Alejandro Escareno, 69, was the father of a police officer in the city of Fresno, California. On December 17, 2000, while he was walking home from a bus stop in the early evening, he was attacked and robbed by a several young men who left their severely injured victim in the street. Escareno was found by police at 5:45 p.m., and died from his injuries a few hours later at University Medical Center.
What was first thought to be an act of retaliation against Escareno's son turned out to be something quite different. According to investigators, the elder Escareno was attacked by Raheem Rashad Muhammad and three younger relatives, who struck the elderly man, and, once he was on the ground, repeatedly kicked him as they picked through his pockets. Their only motivation seems to have been robbery.
What makes this case particularly disturbing is the ages of the four males accused of the crime. Muhammad is 18, and his three relatives (whose names have not been released) were only 12, 10, and 9 years old. Fresno's chief juvenile prosecutor, T. Worthington Vogel, told reporters that these were the youngest murder defendants in the recent history of Fresno County. In his 28 years in the juvenile justice system of Fresno County, Vogel couldn't recall another instance of anyone 12 or younger being charged with murder.
The D.A. has declined to prosecute the youngest of the four; Muhammad will be prosecuted as an adult. California law requires that defendants under 14 be tried as juveniles, and prohibits the prosecution of those under 7 on criminal charges.
If convicted, the 10 and 12 year olds face a maximum penalty of imprisonment in a juvenile facility until their 25th birthdays.
Questions to address in your paper:
The four individuals accused of this crime face very different punishments: Muhammad, if convicted, might go to prison for a long period of time; the 10 and 12 year olds, if found responsible, will spend shorter periods in a juvenile facility; the 9 year old does not face prosecution at all. Can this disparity in potential penalties be justified using the retributive theory
of punishment? (That is, do these individuals deserve different amounts of punishment, if they are guilty?) Explain your answer.
Give your own view: if convicted, what penalty would be appropriate for each of the three defendants in the Fresno case? Does your answer agree or disagree with what the retributive theory
of punishment would require? If so, why? If not, what other ethical theory
might support your disagreement?
The paper is written using theories
and terms from chapter 7 Reward and Punhishment in the book Ethics Theory
and Practice Tenth Edition by Jacques P. Thiroux and Keith W. Krasemann.
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