Contemplating "Omer"

RIP Zong Vang
 (Thanks, BigWOWO!!!)

From Jaehwan:
...The story? When [Omer Ninham] was 14, Ninham and four buddies approached Zong Vang, who was 13. Vang was riding his bicycle and had picked up tomatoes from the grocery store for his family. Ninham and his friend teased Vang, punched him, and then chased him to the top of a parking structure. Ninham and one of the friends grabbed Vang by the wrists and ankles as he cried and screamed, and then they threw him off the top floor. Vang fell five stories to his death.

Ninham’s lawyer made the argument that crimes committed by kids are different. But honestly, 14 years old is an eighth grader–not exactly a baby. It’s true that kids have different mentalities than adults, but I knew that it was wrong to murder people when I was 14. Especially when this kid had a gang of four other kids who ruthlessly chased down a lone, unarmed boy and threw him off the top of a parking structure; what a terrible death to inflict on another person. I can’t see how that action doesn’t deserve the highest punishment possible. Considering his crime, I find it hard to think of a life sentence as “cruel and unusual,” especially if Wisconsin’s jails are de-facto country clubs like the jails in Oregon.

From Jon Srubas:
...Omer Ninham, now 27, was convicted in March 2000 in Brown County Circuit Court of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of 13-year-old Zong Vang.

...Ninham and the other teen were sentenced to life in prison, although the other boy, Richard Crapeau, 13 at the time, was given a chance for parole after 50 years.

Ninham sought a modified sentence to give him a chance for parole. Brown County Circuit Judge J.D. McKay denied that request, and the court of appeals in March 2009 affirmed McKay's decision.

Ninham's lawyers from the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, Ala., argued to the Supreme Court that life without parole violates Ninham's constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment, because of his extreme youth at the time of the crime.

They argued the sentence was unduly harsh and that new scientific research into adolescent brain development constituted a new factor justifying reconsideration of the case.

They also argued the sentencing judge improperly considered the religious beliefs of the Vang family in imposing the life sentence. McKay, at the sentencing hearing, made brief reference to a statement that had been made by a Vang family member concerning the family's religious belief that a murdered person's spirit can't be set free until the murderer is brought to justice.

The Supreme Court rejected all four of Ninham's lawyers' arguments. It concluded Ninham's punishment was severe, but not disproportionately so.
Uh-huh, uh-huh...if Omer Ninham was unmistakably POC, would he have lawyers  - plural, mind you - trying get him an appeal, and would it be news?

I'm not even going to touch the "brain research."  Already it sounds like some shit Dr. Housebroken concocted in his not-science lab.

I mean, how old do you have to be to know that throwing a fellow human being off a building = serious consequences?  You're telling me a 14-year-old doesn't know murder is wrong and severely punishable by law?  Are we...are we serious?

Omer needs to sit his bitch ass down and shut the fuck up already.  There's not enough "I'm sorry" and half-assed community service in the world to make up for robbing a family of their child.  Every good parent's worst nightmare is to outlive their own damn children.  WTF is this shit?  Getting to live after committing murder is "cruel and unusual", not because of the guilt, but because you're gettin' fed and housed and not payin' any bills?  Are we serious?

Comments

  1. I knew at 6 that it was wrong to kill, especially for the 'fun of it'. This whole 'they're young teenagers and they don't realize that actions have consequences' mantra that I'm seeing in these cases is one hot-mess of a slippery slope. It's amazing; not even 2 centuries ago, you had teenagers making decisions that adults grapple with today, but 14 is too young to know right from wrong? Nope, sorry. You can miss me with that.

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  2. Sad story.

    I don't know how Omer can live with himself killing that boy like that. Sorry, dude needs to get life without parole!

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  3. "Uh-huh, uh-huh...if Omer Ninham was unmistakably POC, would he have lawyers - plural, mind you - trying get him an appeal, and would it be news?"

    And that's exactly what happened with Lawrence King. 14-year-old POC who was murdered by a classmate for being gay.

    Only there were legions of white folks (many of the gay) crying let the murderer free because he's a victim of society.

    Knowing damn well they wouldn't be talking that shit if the murderer was anything other than a cute white boy.

