Are 1,000 Spankings Enough to Justify a Child Killing His Abuser?

About the 8 year old in Arizona who shot and killed his father and father's boarder: First the cops wanted to try him as an adult. Then, they learned of ledgers that the kid kept of every beating, and that the kid said when it got to 1,000, he would have had enough.

Susan Mernit at Huffington Post breaks down the gruesome and mathematical tally of the beatings -- and their impact on the boy.

It's another case of powerless children in our society with nowhere to turn to. This kid is going to have a unhealthy dose of PTSD as he gets older. Who will be there for him?

Check out Susan Mernit's article on the case today at HuffPo --she's outraged at the parent who was killed. Some snippets below:

If you'd been recording them since you were five, that would mean you'd been spanked almost once a day for the past 3 years, with 95 days off from getting your butt hit. If you'd started keeping track of the spankings when you were seven, which mean you were being hit more than 3 times a day for the past year.

Think about it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, spanking. Every day for three years. Or, breakfast, spanking, dinner, spanking, before bed, spanking--spankings happening more frequently to this child per day than many people spent walking their dog.

Can you imagine living your life knowing that every day, at some point--perhaps more than once--a beating was going to happen? And that your father, responsible for mentoring you and your upbringing, was going to be the one to lay it on? Flat of the hand, paddle, belt, kitchen implement--did it matter after a while what your Dad hit you with?

Or was it just the consistent searing drip of the days, held together by having your pants pulled down and your butt beaten--not only by your Dad, but by his friend, a man who rented a room in their house.

How bad could any child be--any person--that someone could justify beating him, day after day?

If this isn't child abuse, I don't know what is.

Her conclusion:

When this case comes to trial, I have no doubt we are going to find out this child was a scapegoat for a sexual sadist or some other kind of pedophile sicko who found excuses to inflict pain on his son under the guise of discipline. And if that is true, this evil dad raised a son who killed out of self-defense.

< Obama And Clinton: Not A Dime's Worth Of Difference | The New New Deal: Relief, Recovery And Reform >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    You know (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:47:23 AM EST
    I'm not pro-spanking in my capacity as a parent, but still, it seems to me that there's a qualitative difference between a spanking and a beating.  I'm not sure if there's evidence here to tell us which is the more accurate descriptor.

    Also, it's interesting that last week we were talking about this kid being incapable of forming the requisite mens rea, but now the question is whether he had justification.  Hmm.

    It's funny (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by andgarden on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:58:34 AM EST
    I'm studying for my Crim final, and going through checklists for this kid. . .

    So tell me (none / 0) (#10)
    by Steve M on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:57:01 AM EST
    if you're shooting a deer and you think it's out of season, but in fact it's in season, you are guilty of...

    What if an eight-year-old shoots a deer ... (none / 0) (#11)
    by cymro on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 04:04:51 AM EST
    ... using his father's gun, because the deer is eating the vegetation in his back yard. And if it's not hunting season, but the eight-year-old doesn't even know about the existence of legally defined hunting seasons, then who is guilty of what?

    Read some of the Bible-based (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 04:19:25 AM EST
    child rearing literature.  Some of it is really horrifying.  They recommend "chastising" children with whatever - a hand, a stick, a belt.  And young too - two years old.  And for whatever - being insubordinate, disobedient, not responding instantly, not responding properly, for crying.

    One of the sickest models for child rearing I've ever seen.

    Dachshund, actually. (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by No Blood for Hubris on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 09:03:01 AM EST
    Named "Siggie" after Sigmund Freud, I kid you not.

    Vilest part was Dobson blathering on about how much he loved the dog, and his love made him belt-beat the poor thing.  


    Yeah, and a dog learns something being (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 12:35:55 PM EST
    hit with a belt.  Dobson needs a bigger dog next time.  Dogs know that their teeth are superior to anything we physically call our own.  It is usually because of a dog's tolerance and attempt at good will that more people aren't missing limbs.

    that just made me feel sick (none / 0) (#29)
    by sj on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 10:50:20 AM EST
    Or sicker actually.  

    All of this makes me feel sick.


    Double bad actually. (none / 0) (#15)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:19:10 AM EST
    Since if Dobson had actually been a good dog owner, his dog would have never growled at him.  First he spoils the dog, then he gets mad at the dog for being spoiled.  Then he puts it all on the dog.  Passive aggressive.

    Dobson, passive aggressive? (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 12:37:54 PM EST
    You name caller, what's next, calling him a latent homosexual? :)

    Don't ask me about the showers.... (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Fabian on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:56:06 PM EST
    (Another stellar quote from the D-man!)

