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We Abolished Parole for a Reason

I was happy to have the opportunity a couple of days ago to speak at the Washington Post's Criminal Justice Summit.  The Post's editorial policies are worse than dubious, but its crime reporting is among the best in the country, led by the brilliant Tom Jackman, the moderator of my panel.

Today the Post carries a story about child cruelty and murder so horrible I feel as if I must warn readers that you need a strong stomach to get to the end.  For now, I will just say two things  First, the story shows why never permitting a jury to consider the death penalty is not merely foolish but morally grotesque.  Second, it shows why early release  --  which used to go by the name parole, before being abolished (in federal law) in the Eighties  -- should seldom if ever be given.

It's not that there are no instances in which it is warranted.  It's that the system cannot reliably distinguish the warranted from the unwarranted, and the costs of this inevitable error should be borne by felons, not by toddlers.
This is the story:

When Juan Canales-Hernandez was arrested last week after police say he swung a chair at an infant and killed her, it wasn't the first time the 24-year-old was accused of harming a child.

Canales-Hernandez, of Fort Collins, Colo., was on parole for a child abuse conviction when he was left to care for his girlfriend's daughter, 11-month-old RaeLynn Martinez, the Coloradoan reported.

According to an arrest affidavit, Canales-Hernandez told detectives that he became "frustrated" with RaeLynn, so he hit her with a chair. RaeLynn died Friday, two days after she was taken to the hospital.

Of course "frustration" had nothing to do with it.  He's a sadist, neither more nor less.

Canales-Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday, nearly three years after he was accused of beating a previous girlfriend's son, according to court records.

In the 2013 case, the boy was found with more than 100 bruises and several bite marks on his body, according to an affidavit. His liver was bruised and his pancreas was torn in half. Canales-Hernandez told detectives at the time that he and the boy were wrestling and rough-playing, and that he didn't hurt him intentionally.

Just so.  When you beat a defenseless kid 100 times, it's just roughhousing!  Even the defense lawyer will have trouble arguing that one (at least I hope he will).

The boy survived. Canales-Hernandez, who is not related to the victims in either case, pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.

He was sentenced to four years in prison, the Coloradoan reported and was later placed on parole.

Not that four years for child torture is anything like sufficient.  But maybe the Colorado judge was smoking some of that stuff that's "legal" out there.

And I'll bet you dollars to doughnut holes that whoever decided to put this man on parole will have no accountability whatever.  Any takers?

Explanations varied about how RaeLynn was injured.

After police responded to a call of an injured child on Sept. 7, Alexia Coria, the girl's mother, told investigators that she was in the bathroom when RaeLynn fell while trying to climb up her high chair, according to the affidavit. The child was bleeding from the mouth and became "dangly" as her arms hung at her sides, Coria told detectives on Sept. 7.

Canales-Hernandez told police that he was in another apartment two doors down when Coria called and texted him, telling him that RaeLynn was hurt, the affidavit said.

Coria said she spent about 30 to 45 minutes trying to keep RaeLynn awake by placing her in water, according to the affidavit. When the child's condition didn't improve, Coria and Canales-Hernandez took her to the hospital.

RaeLynn went into cardiac arrest and had a severe brain injury that was not consistent with Coria's explanation to police, the affidavit said.

The child died two days later.

On Sept. 8, the day after RaeLynn was injured, detectives were given a different explanation.

Imagine that.  It was a pack of lies.

Coria said she was out picking up her other child from school when she got a call from Canales-Hernandez, telling her that something happened to RaeLynn, the affidavit said.

Canales-Hernandez confessed that he was left alone with RaeLynn while Coria was out. He told police he was playing with the child by tossing her in the air when she fell and hit her head, the affidavit said.

RaeLynn started crying, Canales-Hernandez told detectives, so he tried to feed her and then placed her on a high chair.

The child was not seated properly, and Canales-Hernandez said he became "frustrated," according to the affidavit. He picked up a chair and swung it at RaeLynn, knocking the child off her high chair.

Of course.  What you do with a balky kid is hit her over the head with a chair.  I can't wait to see what "syndrome" the defense shrink comes up with for this one.

While talking to detectives, Canales-Hernandez said he knew he made a "mistake," according to the affidavit. He also admitted that he asked his girlfriend to tell police that RaeLynn accidentally fell off her chair because he didn't want to go back to prison.

In this, I am constrained to agree with Mr. Canales-Hernandez.  He should not be sent back to prison.  

He should be executed.  And it shouldn't take a lot of time to do it.

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