Friday, December 21, 2007

Justice for All

I asked a few days ago for your thoughts on the Michael Vick verdict. For those who've forgotten, he received 23 months in a federal penitentiary for his role in a dog-fighting ring in Virginia. I posted about it a few months ago (when he first plead guilty); I didn't really weigh in on the issue as much as I contrasted the public outcry associated with Vick with the lack of interest in another football player who, a few years ago, while driving under the influence of alcohol, struck and killed another motorist.

My point was that we're desensitized to drunk-drivers killing other motorists. So when we hear about it, it doesn't really affect us. Perhaps we tsk-tsk a little, and make the comments we're expected to make, but we really don't pay much attention-and we certainly don't cry out for the perpetrator to be sent off to prison for the rest of his life; we don't scream for the "death penalty"; we don't hope that wild animals will feast on his carcass for all of eternity (all things that I've heard associated with Michael Vick).

But then we've already hashed that out, haven't we? If you want to read more, hop over to the archives and read the post; some fascinating comments there.

The question of the day is this: is 23 months sufficient? Is it too long?

I was surfing around on the net and came across a story at ESPN online from a few days ago. The writer made a statement that was really telling, I think. He said this:

In the months since Michael Vick pleaded guilty for his
role in a federal dogfighting case, Vick should have been trying to impress
federal officials with his honesty and contrition. It would have reduced his
time in prison considerably.

Instead, Vick flunked a drug test, lied about his drug
use and failed a lie-detector test on his role in the executions of fighting
dogs that failed to perform.

In his sentencing hearing Monday in Richmond, Va.,
Vick paid the price.

It seems as though Mr. Munson, over at, doesn't really care all that much whether or not the punishment is appropriate for the crime; he's bothered by the fact that Vick neglected to "butter up" the judge into levying a lighter sentence!

It amazes me! The chatter isn't "he got what he deserved" or "that's not nearly long enough"; it's "if he'd acted a little nicer, been a little more respectful, been a little more endearing to the judge, he'd have got a little easier deal".

Our society has become so politicized. It's disgusting.

But then that's not my point either.

A handful of you provided your thoughts on the verdict; your comments were insightful and enlightened, but they did span the spectrum. It doesn't seem that there's any consensus among folks who care; just as many feel the sentence is adequate, as feel it should have been longer, as feel it's much too long. It's bizarre. I have to think that, had the case been tried before a jury, it would have ended up, after long and arduous debate, in a hung jury.

But, what do I think?

I like animals-am disgusted by violence toward them. I think that those who purposely perpetuate violence against animals-particularly for their personal enjoyment-deserve to be dealt with harshly.

But I also try to put things in perspective (a virtue that seems to be lacking anymore). For example, if a few dogs are worth 23 months, how much more is a human life worth? Infinitely more, I would imagine; but then, how many stories have you heard of folks who've killed--either purposely or accidentally but negligently--who haven't received more than token punishment-a slap on the hand?

So here's what I think: I, frankly, was surprised when I heard that the sentence was 23 months. I'd had an internal, silent wager going on in my head, and the consensus among the many voices up there was that he'd end up with 6 months in a light-security pen somewhere, with time off for good behavior; some probation; a hefty requirement for community service (perhaps filming free commercials for the ASPCA); and a fine of $1 million or so.

Not that I think 23 months is too long; in fact, when I think about it, it seems right. But it doesn't seem to be in perspective. It seems stiff compared to so many of the sentences that we hear about anymore.

If nothing else, perhaps we, as thoughtful members of society, can take this as a lesson: remember that it's easy to grow apathetic when we hear horror stories in the news each and every day. And when those horror stories become commonplace, we cease taking notice, and sooner or later, the punishment doesn't matter anymore. And then we hear of some new crime against humanity, and the outcry is huge. And because of that outcry, the punishment is swift, and severe (and, perhaps, appropriate).

And so this is the lesson: don't ever grow apathetic; don't allow yourself to become desensitized. If a few dogs equate to 23 months, then each and every time you hear of a human life taken, or a child molested or abused, or a spouse beaten or terrorized, cry out. Make your voice heard then. If we are going to demand justice for an animal, let's demand it, too, for each and every human that deserves it.


Anonymous said...


I hope you liked your Fly-less Camouflage pants you got for Christmas. PLEASE at your earliest convenience; post a picture of yourself with them on. Please also include your Lucky Charms T-Shirt and a patch on your eye.


Katie Booker said...

Well, I have to say, I enjoyed myself tonite!
The eye was GRUESOME...and it actually made you look pretty manly and "Beat Up". Quite an improvement.... =) haha!
The "Flyless" pants were QUITE the hit!
And I'm so BUMMED I didn't get to take home your tree!