I know, without a doubt, that someone - at least one person - will misinterpret this post to be an opinion on whether or not the death penalty is right or not. I also know that at least one person will try to make it a debate on liberals vs. conservatives.
If you're that person, you are wrong.
This is about figuring out when boys become men, and how to characterize young people who are just a couple years removed from outright childhood, but old enough that the old-school among us call them "young adults."
Earlier this week, a quartet of teenage numbnuts in Miami learned that they will be spared the death penalty, the ultimate adult punishment allowed by law, if they're convicted of murdering Washington Redskins up-and-comer Sean Taylor several months ago.
In case you don't have time to click the link, they decided to burglarize Taylor's home. They say they wanted money and stuff. But they brought a gun with them to do the job. Hmmm.
According to prior reporting and court records, the young crooks, who drove from the other side of Florida to commit their crime, didn't think anyone would be home. And yet they brought a gun. Hmmm.
Taylor was at home. And so was his girlfriend and young child. The youngest of this group, Eric Rivera Jr., was 17 at the time that he fired the fatal shot into Taylor, who brandished a machete in an apparent attempt to protect his girlfriend and child.
Because Rivera was under-aged at the time he committed murder, the U.S. Supreme Court says that he cannot face the death penalty, because executing "children" who kill is cruel and unusual. And because Rivera is ineligible to die for killing, the local court has decided that his co-defendants, all legal adults at ages 18 and up, will not face death for their roles in the murder.
I gotta tell you, even if you don't like the death penalty, you can't be comfortable with the notion that a violent 17-year-old is considered a child, unless that 17-year-old has diagnosable mental and emotional developmental issues. Everything I knew at 18 I knew at 17...the exception being my knowledge of women had increased ever so slightly by my 18th birthday.
Seriously though, when it comes to anything other than murder, most people will err on the side of adulthood when judging a 17-year-old's actions and his comprehension of those actions. But let a 17-year-old commit a wacked out crime, and he becomes "just a boy!"
A 17-year-old who's deemed to have good sense can join the military with his parents' or legal guardians' consent...and be trained to shoot big guns in defense of country. A 17-year-old can get a driver's license and drive a car, which if not handled properly can turn into a deadly weapon. A 17-year-old can drive recklessly and get pulled over for it, and be held directly responsible for his actions, without consideration for his age. A 17-year-old can make a baby. A 17-year-old can work and hold a credit card and a bank account.
And, without so much as an afterthought most of us would describe that stuff as adult behavior. This 17-year-old and his friends had the wits about them to plan a burglary...and bring a gun along.
So, whether you're for execution or against, keep your blood pressure down. This isn't about the punishment itself. It's about how old you have to be, before you can no longer say with a straight face you don't get it. Face it: there's a problem with the fact that this young "man" considered himself grown enough to commit the ultimate crime, but he is not considered grown enough to face the ultimate punishment. Again, I'd say the same if the ultimate punishment was just a few months at Club Med.
Yeah, yeah. We have to protect our kids. I know. But this kid doesn't need protecting. He has a gun to protect himself.