A 19-year-old boy was sentenced to life in prison yesterday, for the brutal murder of his younger brother. He was 16 years old when he killed his brother, who was 12.

I can imagine few things worse for a family to live through.

Here's what's troubling me.
Kevin Madden has exhibited little or no remorse for his crimes or empathy for the people affected by them," [Justice David] McCombs told youth court yesterday.
This is a constant theme in the legal justice system: remorse. The public, through the court system, wants to see a display of remorse, and this display is taken into account during sentencing.

This strikes me as ridiculous, and blatantly unjust.

First of all, not everyone can articulate their emotions. Some people simply do not have that power of expression.

What's more, a person who has committed a terrible crime may have a huge conflict of emotions, perhaps too much to sort out and understand, perhaps well beyond his abilities of expression.

And what of the person who can disaply remorse? Does that mean he actually feels remorseful? What if he is feigning the emotion? If his sentencing depends on it, he's certainly got motivation to act the requested role, if he's able.

What of the person who is too shut down emotionally to reflect on his actions? I can well imagine that a boy who killed his little brother is not fully grasping the import of what he did. The human mind is an amazing thing. It will protect itself from destruction by any means necessary. I've seen people shut down over less.

I'm going to assume that a teenage boy who would stab his brother to death, punching the knife in his body 71 times, is mentally and emotionally ill. He may not be diagnosed, but he clearly has a disordered mental state. The Judge describes: "He has repeatedly stated that he has never loved anyone, nor felt love from anyone. He has stated that he doesn't know how emotions feel."

Clearly there is something very wrong with this young man. I'm not suggesting he be released into society with a prescription for Prozac. But wouldn't a mental hospital be more appropriate than prison? He's been receiving treatment in the youth prison where he's been living since the crime, but that will end when he is transferred to an adult facility two years from now.

If he had "expressed remorse," if he had said "I'm sorry," would he be any less sick? Would his victim be any less dead? The whole concept should be retired.

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