Friday, November 16, 2012

Zombie Justice?

Many of you are probably familiar with AMC’s hit series, “The Walking Dead.” For those unfamiliar, the show centers on a small band of people trying to survive in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. At times, the show is terrifying. It’s often brutal, too, as characters are forced to watch friends and family die, and make impossible moral choices in a world where zombies outnumber survivors 5,000 to 1.

On the show, “When a person dies, the virus they carry reactivates critical areas of the brain that support necessary vital systems, resulting in reanimation. Because only a portion of the brain is reactivated, the reanimated person retains only a physical resemblance to their former self.”

This partial reanimation results in the creation of what the survivors refer to as a "walker": a slow-moving, barely sentient zombie whose only "goal" is stumbling across and devouring its next meal. Walkers display no personality or purposive behavior, and nothing resembling creativity.They are a mindless horde without will, without creativity, and without anything that could be described as meaningful personhood. Put another way, walkers "are void of any emotional expression and thought."

Something occurred to me the other night as I was catching up on the series. We empower judges to make decisions that have enormous impact on citizens’ lives. We choose them in part because they possess certain traits (e.g., a sense of justice, fairness, even-handedness, empathy, objectivity) that give us confidence they will make the right call most of the time. Mandatory minimums, of course, deprive judges of any discretion to impose appropriate sentences. As a result, in a case with a mandatory minimum we could replace a sentencing judge with any of the lumbering, brain dead “walkers” and the sentence wouldn't change at all.

Citizens deserve better than zombie justice.

~ Greg Newburn
Florida Project Director