    And it amazes me how they conveniently forget the legions of blacks and Latinos kids who are doing 10-20 years for lesser charges.

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  4. And that's exactly what happened with Lawrence King. 14-year-old POC who was murdered by a classmate for being gay.

    *shakes head in disgust* RIP Lawrence King.

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  5. My condolences to the family. To lose a child, especially this way is HORRIBLE. I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through.


    Now with that being said, I understand with the argument that fourteen years old is too young to understand the impact of their choices. Just because very few people at fourteen have the life experiences necessary to make that kind of an informed decision. It's not really what they "know" but what they understand. And understanding only comes with experience. It's the difference between wisdom and intelligence. Not necessarily the difference between right and wrong but to understand the effects the decisions you make will have on yourself, and others. Does a fourteen year old know that murder is serious crime and has serious consequences? Definitely. But do they have understand why that is in terms of the cost to their victims families, their lives, their families lives?

    I really just don't think so but I can understand if other people disagree with me.


    In this context look at pregnancy. A mature adult, even a young one, doesn't understand the effects a baby will have on their lives or other people's lives. And getting pregnant is an easy thing to do too, one you hit puberty you can become a parent.


    Do fourteen year olds understand that having sex will give them a baby? I think nowadays they do. But do they understand the impact that becoming a parent will have on their lives, the baby's life, their families lives, their community? Again in both cases I really don't think so.

    Not that crimes young people commit shouldn't have consequences/punishments. I believe this child was sentenced to life without parole and I don't think thats right. In a legal context you can't say someone who is fourteen years old cannot under the law have none of the privileges an adult has like the ability to work,drive, or vote, but they can be given an adult punishment when it's convenient for the law. I don't think that's right because it goes both ways: If you can send a fourteen year old to an adult jail with grown ass hardened criminals then fourteen year olds should be able to: work, vote, drive,drink, and smoke. If fourteen is old enough to be punished like an adult then accordingly, fourteen years old is old enough to have adult privileges and responsibilities.

    But again the same line of reasoning applies: Why do most people agree it's NOT a good idea for teenagers to vote/work more than twenty hours a week/drink & smoke/join the military?

    To me the legal paradigm regarding youth in this country is just really inconsistent and kind of stupid because it really contradicts itself in principle & practice.

    Despite what this little sociopath and his friends did, he shouldn't be sentenced to jail with grown ass men since, he isn't one.

    If he's a child and we as a society agree that children shouldn't be treated the same as adults then he should be given a child's, albeit one who has done something very wrong, treatment.

    Which to me.. would be like an indefinite stay in some kind of mental health facility. It'll basically have the same affect as prison on his life, if not worse.

    I mean just because of his age, in a prison he would definitely get raped and many other worse things. No question. And even though he's a murderer I do believe that setting that kind of precedent is cruel and harsh.

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  6. Uh-huh, uh-huh...if Omer Ninham was unmistakably POC, would he have lawyers - plural, mind you - trying get him an appeal, and would it be news?

    I don't know, he looks POC to me. I mean most white people wouldn't see him as one of their own.

    I think the deciding factor here is class. I mean if he can afford a lawyer, he obivously has resources that many young offenders in the legal system don't have.

    It's weird because class and race are separate but they are usually inextricably linked.

    He could easily be a POC with lawyers depending on the demographics of the case. If remember a case a few years back of a black boy sentenced to death for murdering a six year old girl? He appealed the case too. I don't know what happened after that.

    I remember watching the Montell show( it was waay back) and the mother of the victim and the offender was on the show. I think the boy pleaded not guilty and was found guilty. They offered him a plea and he turned it down. It was a big deal because he was twelve years old and on death row. He claimed that he was doing wrestling moves and the girl died somehow it was really suspicious, but both parties had lawyers. And both mothers were black.

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  7. @ Student

    I disagree because I think the focus should be on what the 14-year-old does understand, not what they can't understand.

    When you're a teenager, all you care about is you. When I was 14, I knew that if I did something as stupid as murder my life would be over - end of story. I wouldn't need to know what my victim meant to his/her family to understand that my life as I knew it would be over. In fact, when kids talked about homicide and homicide-related issues back then, I distinctly recall "jail for life" and "tossing salad" were clearly understood by us all.

