Joseph White Jr. murdered two managers of the Drake Diner in 1992, just over a month before his 18th birthday. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. Earlier this year, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that anyone sentenced to life without parole as a minor should be re-sentenced to life with parole, since their age and subsequent behavior should determine whether they can be rehabilitated.
I believe in our justices (some of them are the same justices who ruled on marriage equality in 2009) and I believe in our court system. There’s no way in hell this guy’s getting released from prison. He hasn’t even begun to serve the two consecutive life sentences for the murders. He’s still working on 25 years for armed robbery.
I could write several blog posts about juvenile killers, but that’s not what sparked my ire at this case. I wanted to share with you a statement that one of White’s relatives made after the hearing: (from KCCI’s news story)
Gerald James Jr., White’s uncle, apologized to the Burnett’s and said his nephew is a changed man. White received his GED and some 60 certificates for classes he completed while behind bars. “I would have felt identical to how they feel but let’s face it, sometimes people aren’t really responsible for what they do,” James said.
Lemur and I rewound that one back a few times, to make sure we heard correctly. I know it’s in bold above, but I’m going to repeat it here, and let this sink in for a moment: “Sometimes people aren’t really responsible for what they do.”
Let me put this in bold, caps, and underline it here so we all understand where Edie stands on this subject:
PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT THEY DO.
Joseph White Jr. shot and killed two people. He shot them in the head with a stolen large-caliber gun. There was no, “Maybe he didn’t mean to…” about this armed robbery/murder.
If he still doesn’t feel responsible, then he’s not ready for parole, and he probably never will be. This is part of being human: we are responsible for our actions, even if our actions are terrible. I don’t care how many college credits this guy has taken. He’s still responsible for two murders, and a list of crimes while in prison.
Was the Supreme Court decision appropriate? Some criminals can be rehabilitated. Some are remorseful and take responsibility for their actions and continue to grow and improve over who they once were. Those people will benefit from parole. It may even be Joseph White Jr., many years from now, if he decides to take responsibility for his actions.
I doubt that will happen any time soon, not while his relatives think it’s okay to deny responsibility.