    ... patience and humor needed to raise a child, they simply shouldn't have one. If they believe the only way to raise a child is to whoop them every day, they shouldn't be allowed in any role of authority over a child.

    Yes....It is self defense....They should (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Kefa on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:36:31 AM EST
    dig him up and shot him again. That's how angry it makes me feel.

    I have no doubt (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:17:44 AM EST
    that if it was self defense and the beatings took place as reported, a jury will see through all this.

    Still, for a prosecutor in possession of the facts to bring the charges and try the kid as an adult, to look "tough on crime," that is sickening.

    Even if it was not self defense to try an 8 year old as an adult, how absurd.

    jury? (none / 0) (#27)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 10:16:53 AM EST
    What makes you think he has the right to a jury trial?  I don't know what Arizona law says, but in a lot of states, like mine, do not give juveniles a jury trial.  You get a judge and nothing more.

    (I should mention, that the state I'm referring to as mine is Washington, not Texas, despite my user name.  I used to practice in Texas where they gave everyone, from speeders and city code violators to juveniles jury trials.)


    It is absurd (none / 0) (#41)
    by Lora on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 04:32:29 PM EST
    They should absolutely drop the charges.

    I wish there could have been child endangerment charges brought for allowing an 8-year-old access to a loaded gun.


    Find me, please, (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by OldCity on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 09:10:39 AM EST
    ONE city that doesn't underfund/overwork their DFS or DCS departments.  

    the public entities most responsible for managing failing families, protecting children from abuse, and monitoring foster family situations are traditionally underfunded and resourced, not to mention poorly managed.

    Yet those professionals who work in those departments are held accountable for any/all failings, despite the logisitcal impossibility of their charges, in most cases.  I'm not going to excuse the willfully negligent social workers out there, of course.

    So the problem really lies with government.  These are departments that truly meet the pbligation of gevernment to care for and preserve the welfare of citizens most in need.  If DFS/CS departments nationwide aren't funded, we're just going to see more and more of this.


    If the kid were 18 (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by nellre on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 10:43:28 AM EST
    If the kid were 18 wouldn't we use the qualifier allegedly in this sentence?

    About the 8 year old in Arizona who shot and killed his father and father's boarder

    Beg pardon (5.00 / 3) (#34)
    by jondee on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 12:48:28 PM EST
    but, what sort of twisted a-hole wants to try 8 year olds as adults?

    The mere fact that someone would even suggest such a thing ought to disqualify them from holding a position of responsibility on the grounds of mental incompetence.

    Poor kid seems to have been victimized by (5.00 / 4) (#35)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 12:52:10 PM EST
    his father, other adults friendly with dad, his silent family, the local law enforcement, and the press too!  How extremely extremely extremely sad!  I don't think a child should ever ever be tried as an adult.  The early news releases about this poor child's situation were a horrifying betrayal of him as well, as if he hadn't been betrayed by society enough.  Like many parents, when I first heard the story there were really only two possibilities, one being this poor kid had some kind of organic mental illness and the second being this poor kid was severely abused.  Both possibilities begin with 'this poor kid'.  The first possibility is extremely rare leaving the second most likely.  I hoped the rare possibility was the one we would all have to live with.  Also if it was second, perhaps this child would never know how the New Romans tried to throw him into their Colosseum for entertainment purposes.

    1000 Is A Mighty Big Number (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by squeaky on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:08:40 PM EST
    For an eight year old, for a six year old it is infinity.

    The criminals here are clearly the adults, and that includes anyone who wants to prosecute this boy as an adult.

    What about the other victim? (1.00 / 1) (#16)
    by nyjets on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:26:08 AM EST
    Assumig the kid was abused, it may be understandable about him killing his father. I could almost accept the notion that treating the child as a juvenile
    What about the boarder hover. The kid had no motive to murder the guy.
    FOr that crime alone the kid should be treated like an adult.

    You like the right football team... (5.00 / 5) (#18)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:17:27 AM EST
    but you're nuts...the kid is 8 years old, about as far as you can get from an adult, therefore he should not be treated as an adult.  He is a juvenile, as much as you may wish to fast-forward 10 years of his life so you can get your pound of flesh.

    The kid is 8 for crying out loud...3rd grade!  I barely remember third grade it is so freakin' far from adulthood.


    you are kidding, aren't you? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by cpinva on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:46:26 AM EST
    FOr that crime alone the kid should be treated like an adult.

    if, according to you, 8 is old enough to be treated as an adult, what would be too young an age, regardless of the crime? 7? 6? 5 maybe? how about a 4 year-old, who puts a couple of caps into his 6 year-old, annoying, older sister?

    ok, with all due respect to ms. mernit, i have yet to read or see anything to indicate that the boarder participated in the beatings, as she avers in her post. perhaps i've missed something.


