Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Age vs. Justice: Prosecutorial Triple Standards

In October, I wrote an op-ed on the practice of “trying juveniles as adults,” citing the case of 14-year-old Philip Chism. The Andover, Massachusetts teen stands accused of killing 24-year-old teacher Colleen Ritzer.

As I pointed out in that previous piece, politicians and prosecutors (but I repeat myself) enjoy a double standard under which those previously legally defined as “children” because they’re younger than an arbitrary number can suddenly and magically transform into “adults” when they’re accused of committing a crime and when a politician or prosecutor (but I repeat myself again) sees possible political advantage in a sensational trial.

I didn’t know it at the time, but characterizing this regime as a “double standard” doesn’t even come close in Chism’s case. As the Associated Press now reports, “Chism is charged with murder as an adult. He is charged as a youthful offender on aggravated rape and armed robbery charges, which are pending in juvenile court.”

Try and wrap your brain around that: Chism was (and still is) considered a “child” for purposes of driving, voting, drinking, signing contracts and having sex. But standing accused of three crimes, committed at the same time, in the same place, against the same person, he is simultaneously an “adult” for one crime and a “child” for the other two.

Whoever came up with this idiotic claim needs a remedial course in logic, with an emphasis on the law of non-contradiction (Aristotle: “It is not possible to say truly at the same time that the same thing is and is not a man”). In fact, I’m tempted to recommend Avicenna’s corrective (“Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned”).

Philip Chism is either a child or an adult. He cannot be both at the same time and in the same respect. The double standard of treating him as a child for some purposes and an adult for others is bad enough, but it’s at least an apples and oranges kind of thing. This TRIPLE standard, where he’s considered simultaneously a child and an adult, one and then the other for only slightly different parts of a closely connected set of alleged actions, completely belies the claim that what the state’s functionaries are seeking in this case is “justice.”

The obvious remedy to the child/adult problem in criminal prosecutions is to remove such determinations from the hands of prosecutors, judges and politicians (but I repeat myself a third time!). Instead of letting politicians draw numbers out of hats, then ignore those numbers when convenient, allow juries to examine, and determine to their own satisfaction the competency of, those accused of crimes (and those unwillingly co-opted as “victims,” too). Leaving justice in the hands of politicians and of the inherently unjust institutions we call “states” is a mistake with deadly and traumatizing consequences.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail