Through my eye

A sometimes caustic view of things.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Deltona, Florida Murders

Justice, Revenge and Consequences

A storm of anger and arrogance, of murderous rage, developed in Deltona. Four youths battered and knifed six other people and a small dog to death. At first, the press was titillated that such violence could be over so trivial a thing as an X-Box video game toy. The roots, however, of the massacre were deeper and more complicated than that one thing.

It appears that Troy Victorino had formed a small gang. He may or may not have been involved in previous gang activities as we perceive the term “gang” today, but it is very difficult to serve a prison sentence without being inducted into one association or another behind the walls. It is well-known that anyone who does not have the protection of fellow inmates of like racial, ethnic or cultural persuasion becomes fair game in prison. And what group of incarcerated toughs would not want a six foot five, muscled and violence-prone youth as part of their mutual protection society.

Of course this is sheer speculation. What is not speculation is that Victorino apparently formed a small group of associates into something that looked like a gang, walked and talked like a gang, and acted like a gang.

Gangs must build respect. Gangs don’t get evicted from their hangout. After all, gangs don’t need to honor property rights or the sensitivities of the neighborhood. By virtue of their strength they have the right to do pretty much what they want.

What a blow to Victorino’s pride and prestige when a mere girl, Erin Belanger, could get his group evicted from a house that they had appropriated. A leader must show that he demands respect and anyone who shows him disrespect must suffer the consequences. What better way to retrieve one’s pride than repeatedly beating in the head of the person who disrespected him. And her friends. And her little dog, too.

Now, from the land of weirder than Oz, come the apologists. In the News-Journal, Reinhold Schlieper argues that our society has failed these poor youths -- the four perpetrators -- not the victims. It’s the fault of a system of justice that can’t recognize the need to educate or hospitalize the disfunctional youth rather than lock him away. Furthermore, it’s the very idea that society uses the death penalty that encourages this violent behavior in the first place. Better, says Schlieper, to securely confine such a person rather than end his life, thereby perpetuating the cycle of violence.

We’ve had forty years of this type of reformation of our society going on. In that time you would think that we would begin to see the results of a kinder, gentler system of justice. After all, many nations and many states in the United States have stopped executing killers. Mexico prohibits the death penalty and I’m sure that’s a comfort to the families of the 320 known female victims of a serial killer or gang of serial killers working the northern states of Mexico. Should that person or person ever be caught, they’ll be sent to the most porous jail system in this hemisphere for life or until they escape.

Let’s forget religion, although most religions allow for capital justice. Let’s employ the same logic we apply to a rogue animal or to a defective device, an automobile, for instance. Since animals are thought to have no consciousness – self-awareness – or conscience, the dog that habitually bites is routinely put to death. An automobile, merely a construct, that fails to hold up is junked. No more gas, oil and water for it, and the good parts are available for recycling.

A vicious dog is easier to reform – and cheaper to maintain – than a vicious human. A cold, hard look at the needs of our society will show that a percentage of sweet little babies born every day grow up to be antisocial monsters. We might hope that many of them would kill each other off, but it doesn’t work that way. They kill people like you, like your children, like your neighbors, like the folks you work with and they kill people like Belanger, Francisco Roman, Michelle Nathan, Anthony Vega, Jonathan Gleason and Robert Gonzalez.

I was there outside the branch jail of Volusia County when Sheriff Ben Johnson called for the death penalty. He had seen the slaughter far more directly than any newsperson and more intimately than any humanist philosopher or social reformer can imagine. Among the relatives of Michelle Nathan, also there that day, one called for the suspects to “burn.” Florida, however, has become more humane. Old Sparky doesn’t fire up any more. Those condemned to die slide away under the needle.

In that regard, Schlieper is right, the gesture is an empty form of closure for the families of the victims. Justice is not served. For that matter, neither is societal or individual revenge. There is no satisfaction in any of it. A public hanging might answer. Better yet, lock the four young men in a secure cell together without food or water for 30 days. Let them learn the consequences of animal behavior, then execute the survivor.

Satisfying or not? Let’s have a show of hands.


At April 8, 2011 at 5:06 PM, Blogger kelly said...

I live in deltona and those children were tortured by Victorino esp Bellanger. I personally believe the families of the victims should be able to take a baseball to his ass and perform the same violent acts her performed on their child. An eye for an eye. They should not be excuted in such a humane way by being put to sleep like an ill animal. Everyone would rather die in their sleep then to be violently tortured and murdered. And lets not forget the fact that Victorino had history of violently attacking a young man a couple years earlier only to get off with a slap on the wrist because his mother wrote the judge about his horrible childhood.


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