    I don't believe that the boarder (none / 0) (#20)
    by Lil on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:25:42 AM EST
    was an innocent victim, not for a minute.

    There are no facts as to what went on (none / 0) (#25)
    by No Blood for Hubris on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 09:04:48 AM EST
    between the boarder and the child.

    Nothing had to go on (none / 0) (#43)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 06:17:08 PM EST
    if he knew and did nothing, that may have been enough in the child's mind. It goes to basic trapped instinct and wanting to free yourself.

    If the man knew and did nothing, is it considered aiding in the crime from a legal standpoint (I know what I think!)?


    An eight-year old, if in school, (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:00:49 AM EST
    does have people to turn to.  It is very sad he didn't feel he could do that.  

    So many children don't speak out (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:50:19 AM EST
    Who to trust? Fear of betrayal? The parental bond?  Shame?

    Look at how many adult women hide their abuse. Dirty [not so] little secrets.

    I'm surprised they jumped to treating him as an adult without checking for abuse originally.


    More so (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:25:54 AM EST

    Look at how many adult women hide their abuse. Dirty [not so] little secrets.

    Abused men even more so.  


    What about the elderly? (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Amiss on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 11:14:12 PM EST
    And our senior citizens are living longer and longer these days, many cases of children not able to cope and end up abusing their parents.

    True, but when you work out the (none / 0) (#45)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 06:26:51 PM EST
    numbers, don't you have a much higher number of women hiding abuse since it's more common? I was basically working on the mindset of how many abused people don't speak out. Didn't mean to ignore the issue, sorry.

    Stigma (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by Lora on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 09:34:28 PM EST
    There is a greater stigma attached to men who are abused than to women.  It is very hard for men to admit to being abused and to get help when they come forward.  Unfortunately, some victim's resource centers (some still labeled for women) do not provide the help for an abused man that they will provide for a woman.  Men have a difficult time being believed, even among those who are supposed to provide help and support.  Furthermore, there are far fewer places to go for male victims of abuse than for females.

    That isn't necessarily so (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:00:46 AM EST
    The starvation case here in Washington State is evidence.  A teacher reported that the student was starving, possibly abused, CPS investigated by didn't act at first, and the step-mother took the child out of school.

    You'll have to trust me that the teacher's report resulted in no help for the child because I can't find the article pertaining to that.  Here's a link about the case


    Sometimes kids really don't have anywhere to turn because even people who try and help them are thwarted.


    Abused children are threatened by their (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by No Blood for Hubris on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 09:00:20 AM EST
    abusers as to what will happen to them -- to their sibs, to their pets -- if they tell.

    Sometimes telling just makes things even worse.


    "When this case comes to trial, ..." (none / 0) (#3)
    by cymro on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:50:02 AM EST
    Surely sanity will prevail before that? Who or what benefits from such a trial?
    • Is the accused boy going to be punished appropriately?
    • Are the victim's relatives going to feel that justice was done?
    • Is the DA's career going to be enhanced?
    • Does it send a message of deterrence to other eight-year-olds who might be considering similar actions?
    • Is the public going to be happy that law enforcement is using its resources effectively to deter violence and crime?

    What is going on here?

    I wonder how many children (none / 0) (#5)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:53:54 AM EST
    Does it send a message of deterrence to other eight-year-olds who might be considering similar actions?

    would even consider it a message?  On either end, prevention or action.


    Right. (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by cymro on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:25:55 AM EST
    Of course I was not intending that notion to be taken seriously. I cannot grasp the logic for bringing this case to trial. What are the people in law enforcement thinking?

    Heh, by the time I got to the last (none / 0) (#44)
    by nycstray on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 06:23:10 PM EST
    question, I was taking it seriously. Not on you, but on the mindset that they even considered trying him as an adult so quickly. Logic isn't working here. Something is seriously wrong when an 8yo kills 2 people. That is not rocket science and the first thought should be to find what had happened to the child.

    It was only a matter of time... (none / 0) (#30)
    by 1980Ford on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 11:05:11 AM EST
    before someone compartmentalized the difference between normal abuse and sexual abuse. Only if it is some form of sexual sadism is the father evil.

    I agree (none / 0) (#42)
    by Lora on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 04:38:35 PM EST
    That struck me as odd when I read it.  There may have been sexual abuse, although I don't know that there is any evidence yet to support it.  However, what has already been revealed about the physical abuse and the psychological abuse (knowing you would be spanked every day) is evil enough.

