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August 05, 2007

Like father, like son

In a perverse way, this is impressive, sort of like Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. playing in the outfield together in Cincinnati Seattle:

Joshua W. Andrews, following in his father's footsteps, was sentenced to death yesterday.
But in all seriousness, one can only say that "Junior" here is getting what he deserves.

He and an accomplice went to an apartment in Virginia to rob the occupants, whom he forced to strip naked and climb into the bathtub, where he shot them in the head. Two victims were killed and one survived. He and the accomplice then went to another Virginia location, where they shot and wounded a store clerk. Later, they headed to New York, where they shot and wounded two men. They were convicted in New York on two counts of attempted murder.

Considering that "Senior" was a convicted murderer, it will not surprise you to learn that Junior's upbringing was dubious, not to say totally demented. According to defense counsel:
When Andrews was a baby, his father was sentenced to death for his part in killing two people during a jewelry store robbery in Texas. Andrews grew up with a drug-addicted mother, who often left her three sons to fend for themselves, and an abusive stepfather. Andrews spent time in psychiatric facilities.

When he was 8, a neighborhood boy pushed him into a shed and set it on fire. Andrews was burned on his face and hands. Children teased him, calling him "crispy critter." Later, he was called "scarface."

When Andrews was 13, his father was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in a Texas prison. The teenager ignored the urgings of his mother and brother to scatter his father's ashes, according to testimony. Instead, Andrews kept the box of ashes in his bedroom or carried them around in his black-and-maroon backpack, which was shown to the jury.
But who really can feel sorry for this man, whom prosecutors referred to as a "killing machine"? Who, that is, besides the anti-death penalty ideologues?

One such ideologue blames society. I know that's a tired joke, so don't take my word for it; read this instead:
[H]ow 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.
There's no doubt that Andrews had a miserable childhood, but here's what bothers me:

1. Many people grow up with miserable childhoods and yet do not commit murder. If this writer's determinism is correct, how do we explain that?

2. The issue here is capital sentencing, but why wouldn't the criminal's miserable childhood justify acquittal? That seems to be the implication of the argument that "the scourge of poverty, illiteracy, missing fathers and broken families" leads to a "cycle of violence." If we as a society have no right to punish a murderer with death simply because he had a miserable childhood, why are we allowed to punish him at all?

3. Drawing from 1 and 2, doesn't the argument that society is responsible for the murders, rather than Andrews, treat him as sub-human? Death-penalty opponents speak as if we must treat murderers humanely, but all too often they themselves treat them as less than human.