Friday, August 03, 2007

Unbroken String in Prince William County

Once again, Prince William County is in the news!

After a three-week trial in the county-seat courthouse, a Manassas jury deliberated for six hours and convicted and sentenced Joshua W. Andrews, 25, to die for killing two men during a robbery.

From the rash of capital murder convictions, it seems a majority of heinous crimes, commonly referred to as the 'absolute worst of the worst,' take place in this suburban outpost.

How else to explain the unprecedented string of capital murder prosecutions and convictions in relationship to other areas?

Providentially, Prince William Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert's reputation as master public servant is incomparable; and county residents have no qualm in sentencing criminals to die at a rate five times higher than any other jurisdiction in Virginia.

Indeed, victim groups have hailed Ebert as a "champio[n] of justice" and the Virginia State Bar last year awarded him the coveted Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Award for improv[ing] the criminal justice system in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

But....not so fast, lethal legal breath! Maybe there's more to the story....

Before you usher a hearty round of accolades for Mr. Ebert, ponder the fact that for some folks, a life of crime is preordained; and any capable and ambitious prosecutor like Ebert can have an embarrassment of riches as a result.

For instance, when Mr. Andrews was a tyke and his mother was abusing drugs and his step-father was beating him to a pulp and his father was on death row, who protected the vulnerable lad from the world...?

The Washington Post reports:
[D]efense attorneys [argued that] Andrews' actions stemmed from a deeply troubled childhood. Andrews had a father on death row, a drug-addicted mother who often left her three sons to fend for themselves and an abusive step-father.
Not exactly the picture of an idyllic childhood. Moreover, if proponents of the ultimate punishment are right and murderers are deterred by capital punishment, how did Mr. Andrews become a hardened criminal with his father as the textbook example of deterrence?

The answer lies that if you have an at-risk child from a poor, abusive family with little by way of social services, once they reach adulthood, the mean streets will take their toll.

Like weeds in unattended lots, too many children are left to fend for themselves; and as adults, we then incarcerate or execute them because they grew wild as blazes.

Until we learn to protect our offspring from the scourge of poverty, illiteracy, missing fathers and broken families, the cycle of violence continues -- unabated.

Prince William County needs to stop its knee-jerk reaction of seeking the death penalty for every murder. Capital punishment only adds to the carnage and outrage.

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