Daily Digest: young killers’ reprieve, public appearances, Marshall suicides

Katherine Lymn

Your Daily Digest for Thursday, April 21:

A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sentencing 13- and 14-year-olds to life without parole violated the Eight Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment — except in cases of murder. Now, the New York Times reports, SCOTUS is considering extended the break to youth were convicted of killing.  Should the court follow through, 2,500 prisoners would be affected. Justice Anthony Kennedy has written opinions in support of easing up on teens in other ways, like the above decision from last year and a decision to ban capital punishment for juveniles. He says teens deserve lenience because they are “immature, impulsive, susceptible to peer pressure and able to change for the better over time.” But Kent S. Scheidegger, of crime victims’ advocacy group Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, says the move is wrong. “Sharp cutoffs by age, where a person’s legal status changes suddenly on some birthday, are only a crude approximation of correct policy,” he said.

National Public Radio this morning has a couple pieces on keeping up appearances — badly. First, check out this piece on the public relations disaster BP created after the oil spill, a year ago yesterday. One BP retiree, who rejoined to help after the spill, said what appeared to be arrogant ignorance and a lack of humility sprang from former CEO Tony Hayward’s decision to cut public and government relations funding to save money. A prof writing a book about the giant PR gaffe said BP officials goofed by downplaying the effects of the spill rather than accepting them and admitting it’d be a while before they were fixed. “While I think the company will survive, its reputation has been irreparably damaged,” says the prof, Clarke Caywood. Now, for a more immediate disaster, here’s a piece on euphemizing the federal budget crisis. The budget is all about numbers, NPR reports, but is also a battle over words. Both parties are dressing up what they want to get passed, and demonizing what they want to be rid of. Democrats relabeled gov’t spending as “making investments in the country’s future.” Republicans want to lose what they call the “death tax,” a.k.a. the estate tax. And a favorite: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., wanted to downplay the possibility of a federal gov’t shutdown a few weeks back. Since only a quarter of workers would be furloughed, she said, “the government would not shut down — it would slow down.”

More is coming out about the suicides of two Marshall, Minn., girls, and newspapers as far away as in Britain are following it. The girls were inseparable, the Daily Mail reports; one, Haylee Fentress, hyphenated her last name on Facebook to include the other’s, Paige Moravetz. Fentress once got in trouble for defending Moravetz in a fight. The girls, both 14, hung themselves last weekend after apparently being bullied at school.  Along with sentimental letters to their families, the girls left details of how they wanted their funerals carried out. Fentress “requested everything pink and princess and butterflies,” her aunt said.