin, which he was taking, also shows to give rise to anger issues and mood swings. Man #1 gets 10 years, had a good lawyer, case closed. Kid # 2 had no one, no money, a public defender, and gets 40 years. Was this justice?

Imprisonment serves two purposes. Ideally: to punish crimes and to house dangers to society. The second reason is ignored. Justice is flaunted in the face of money and political red tape. If a person like kid # 2 has spent 10 years, learned his lesson and is not dangerous, should he still be in prison?

Well, I’m that second kid. I’m the one who was next door to you getting molested by his mother, being starved, while others were at home eating supper and watching TV. I was unable to express myself. I was in danger. My life was hell. Stress and other factors plagued me. So I did what seemed reasonable to take myself out of the danger. No one else helped and the police covered up a call I made while I had a bloody face and purple neck. But I got 40 years.

There are a lot of people like me who committed crimes with reasons. Some got more time than dangerous people with money to bribe court officials and hire great lawyers. So now ask yourself again. How is justice served? How do we decide how much time to give a person? Should the extenuating circumstances be reinvestigated and considered? Should people be allowed release if they show they’re ready? Or should the arbitrary sentence imposed be allowed to stand?


David Childress has served 10 years of a 40-year sentence in Texas for killing his abusive mother at the age of 14. Dave’s story can be found here in his own words.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Marina and the Diamonds featuring Charlie XCX performing “Just Desserts”


Weather Report

44° Overcast, Windy, and Snow Flurries in the Night!

Accumulation – “Winter Wonderland” for a half-day.


3 Responses to “what is just?”

  1. January 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    “Selon que vous serez puissant ou misérable, la justice de cour vous rendra blanc ou noir” – Depending on whether you are powerful or miserable, justice court will make you white or black – said in his time the fabulist Jean de La Fontaine. Even if things have evolved since the 17th century, this maxim remains no less a truth, regardless of the country.

  2. 2 Inside Out
    January 22, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    As always, Dan, thanks!

  3. 3 Daryl Watton
    January 23, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    David would love to receive some comments on his essay topic and a cheery letter of support. Please write him at David Childress #1386836; Clemens Unit; 11034 Highway 36; Brazoria, TX; 77422; USA. He’s a very polite and eloquent writer and I’ve enjoyed his pen pal letters for over a year now.

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