    I believe leoprincess nailed it with this:

    It's amazing; not even 2 centuries ago, you had teenagers making decisions that adults grapple with today, but 14 is too young to know right from wrong?

    Now, should criminals at that age be imprisoned separately from fully grown adults? Of course. But the sentence should stand nonetheless, especially since the sentence as it is can't bring Zong Vang back. You nailed it with this:

    this little sociopath

    Exactly the type of person we want the hell away from the rest of us. He threw a fellow human being off a building. This was no accidental shooting or stabbing or drug overdose - that I might understand where teens are concerned. But Omer, however, threw a fellow human being off a building - some next level shit - and I'm guessing the manner of Zong Vang's murder weighed heavily on the judge's decision. I mean, can you imagine the look on the judge's face when he/she first got this case?

    Furthermore, Omer is 27 now, supposedly now able to grasp what he did wrong, yet his arguments only confirm his sociopathy. He needs to bow his head in shame - if he's even capable of it - and sit his ass back down quietly somewhere.

    Pregnancy and murder aren't really compatible comparisons - to me - because making life and taking it are two vastly different things. I'll take a my kid getting knocked up over my kid killing someone any day.

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  8. He claimed that he was doing wrestling moves and the girl died somehow it was really suspicious

    I'm not wholly familiar the case, but I'm more understanding of "we were wrestling" than hurling a person off a building.

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  9. Pregnancy and murder aren't really compatible comparisons - to me - because making life and taking it are two vastly different things.

    That's true. I'm not disagreeing with you.

    But they are comparable in the fact that they are actions that can literally be made in a split second resulting from an ill advised ill thought reasoning, that have vast often unpredictable long range consequences.

    That was the only way I was saying that they were comparable.

    I don't think fourteen year olds who commit crimes, like murder, have the understanding of their actions that an adult has, simply because they don't have the life experiences an adult has, just like teens who get pregnant really don't.

    They're both usually only thinking in terms of "the moment" and "myself". Instead of in a larger more meaningful sense of "the future" "my family" "my community".

    Getting pregnant at fourteen years old isn't an offense by any means. I'm not trying to say that it is.

    But it's not a wise thing to do simply because a fourteen year old cannot take care of themselves. They aren't even legally independent of their parents and yet they have a dependent of their own?

    It's not about one being better or worse than the other it's about the reasoning they seem to stem from which is usually very simplistic and poorly thought out i.e. like a child's.


    Now, should criminals at that age be imprisoned separately from fully grown adults? Of course. But the sentence should stand nonetheless, especially since the sentence as it is can't bring Zong Vang back.

    Right. And I think he would probably be put in a juvenile facility anyway until he was old enough.

    Becoming an adult is a right of passage right? It means that now your are a FULL member of society with all the rights and responsibilities that that grants you.

    And the current law corroborate this because if you are fourteen you cannot work as much as an adult. I had a job when I was fifteen and I could only work twenty hours a week. You cannot do the same things as an adult under the current civil code in most states. You can do some things but with restrictions.

    So it is contradictory in my opinion to give a child an adult punishment if they are not an adult.

    If we are going to treat children like adults when we punish them, then they should be able to make adult decisions in other instances too. It's not really reasonable or logical the way it stands now.

    The legal distinction between childhood and adulthood is there for a reason. Regardless of whatever the reason is it is there. You can't just disregard it when it's convenient. I don't think it's legally prudent to do so. Even in this case.

    Either fourteen years old is a child or it's an adult. It can't be both at the same time.

    If fourteen year olds can be held FULLY responsible for the bad decisions they make, they should be held responsible for ALL the decisions make.

    If a minor decides to have sex consensually adult then the adult shouldn't be convicted of statutory rape.

    I'm just arguing that how "mature" or "immature" fourteen years old is should be consistent in ALL cases, not just some them.

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  10. Well the girl was six years old and best medical evidence suggested that she had been beaten and strangled to death i.e. hemorrhaging on the eyelids, bruises about the body.

