Originally created 11/13/97

Justice undone



"My purpose is not (to) denigrate Matthew Eappen's death nor his family's grief," Massachusetts Judge Hiller Zobel pompously proclaimed before doing just that.

Even if you're among the countless multitudes in Britain and the U.S. who believe the no-parole, 15-year prison term meted out to the young British au pair convicted of murdering baby Matthew was too harsh, that's no reason to set her free.

Yet that's exactly what Zobel did by substituting his verdict -- involuntary manslaughter -- for the jury's. But even conviction on that charge usually draws a 3-to-5 year prison term in Massachusetts.

But for 19-year-old Louise Woodward, it was reduced to time served, 279 days, just days longer than the lifetime of the tot she battered to death.

Purse-snatchers have been known to serve more time than that.

The judge didn't just change the verdict, he threw it out. By so doing, he cravenly caved into international pressure (i.e., mob rule) and trivialized the jury, the prosecution, the family's grief -- but most of all, the life of that 8-month-old tot.

Justice in this country is for grown-ups. Fetuses and now, it increasingly seems, infants are expendable.