‘Denial of parole requires premeditation. Despite the jury accepting the murder was a “spur-of-the-moment” crime, they also found it was premeditated. As one juror explained it, premeditated meant not only planning hours or days ahead, but could also mean planning in the seconds before committing a spur-of-the-moment crime.’
From a Wiki article about the Peterson Case, the subject of “The Staircase” on Netflix.
Juries can be stupid.
Okay, so once upon a time long ago, Congress passes a bunch of laws and creates the criminal code. They choose to make a distinction between murders that are planned in advance– “pre-meditated”– and murders that occur in a violent outburst of rage. They decide that punishment for a murder calculatedly planned in advance should be more severe because the perpetrator consciously intended to commit a foul crime and, given time and the opportunity to reconsider and amend his intentions, he, instead, follows through on his homicidal plan. Whereas, a murder committed in the heat of the moment is something the perpetrator may instantly regret, and it is an urge that only came over him in that brief engagement with the victim. He may repent of his action and perhaps he is redeemable.
This brilliant jury decided they would develop a new philosophy of criminal intent, and a new psychology of the criminal mind. So “premeditated” now means that the culprit was conscious during the commission of the crime, and, in the instant before he swung the club or pulled the trigger or pushed someone onto the subway tracks– in that instant, he plotted. He meditated before the act. He pre-meditated. So they apply the concept of pre-meditation to precisely the one thing that it was never intended not to apply to.
We do a similar thing with juveniles. We thoughtfully, carefully, and wisely– as a society- with lots of deliberation- decided that young folk beneath a certain age should not be charged for serious crimes as adults. Because they are young. Because their brains are still developing. Because as they mature, they may yet develop a consciousness of right and wrong that makes them an asset to society. And we carefully chose the age of 18. So we say that if someone is younger than 18, than they can’t be sentenced as severely as a man of 30 years old.
And then, the first thing we do, is we make an exception so that if we damn well feel like– if we’re really pissed at someone– we can try him as an adult after all. Precisely the thing the law was intended to prevent. Every time you hear of a serious crime committed by a juvenile we hear the same nonsense: let’s ignore the law and try him as an adult! (Actually, the law, unfortunately, allows for that exception: if the law is wrong, change the damn law and stop making exceptions.)
I think this jury just wanted to really, really throw book at this repulsive person who was not them– not remotely like them– not at all like them. They hated him– so sly, and clever, and literate, and with so many lawyers and paid experts and private investigators on his side! It’s almost as if he was a minority.
I can’t wait until this jury– and I’ll bet this idea was mainly the product of one demented, clueless, amateur criminologist who just happened to find his moment in the jury room– publishes a book so we can also share the fruits of this profound insight. There can never be another case of murder that is not premeditated in the form this jury has defined it as.