The Case Of The Child Rapist

Amy Bach brings us, via Joe Harris Sullivan, something much tougher than Cameron Todd Willingham:

Here's what we do know happened. One May morning in 1989, Sullivan, then 13, and two older teens, Nathan McCants, 17, and Michael Gulley, 15, burglarized a home in Pensacola, Fla. They left with jewelry and coins. Later that day, someone returned to the house and found a 72-year-old woman, threw a black slip over her head, made her lie on her bed, and raped her orally and vaginally--so brutally that she had to have corrective surgery.

Sullivan was  sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. He had some pretty bad legal representation, as well as a judge and prosecutor who seem below standard and it also seems possible that one of the other boys actually committed the rape.

It's very hard for me to sort my way through this toward a definite point. The crime is horrendous. And you can't really guarantee that everyone ever charged is going to have a great lawyer, a great judge, and an ethical prosecutor.

But there is a central question here--Does a civilized society sentence children to prison for life? We know from neuroscience that a child's brain is different from an adult's brain, in terms of weight consequences. Yet I look at the details of this case, and I find it hard to muster sympathy. And even as I say that, I know that sympathy should be beside the point.

Anyway I don't post this as a fully formed opinion, but as something worth discussing. Let's try to be respectful and not jump down people's throats, on this one.

UPDATE: Amy Bach wrote this piece, not Dahlia. Sorry Amy!