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Jewish World Review March 27, 2006 / 27 Adar 5766

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To punish or not to punish | Here's the state of American justice right now:

  • Andrew Selva, 46, confesses to raping two young boys in Ohio and is sentenced to probation by Judge John Connor, who believes Selva has a curable "disease."

  • Debra LaFave admits to having sex with a 14-year-old boy in Florida but does not receive prison time. The 25-year-old LaFave was a teacher at the school at which she seduced the student.

  • Andrea Yates murdered her five children by drowning them one by one. A Texas jury found her sane and very guilty. She was sentenced to life in prison. But the conviction was overturned because an expert witness falsely testified about a TV program that had little to do with the crime.

Despite that, The Houston Chronicle is calling for "enlightened justice" in the case. The paper wants Ms. Yates sent to a mental hospital instead of prison.

Enlightened justice? Sounds to me like that might be avoiding punishment for violent actions. Somehow, Andrea Yates walked around the planet for almost 40 years and did not kill anyone. Then, suddenly, she was compelled to drown her five little kids? She couldn't stop herself? That is what the people who don't want Yates in prison believe.

The jury did not see it that way. After hearing both sides, they came to the conclusion that while Yates is undoubtedly disturbed mentally, she CHOSE to kill her kids. She planned it and then phoned police when it was done.

Does that action not warrant punishment? Five human beings destroyed? What's "enlightened" about not fitting the punishment to the crime?


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Debra LaFave looked good at her press conference. Hair freshly dyed, makeup perfect, eyes sparkling. Before the cameras, Ms. Lafave wove a tale of sorrow and pity. She was contrite, she announced she is bi-polar, she told the world she is being treated.

OK. She didn't kill anybody, but, again, she CHOSE to molest the kid. No prison time because the prosecutor did not seek it.

In Ohio, it is far worse. Andrew Selva admitted everything. He confessed to the court he sexually abused two young boys. One of the boys told me on television, Selva physically forced him to perform a sexual act. But Judge Connor, who has two DUI convictions himself, was unmoved. Casually, he issued this stunning statement to the court: "he (Selva) has a disease, like I have a disease."

Selva nodded and then went home to serve his probation. Connor's incredible sentence was supported by most newspapers in Ohio and the largest legal group in the state.

I understand that I am not "enlightened," but this is insane. Selva should be sitting in a prison cell for at least 20 years. Chances are those boys will be screwed up for life. Selva robbed them of their childhood and their dignity. Yet, this very evening, Selva will eat dinner in his own home and enjoy the comforts of that sanctuary.

Something is desperately wrong in America. The doctrine of "moral relativism" where judgments are not made about even dastardly behavior is taking root, just as it has in Western Europe. There is nothing "enlightened' about allowing violent criminals to escape punishment; it is flat out dangerous for society.

Selva, Yates, and Lafave are just the beginning. There will be more of these kinds of stories coming. Count on it.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of, most recently, "Who's Looking Out for You?" Comments by clicking here.

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