Life without hope

Life without hope: America’s child prisoners - Weekend Guardian

This story is a distressing read; it is about people locked up for life without parole as juveniles in the USA, in particular Michigan, although such a sentence is mandatory in at least one other US state which has no death penalty. Most of them are people who committed, or participated in, murders as disturbed teenagers, one of them as young as 14. One of them also appears to have been the victim of a racially prejudiced jury. I agree with the general sentiment that sentencing people to life without parole for crimes committed at that age makes no sense; judges and even some of the victims’ families agree, but it seems politicians don’t.

The first case, however, is of an entirely different order. If the facts are as delivered in this article, the young woman (Nicole Dupure), who was jailed for supposedly participating in a murder committed by her then boyfriend, who implicated her as part of a plea bargain which saw him jailed for 20 to 50 years for second-degree murder. She claimed that she was in a nearby diner while the murder happened. The only evidence against her came from her ex-boyfriend, in exchange for a reduced sentence. (News reports I was able to Google up say she was married; I’m not sure if this was to him or to someone else. If it was to someone else, I don’t doubt that this would have influenced the murderer’s decisions as well.)

Much is made of Dupure’s youth in this article - which is understandable given that she was chosen because she was very near to the beginning of her sentence; another subject was a 70-year-old who has been in jail since his teens, although he appears to have been too sick to give an interview. The interviewer does not record asking Ms Dupure if she is innocent or if she intends to appeal, but mostly about how she deals with knowing that she will spend her life in jail, something she seems to accept will happen. The fact that there was no worthwhile evidence against her, and that she is almost certainly innocent, was mentioned but not given much emphasis. For my part, I think her youth is not that important, particularly given that she came from a stable home; 17-year-olds are capable of taking responsibility for their actions - in many societies they are already considered adults. (She is not the only person in Michigan to have suffered something similar; see the blog run by the friends of Efren Paredes, who has been in jail since 1989 because of similarly unreliable testimony.)

As a Muslim, I feel I should point out that the testimony of a man of known evil character with something to gain from his testimony and, quite possibly, a grudge against the defendant, would have been dismissed out of hand in a (genuine) Shari’a court.

Also: by Izzy Mo, a link to an article about a group of Afro-American teenagers being threatened with attempted murder charges over a school playground fight which barely injured the victim.

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