Relative Ethics vs. Absolute Justice

When families forget to teach kids right from wrong, the courts must.

BY: Armstrong Williams


On the final day of school last year, 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill stalked the halls of his West Palm Beach high school and discharged a gun into the face of his seventh-grade English teacher, Barry Grunlow.

The fatal shooting occurred after Brazill had been sent home early for disruptive behavior the last day of school. Upset that he would not be able to say good-bye to two girls he liked, Brazill went home, grabbed a gun, then returned to the school demanding to see them. When denied, Brazill pulled out his gun, pointed it at the teacher, then squeezed the trigger.

Brazill was convicted Wednesday by a Palm Beach County Circuit Court of second-degree murder, a lesser charge than the first-degree sought by prosecutors. Now the court has to make the very solemn decision whether to lock Brazill up for the better part--if not the remainder--of his life. The judge will have to contend with the question whether this child has acted in such an insidious manner that we must remove him from society, as a doctor would cut out a cancerous tumor.

The decision to lock away and effectively end a child's life will not be easy. Still, it is a decision that the judge must make.

Truly, it is a tragedy that a young adult--by definition, someone full of possibilities--will not be allowed to pursue a customary life. However, we cannot allow our sympathies to guide our understanding of the law. Plainly, laws cannot be relative. Central to the effectiveness of any democracy is the understanding that the law exists as a mutually agreed upon standard that is applicable to all. If the law fails this standard, the law fails its citizens.

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