Legal Updates

Yahoo Comments Illustrate The Need For Criminal Defense

Phillip Chism, 14 faces horrific allegations.  He was recently charged with rape, armed robbery, and murder of his teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24.  According to Yahoo News, Phillip Chism raped Ritzer with an object, stole her iPhone and credit cards, and slashed her throat with a box cutter.  The allegations are horrific.  But at this stage they are allegations.  Here are some of the comments this story yielded on Yahoo News:

“Lock him up with the big boys in Massachusetts State Prison – he will get what he deserves.”

“Capital punishment certainly does work. No executed criminal has ever committed another crime.”

“If this kid is THIS sociopathic at 14, heaven knows what he would be like at 21. Fry him.”

“This young, low life maggot should be electrocuted. I don’t care if he is 14 or not. Execute him.”

And from “Old Yeller,”  Now this punk #$%$ will cost the taxpayers of MA about $40,000/year for the next 60. Bring back capital punishment, and don’t give his age a second thought, he knew exactly what he was doing.”

These comments, and the rush to judgment by the people who wrote them, is the reason why I practice criminal defense.  Here we have thousands of people supporting the electrocution of a 14 year old boy with no information except a Yahoo! News Article.  They do not know Phillip Chism.  They do not know what his home life is like.  They do not know if he himself was raped or the victim of abuse as a child.  But thousands of everyday people on Yahoo! News are prepared to call for the execution of a fourteen year old.

Like all criminal defendants, Phillip Chism deserves his day in court.  If the evidence is overwhelming, he deserves a mitigation phase at his sentencing.  He deserves to have a lawyer tell his story.  Phillip Chism probably witnessed atrocious acts in a broken home throughout his childhood.  He was probably the victim of abuse.  Maybe he is Satan reincarnated.  More likely, he himself is a victim of a depraved and evil environment that molded him into the he killer he became.

I am not condoning Phillip Chism’s actions.  And I probably would not represent him.  But he deserves a lawyer.  He deserves his day in court.  He deserves to be heard.  And he deserves a jury to consider all the evidence, and then only if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, to convict him of the crimes for which evidence exists.

Our criminal system is the best in the world, precisely because it demands more than a rush to judgment to convict a fellow human being.  Phillip Chism deserves a trial.