    That's probably why his defense didn't hold up because there was obviously something he wasn't telling. They type of injuries the girl had that caused her death couldn't have some from the things he claimed he was doing. And why a twelve year old boy would "wrestle " with a five year old is anyone's guess but the jury didn't believe him.

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  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym2wN6mqXoQ

    To be honest I think fourteen is old enough to be treated like an adult in all instances. You know Dave Chappelle doesn't lie.

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  12. Well the girl was six years old and best medical evidence suggested that she had been beaten and strangled to death i.e. hemorrhaging on the eyelids, bruises about the body.

    That, to me, qualifies as some "next level shit." When a case like arises, it's obvious we're not dealing with the average 12-year-old.

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  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym2wN6mqXoQ

    To be honest I think fourteen is old enough to be treated like an adult in all instances. You know Dave Chappelle doesn't lie.


    LOL - one of my fav segments.

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  14. I understand you and others point of view but my principles outweigh my practicality on this particular issue.

    I'm not saying he didn't do something sick and wrong or that he shouldn't be punished. Just not as adult. Because he's still only twelve just like this sociopath is only fourteen.

    There's already a separate legal system for juveniles anyway, and for a good reason. And that's where they should stay. I mean there are, unfortunately, enough cases like this to show that children can, and do commit heinous crimes. Just deal with them in the juvenile department.

    I think we agree killing someone doesn't make you an adult, right?

    I mean a seven year old isn't suddenly a grownup just because they beat baby to death. This actually happened and in Florida too, WTF is wrong with kids in Florida! GODDAMN!

    Thats where the twelve year old boy is from:
    http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2005/06/03/biz_454917.shtml)

    I mean he beat a baby to death at seven years old. So...he deserves life without parole? Seven, twelve and seventeen aren't that far apart. Especially in terms of mental development.

    Once we say it's okay to treat children like adults when they fuck up it makes the labels "child" and "adult" arbitrary and meaningless. If the law isn't based on logic then it's not just. Which is a shaky foundation for a society to be on.

    A child is a child.

    From a strictly logical standpoint a fruit is a fruit, it's not an apple when you want to eat it and a book when you don't want to eat it.

    It's the same object no matter what your intentions are toward it.

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  15. I dunno.

    "...if Omer Ninham was unmistakably POC, would he have lawyers - plural, mind you - trying get him an appeal, and would it be news?"

    Most likely not if the family can't afford them, and lawyers are expensive...If the kid was Asian and the victim was still Asian, I think it may get some considerable press, but not as much if both kids were white, not near as much if the victim was white and the criminal was a POC, and would've gone straight viral if the victim was a white girl.

    I'm curious as to Omer's childhood. I believe there is absolutely NO excuse for ANYONE at ANY AGE to kill someone, and they deserve appropriate punishments for their crimes. However, explanations are still in order for ANY crime including white-collar crimes. While, I favor punishment, I also favor treatment. This could help find ways to uncover the reason why human beings fight and kill. Hopefully, that will lead to human evolution...that is, if that's what TRULY humanity wants.

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  16. A child is a child.

    As someone who worked in children's mental health, I disagree. Sometimes I sat down with a child, other times I found myself sitting across something else.

    *shudders*

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  17. The seven year old just blew me away. At first I was like...no, something else is going on here. It was the parents and they are blaming him. But....no it was actually the kid.

    Like...WTF? So yes. Some children really are demons and should be kept awaaaay from society and more importantly OTHER CHILDREN.

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  18. The only reason I'm so adamant on this point is that most prostitutes in NY are underage. They're runaways. And even though they're too young to consent to sex, they can be convicted of selling it. And sent to jail... real jail. Where bad things, worse than what they've already been through happen to them.

    The same laws that restrict these teenage girls(12-15) from getting a job and taking care of themselves properly if they just want to get away from a bad situation at home, supposedly for their "protection", throw them into the system and punish them even though they're clearly coerced/forced/kidnapped in like 80% of the cases.

    The john gets charged and so does the little girl. So now at thirteen this girl has a criminal record, and no legal way to work, even if she could find a job. So they go back to the pimps in most cases and the cycle continues. Or sent back to the same situation they're trying to get away from to begin with.

