Last year when two-year-old Jamie Bulger was murdered by two eight-year-olds in England, people were outraged and saddened. Even more recently an eight-year-old in upstate New York killed his four-year-old neighbor.
In each case, one thing stands out. The people representing these young killers say these children were victims of abuse or traumatic experiences which drove them to kill.
But should claims of abuse and mental instability alone be a reason to give these little murderers a second chance? Do they deserve it? Most people would say, "Yes, they are children."
When Susan Smith confessed to the murder of her two sons, everyone was (and is) ready to hang her without trying to figure out why. Susan Smith is obviously mentally unstable and the victim of sexual abuse as a child. That doesn't make what she did acceptable by any means, but it points to a frightening possibility.
Is there a double standard when cases such as these arise? Do children who kill and claim these excuses get off easier? Is that true justice? Many people say that adults are capable of making correct decisions. Is anyone who is mentally unstable capable of making a correct decision? Most likely not. But why do we pity children who claim abuse or mental instability and then condemn adults who claim the same mental illness?
When a double standard like this exists, we are letting killers get off easy because they are under eighteen and have experienced mental stress. Everyone has had bad things happen to them. Murder is murder and, regardless of your age, you must face the maximum consequences for your actions. ?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.