Reward and Punishment Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Reward and Punishment

The American system of justice is designed to ensure that criminal activity is punished and those responsible for crime are made to serve retribution for their choices. The system is based on the idea that it is better for 100 criminals to get away with crime than for one innocent man to go to prison. However, miscarriages of justice still take place in the American justice system. Innocent people go to prison and guilty people go free. Those unsatisfied with the situation have been known to take matters into their own hands. This vigilantism has been a major topic of debate with regard to ethics and the determination of what is morally right or wrong. The system is designed so that the regular everyday citizen does not have to perform the punishment on the criminals. The severity of a crime is supposed to have a direct correlation on the punishment of the criminal. However, there are also other considerations which are made when determining the proper amount of jail time for an illegal activity, if any. Among these considerations are the age of the defendant and circumstances surrounding the crime, such as whether or not the action was in self-defense. More and more, the psychology of the perpetrator has been used to determine how culpable an individual is in their own behavior and this is used with the other criteria to create a fairly lenient justice system. It is one thing to observe these facts in vague detail, but another when they are applied to a real-world situation.

On December 17, 2000, in the city of Fresno, California, Alejandro Escanero, age 69, was attacked and robbed by several young men. His assailants beat him severely and left him in the street. Police found Escanero at nearly 6:00 PM and he died of his injuries a few hours later at University Medical Center. Initially, it was believed that the attack was directed at Escanero because his son was a police officer and so people angry at the policeman had retaliated on the innocent old man. This, however, proved to not be the case at all. The motivation for the beating was not retaliation, but simple robbery. One of the assailants was found to be one Raheem Rashad Muhammad and three of his comrades.

When the whole story came to light, it was made known that the attackers were all under the age of 19. Muhammad was 18 and his three relatives were aged 12, 10, and 9. Under the California state law, their crime was murder during the perpetration of a crime, making these some of the youngest murder defendants in state history. The public was understandable upset and many felt that because of the age of the defendants, there should be leniency. In the state of California, children under the age of seven cannot be prosecuted on criminal charges. Anyone under the age of fourteen must be tried as a juvenile defendant. Only Muhammad could be tried as an adult.

Chief Juvenile Prosecutor T. Worthington Vogel had an understandably difficult decision to make: whether or not to pursue these defendants based on the nature of their crimes or on the basis of their individual circumstances. What he eventually determined was to not prosecute the nine-year-old. The twelve and ten-year-olds would be tried as juveniles and Muhammad would be tried as an adult, meaning that he could face the death penalty in the state of California. If they are convicted, the younger children could be in prison until after their 25th birthdays. All four were responsible for the crime and yet there are very different punishments in store for the perpetrators. How is this fair that one person faces death for the crime and another will…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited:

Thiroux, Jacques P. And Keith W. Krasemann (2008). Ethics: Theory and Practice. Prentice Hall.

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