Two sentences, handed down within hours of each other on Friday in Columbia County courts, provide a perfect, encapsulated example of justice, of the promise of juvenile rehabilitation – and of the futility of showing mercy to hardened criminals.
In the first case, Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan sentenced a 14-year-old boy to two years’ probation for the involuntary manslaughter of Kristen Burnette, 13, this past Halloween.
Just a few doors down and a couple of hours later in the Columbia County Justice Center, Judge Carl Brown gave Yvette Taylor, 47, the maximum sentence available: life in prison without parole for the Feb. 11, 2012 murder of Theodore Crew, 63.
Why such a difference? After all, both victims are dead, and the guilt of the perpetrators is without question. Other than the fact that one is a juvenile and the other an adult, why such a gulf between the two sentences?
Here’s why. The teen’s sorrowfully admitted shooting of his friend was an accident – a stupid, negligent accident, but entirely unintentional. Prior to that fateful night, he was an A/AB student and a “good kid,” his attorney asserted.
The prosecutor is confident the teen will be rehabilitated, to go and sin no more. He’ll also continue counseling to help cope with the trauma of seeing his friend die – and knowing he caused her death.
Meanwhile, Yvette Taylor seems to be the epitome of the remorseless killer. Despite evidence that made it obvious she beat Crew to death, she continued to claim her innocence. Judge Brown sent her away for good because, he said, she’s a threat to the community.
Prosecutors reeled off a list of her previous brushes with the law, including the murder of her brother in Augusta in 1992, and the broken-bottle assault on a Harlem roommate in 2004. Veteran court reporter Valerie Rowell is only half-joking when she says she’s worried about the safety of Taylor’s future cellmate.
Thank goodness she’ll no longer be a menace to our community. And we hold out hope that a 14-year-old Grovetown boy one day will be a productive member of it.