    If this is so, (none / 0) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 11:52:56 AM EST
    When this case comes to trial, I have no doubt we are going to find out this child was a scapegoat for a sexual sadist or some other kind of pedophile sicko
    how do you suppose he got that way?

    "he" being the dad... (none / 0) (#37)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 01:44:56 PM EST
    There is no ledger, list or diary of spankings (none / 0) (#39)
    by ding7777 on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:31:53 PM EST
    The search warrant return does not appear to list any kind of spankings ledger among items recovered from the family residence.

    The 1,000 spanking ledger is what the kid told to a CPS worker.

    Agree. (none / 0) (#40)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:38:56 PM EST
    I think I read somewhere that the boy kept hash marks on a piece of paper.

    Also, there is no indication that he ever reached 1000 beatings/spankings, only that that was his "No Mas" number...


    Agree completely (none / 0) (#46)
    by diogenes on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 08:48:47 PM EST
    In fact, he'll get ten years in juvenile, will get his record sealed, and be released at 18.  And we have no evidence of beatings or other external evidence of extensive beatings/sexual sadism/etc.  Maybe some of what this kid is saying is self-serving; my kid could make up self-serving stuff when he was five.  
    In this world of Child Protective agencies someone who would cold-bloodedly shoot his father rather than make fairly extensive attempts to leave the house should perhaps be in detention, if only because he might shoot a kid who bullied him when he was 13 and he does not have

    cold-blooded at 8? (none / 0) (#48)
    by Lora on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 09:40:22 PM EST
    I hardly think an 8-year-old is capable of being cold-blooded.

    if they have suffered enough (none / 0) (#50)
    by Amiss on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 11:18:53 PM EST
    abuse in their short lifetime, I believe that they could most assuredly become cold blooded or without feeling by the time they were 8.

    At that point, woudn't it more likely (none / 0) (#52)
    by nycstray on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 04:27:36 AM EST
    be an issue of a psychological nature and treatment would be better than incarceration? Abuse victims need counseling and support in rebuilding their lives, especially the young ones. Time to break the pattern. And part of the rehab should be giving them the tools to cope.

    And if he wasn't abused, he has serious problems that need to be addressed. Something is so not right here.


    more hearsay.. (none / 0) (#53)
    by ding7777 on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 02:43:06 PM EST
    The police quoting the grandmother....

    Police Chief Roy Melnick says in his report, "I comforted them as best we could. After several minutes, (the boy's grandmother) shouted out in an angry and loud tone, 'I knew this would happen. They were too hard on (the boy). I knew (he) did it. He spent the night in my bed cuddling up to me. I had a feeling he did it. If any eight year old boy is capable of doing this, it's (him).'

    Unfortunately, child abuse is not uncommon. (none / 0) (#51)
    by DeborahNC on Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 03:27:32 AM EST
    I worked as a therapist in a facility that provided housing for women and children who were victims of violence. What some of these children had experienced is almost unspeakable, yet I spoke with children about it on a regular basis.

    In response to some comments: Children are reluctant to discuss their situations with teachers or other outsiders. I had excellent results, however, while working with children in groups. I never pushed it; I let them reveal the extent of their abuse within their own time frame. An immense amount of trust must be in place for them to discuss abuse issues.

    As others mentioned, the possibility of revenge by the perpetrator is a major deterrent to disclosure. The abuser makes threats, and often acts on them, as a way to intimidate and frighten the children, to prevent exposure. Children have described some horrific acts that were committed by their abusers to ensure their silence, e.g., setting fire to their pets.

    I don't know the specifics of this particular case, but an 8 year old child does not kill his/her parent unless there are extraordinary conditions. Usually, children will endure appalling circumstances, yet will continue to try to maintain a bond with the offending parent.

    I cannot stress this enough: children only commit violent acts when they've experienced ongoing, dreadful situations of their own, unless there are other factors, such as neurological and cognitive problems, to name a couple.

    Personally, I think that parents can discipline their children without using physical means. It requires consistency and follow-through. It does require a great deal of time, but the outcomes are worth it.

    Way too much violence against children is tolerated in our society, especially if it comes under the rubric of parental discipline. IMO, James Dobson has had an adverse effect on many families in this country. The use of religion as a justification for corporal punishment makes me livid!

    Well, I'll stop, but when you've witnessed some of the things I have, it'll really incite serious anger. BTW, sometimes in domestic violence situations, the mothers are also traumatized and consequently are not very responsible either.

    Even though it was difficult at times, I considered it a privilege that these children and teenagers allowed me into their lives. Believe me, I received many personal rewards from my work with them.

    ps. Sometimes, the children don't survive.