    Thats why, to me, juveniles need to stay juveniles. Or they need to be able to be legally be responsible for themselves.

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  19. Such a horrible complicated situation. Maybe they can be in juvenile detention until they are 21 then evaluated for parole. If the young man really is a sociopath then hopefully the justice department will recognize it and keep him away from the public.

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  20. @ Student:

    That's how many young girls AND young boys get funneled into human trafficking. They become invisible under the guise of runaways and many of them have no protection and often the only way they can get work is by selling their bodies. But also, a lot of them get taken advantage of by pimps and other adults.

    There's a really good doc about Prop 8 and how Mormons were involved. There's one section where they discuss how Mormon queer youth and adults have been treated b/c of their sexuality. Some commit suicide, some get kicked out, some are subjected to acts of cruelty such as electrocution.

    It's not their fault. A lot of kids live in difficult settings and when they feel they've reached their limit for pain then they try to leave and hope for something else. Or they're kicked out of their homes by abusive guardians. That happens to a lot of queer youth when either they come out or their sexual orientation is found out.

    Anyway, I think that before making these decisions to subject human beings to cruel levels of confinement with other people who may or may not hurt them we should be conducting tests. Especially in the case of youths who murder other people. Sometimes the kids don't really know what they're doing. Maybe they have feelings but they see the way some adults channel their anger and they decide to emulate it. Obviously, none of this occurs in a vacuum. I thought that the intention of prison was rehabilitation. Prisons are full enough as is and there is much justice for prisoners. If we have monsters then we must know that we create some if not most of them. Very few people are so incorrigible that the safest alternative is to lock them up forever. Most people commit crimes out of necessity.

    In this case I don't know what convinced these kids that they could just kill another kid. Perhaps they thought they could get away with it? Perhaps they were fueled by gang mentality and racism? But the circumstances of the poor child's death should be taken into consideration as well as the mindset of the kids. Some kids will in fact do things b/c they can get away with it, b/c they realize they have a certain level of privilege above others. They should be punished. But also if this were a situation where things got out of head I think there should still be the possibility of rehabilitation. But we have to be very careful.

    I agree with Student that the labels of "adult" and "child" are arbitrary, especially in cases of murder. We should really be dealing with people as individuals with their individual circumstances and motivations. Or has the system become so complex that we can't see humans anymore but just a free person versus one spending life in prison?

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  21. I mean I can speak from experience. There was an incident when I was a baby with my older sister. I don't remember it but one of my brothers told me about it later.

    My older sister tried to smother me apparently we shared the same room and I was breathing to loudly for her( I was sick at the time). How old was she? Six.Luckily my father asked her what the hell she was doing to me? She said, "I just wanted her to shut up."

    Now my sister's not some homicidal maniac.But despite the fact that she has been advanced degrees and a "normal" in most appearances life. She has a temper that flares easily and she holds petty grudges for a long time.

    I only recently found out that this had ever happened at all, but even at an early age I NEVER felt safe around my sister. I never trusted her, if she made any attempt to engage me I'd walk away. Never mind that she was bossy and a bully I just always avoided her. I played by myself or with my brothers.

    It was weird. We went to the same school and people didn't know we were sisters. We never talked to each other .She's calmed down somewhat but, to me she was always/still is a ticking time bomb.

    No one but me and my Mommy has seen her evil side though, she's good at hiding at from people.

    The weird thing is...it's just me, the only girl. She's just always been extremely jealous of me. She had another brother too we have four brothers so it's not like she wasn't used to having a sibling. She has three little brothers.

    I do know my mom got her a physiologist and did all the proper things. I think it made her better at knowing how she was "supposed" to behave so she was conditioned to not be homicidally jealous of me. In all honesty she probably still was, but she never tried to do anything like that again to me or anyone else. She didn't become a better person she's still as selfish/mean spirited/angry as she always was.

    But she is a respectable member of society today so, I think even kids with psychological issues/behavior can be rehabilitated to the point that they don't pose a threat to anyone.

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  22. @ Marona
    Yeah I was thinking of a specific example there but you're absolutely right.

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