Sunday, August 26, 2012
“He deserves to be in prison because of the baby he had with Jill Odom.”
This assertion comes up a lot; it’s a complex question to answer. Why should anyone, who's ever done anything wrong, expect fairness? Why shouldn't we make people pay for wrong-doing through any means possible?
I want to deal with this in three parts, the first of which is…
Why do people say this?
The first thing you have to do is figure out what they think supports their argument; is it 'retribution', or 'cause and effect?' According to Google, retribution means “Punishment that is morally right and fully deserved.” Dictionary.com defines cause-and-effect as "noting a relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the result of the other or others. "
Cause and Effect:
Let’s say you pop some LSD (Yes, my drug lingo is severely outdated; sorry.) Years later, you get flashbacks and neurological problems that ruin your life. The same people that ask the question above would probably say “That’s your punishment for doing drugs.”
Well, who the hell is punishing you? God? Karma? No. The problems are directly caused by a choice you made. Knowingly or unknowingly, when you took the LSD, you accepted the responsibility for any damage it might do to you. It’s not a punishment; it’s the result of something you did.
Carlos Coy made a choice early in life; he may one day have to answer for it in court. In the State of Texas, it’s a crime to have sex with a minor, whether you know they’re a minor or not. If you’re banging someone, you have accepted the responsibility of knowing for a fact that they are legal. If you fail to ensure that, you’ve created the cause. The legal situation that follows will be the effect.
Knowing, however, that Coy was never tried for the Odom case means it’s untrue to say that his conviction had anything to do with it. It may have lengthened his sentence, because she was brought in to testify during the punishment phase, but it’s also possible that her testimony was the reason he didn’t get life, which is what the prosecutors were trying for.
Now, what if their idea is that 45 in prison was appropriate retribution for what happened with Jill Odom?
Maybe it would have been, maybe it wouldn’t. The problem is that he was never tried for it, which means that, as I understand it, no punishment would be appropriate. The state defines what a crime is, but is not allowed to punish you for it until it’s been proven; if we accept that you're not really innocent (in the eyes of the law) until proven guilty, then why should anyone get a trial? We're all guilty of something, whether it's smoking weed in college, stepping on the endangered-toad-of-the-week, or digging in your yard without getting permission from the power company.
It’s why, in theory, the justice system exists. We give them permission to exact retribution as an impartial arbiter; an un-attached entity that can stride into an emotional situation and make unemotional, just decisions. They’re not supposed to be lashing out wildly at people without due process in each case.
Last of all, some people will tell you that God, or Karma, or the Giant Spaghetti Monster are using this questionable conviction to punish Coy for a different sin; in this case, your best bet is to smile politely and back away, unless you enjoy religious discussions and pondering the nature of God and whether or not He punishes people for sin. Have fun with that, but it’s not my thing.