Right before the holidays the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that life without parole for minors is unconstitutional. Not just mandatory LWOP but LWOP in general. Once again the argument of a teen’s brain not being fully developed was used as the reasoning behind the decision.
“Simply put, because the brain of a juvenile is not fully developed, either structurally or functionally, by the age of eighteen, a judge cannot find with confidence that a particular offender, at that point in time, is irretrievably depraved,” the court wrote. “Therefore, it follows that the judge cannot ascertain, with any reasonable degree of certainty, whether imposition of this most severe punishment is warranted.”
So what does this mean? It means a cold-blooded killer like John Odgren could one day be free. If you’ll recall Odgren was sentenced to life without parole after stabbing James Alenson to death at the age of 16 in a bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. Odgren had an unhealthy obsession with knives and crime scene forensics and often bragged to classmates that he could commit the perfect crime. He was recorded in prison conversations with his parents admitting that it should only be manslaughter since he didn’t know his victim.
Then there’s 14-year-old Philip Chism of Danvers High School who is accused of not only slitting the throat of his teacher, Colleen Ritzer, but also allegedly raping her with a tree branch.
Of course the brains of teenagers are not fully developed. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know the difference between right and wrong. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know the difference between life and death. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know that murder is wrong. If the brains of teens are so undeveloped that this isn’t common knowledge then they shouldn’t be allowed on the streets. The reality is that these teens have an overinflated sense of self-worth and feel that the world owes them something and with this ruling the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court just enforces that misguided notion.
Before I die I’m afraid we’ll see a society where no one is held responsible for their actions anymore.