No Remorse," about the sentencing of adolescent murderers who do not have the same sorts of life experience that would cause them to realize the consequences of their behavior. These teenagers typically do not show the right amount of "remorse" in the minds of some, and are consequently labeled sociopaths, sentenced to life in prison.
The expectation that defendants will display remorse either shortly after their crimes or never is generally accepted as common sense. In a Columbia Law Review study of cases of juveniles charged with violent crimes, the Emory law professor Martha Grace Duncan found that youths who failed to express their contrition promptly and appropriately, as adults would, were often penalized for showing “less grief than the system demands.” In many cases, she writes, the juveniles appeared to be in shock or in a kind of dissociative state and failed to appreciate the permanence of what they had done. “Less under the sway of the reality principle,” they were more prone than adults to engage in forms of denial. But prosecutors and judges interpreted their strange reactions—falling asleep after the crime, giggling, rapping—as signs of irreparable depravity. Duncan found that courts looked for remorse in “psychologically naïve ways, without regard for defense mechanisms, developmental stages, or the ambiguity that inheres in human behavior.”
One of Dakotah’s closest friends, Christina Wardlaw, who sat through the trial, told me that she had to suppress the urge to laugh as she listened to Dakotah’s recorded conversations with the police. “He still saw himself as the same old Dakotah, jabbering and singing and making jokes,” she said. “He had no idea what he’d become.”
Dakotah’s reaction, with its apparent remorselessness, less than three hours after shooting his grandfather, was discussed by three witnesses for the prosecution. It also figured in the jurors’ deliberations. They asked to view Dakotah’s videotaped conversation with the detective again, and an hour after watching the tape, and just three hours after beginning deliberations, they announced that Dakotah was guilty of first-degree homicide.
One juror told me that several people on the jury were troubled by Dakotah’s youth, but they’d been instructed that if the evidence indicated that the offense was premeditated and deliberate the crime was first-degree murder. Age had no place in that calculus. As is required under Michigan law, the jury was not informed that the conviction carried the automatic penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The video from yesterday reminded me of this article, the cannibal's comment about how there are consequences to killing someone, and if he had known that earlier many people would still be alive. I had a dream about this recently. I had gotten called in to consult with a child who had just murdered a third party to get back at someone else, like murdered a mutual friend to hurt another person. She was young, maybe 8 years old. I saw some video of her before I was going to meet with her and she was talking about it as if she was talking about how she had stolen someone's bicycle. It was very clear that she didn't understand that killing someone had consequences. I wondered -- should I explain to this girl that killing has consequences? If she's normal but just a little immature, like this Dakotah kid seems to be, then those consequences might weigh her down for the rest of the life until she's just a pile of human garbage. On the other hand, isn't knowing that our actions have consequences what helps us make "better" decisions?