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Sunday, May 1, 2016

25 years is not enough for murder

Sunday, April 10, 2005

How far should punishment go?

Law enforcement agencies in Bedford County are doing their jobs well. But, although our courts and judges generally do well occasionally a guilty party simply doesn't get a stiff enough sentence.

The plea-agreement process didn't work to the public's benefit in the case of Michael Thomas Taylor, confessed killer of Grace Handy. America's judicial system may be one of the world's best -- but not in this situation.

Someone who strangles their victim to death in anger and dumps the body in the woods should spend far more than 20 years in prison.

Taylor, 43, will be back on the street by age 63 if not earlier. That sentence was at least 20 years too short. Life with no parole would have been even more fitting.

Handy and Taylor were arguing over his drinking. That's no reason to attack someone, let alone murder them. The excuse that "well, they were arguing" is no excuse.

I'm not convinced that tougher sentencing would deter crime, as some say. Some people are just mean; others become so out-of-control that nothing's going to stop them.

But stronger sentences would, at least, keep criminals off the streets longer and symbolically send a message.

*Although it's a much less serious issue than murder, the "near-riot," as termed by Shelbyville police, at the H.V. Griffin Park carnival Tuesday night definitely raised a few eyebrows.

Only one person charged in the fracas is an adult -- at 18, by only a few months -- and she wasn't as involved as other teens and pre-teens.

A 5-foot-tall, 80-pound, 12-year-old boy verbally challenging a police officer -- shortly before the boy's 15-year-old sister kicks the window out of a police cruiser -- paint an not-so-flattering portrait in the minds of many.

One of my newsroom colleagues wondered, "Where were the parents?"

Good question.

Once children reach a certain age they don't want Mom and Dad around; it's just a part of growing up.

Parents can't be faulted for letting their children beyond a certain age, say 12 or so, have some time with their friends in a supposedly-safe place relatively early at night during a school vacation.

As happens so often, a few people managed to ruin things for the vast majority. Police officers handled the situation well, eventually closing the carnival for the night.

But: why did it happen to begin with?

I'd guess the problem can be partially traced to today's culture.

Good behavior isn't encouraged by the bizarre actions and appearances and obscene, crude lyrics spouted by many rappers, hip-hoppers and rock stars, rebellion against morality shown in some television shows and movies and even the underlying rebellion subtly encouraged in some broadcast advertising.

Impressionable children feed off what they see and hear -- and bring some of it into their own lives.

I'm not a prude. But some persons in public positions take advantage of their fame to promote a "do your own thing, no matter what" outlook.

Matters aren't helped by the fact some parents are so absorbed with themselves that they let the media raise their children.

Sometimes I wonder if Shelbyville residents really appreciate the recreational facilities we have, especially Griffin Park and Shelbyville Recreation Center, and the programs they offer.

The city has brought in two carnivals each year since the 1990s. Very few problems have occurred in the past.

Tuesday's incident shouldn't threaten the carnivals' future in Shelbyville -- yet. But attendees of future carnivals should be warned: If their actions cause Bedford County to be punished, in a sense, by loss of an annual event, they can blame only the person they face in the mirror.

David Melson is a Times-Gazette copy editor/staff writer.

David Melson
On the Loose