Justice wins! Kids convicted

Don't know about you, but I was overjoyed at the Nate Abraham verdict.

Hard as it is to believe, a nearly all-white jury in highly affluent Oakland County found the courage to accept the idea that a semiretarded poor black child ought to stand trial as an adult.

They further showed their backbone by convicting him of second-degree murder. The true beauty of the result did not, however, lie in its harshness, but in its sheer irrationality. "We don't have an issue with convicting an 11-year-old," barked the jury foreman, a specimen named Daniel Stolz.

Stolz, you see, means proud, haughty, or arrogant in German. This Stolz, who looked as if he might have been David Duke's college roommate, seemed a trifle deficient in the logic department. Explaining why little Nate was not convicted of first-degree murder, Stolzie said since the boy has the reasoning capacity of a 6-to-8 year old, jurors decided he was not capable of a premeditated crime.

Yet, they decided he could "form the intent" to kill. (I'd explain the difference, but I lost my atomic jury decoder.) "The gun does not raise itself up automatically," said Der Stolz, staking his claim as the Einstein of Lake Orion.

That meant Nathaniel was guilty of second-degree murder. Naturally, having decided that, they also had to find him guilty of an associated charge — possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony, right? After all, Ronnie Greene died from a bullet fired by this now-convicted murderer.

Surprise, surprise! They found him innocent of that. What does that mean? Well, that Geoffrey Fieger was dead wrong, twice. First, he said Nathaniel didn't have a jury of his peers. Indeed, while none of this lot was his age, their verdict seemed consistent with Nate's tested IQ of 78.

Finally, Fieger really seemed to believe civilized adults would not find a confused child guilty of murder. Ho, ho. I found out differently two weeks ago, after I wrote a column pointing out how beastly this was.

"Dear unmittigated (sic) asshole," one typical letter from Southfield began, written before the verdict. "Plainly this individual is mentally flawed and unrehabiletable (sic)" continued my correspondent, who hadn't courage enough to sign its name.

"If he is ever put back on the street, now or later, I hope you will find him living next door," it concluded. One Colin Ritter seemed to blame Nate for his father's skipping town after his birth. "True that the system failed him, but we still have something called parents and they are supposed to rear their children the proper way."

That kid gets guiltier all the time. Two other gentle souls wrote, in letters that bore the faintest whiff of Zyklon-B: Did I not realize that some people are just plain born evil? No, hopeless simp that I am, I did not, and do not.

True, there were some flickers of humanity. "Bravura to you for shouting ... at this uncivilized travesty," Moris Hughes wrote to me. He knows better; his son, he said, suffers from bipolar mental illness and is unlucky enough to live in Englerland.

No mollycoddling the distressed here. "I witnessed my son going from a mental hospital to a state prison, from a mental patient to a criminal inmate," he said.

Curiously, most of the writers seemed not to have actually read my column, in which I noted that Nate was what used to be called a juvenile delinquent, and ought not to be on the street.

What accounts for the venom? Clearly, we as a society are fed up with kids killing people. We've had tykes blasting away in schools from Colorado to Mississippi to Georgia in the last year or so, and are justly terrified. Yet what can we do?

Nothing about Harris and Klebold, etc., but, by God, this Oakland County jury at least had Nathaniel Abraham, and was determined to make an example of him.

Now you may find the idea ridiculous that we were willing to punish a small black boy extra harshly because of the more frightening crimes of a bunch of middle-class white kids. After all, we in America have never made minorities scapegoats for anything.

But guess what. Even if they fry Nate in butter, it isn't going to change a thing. On Saturday, a 12-year-old student in New Mexico was charged with shooting to death a classmate. Lots more of this is likely. Know why? Want to know the awful truth we fear to face? Brace yourselves: guns. That's right. Lots of guns are everywhere, thanks to our sick refusal to control them, and any troubled tot can now get firearms.

When I was a lad we had sort of a Nate Abraham in our school, a white one. The National Rifle Association had not yet completed its conquest of America, and one day this firearm-deprived child brought a switchblade and pulled it out. The teacher slapped him, sent the blade flying, and proto-Nate was packed off to reform school.

But hey. That was then; this is now, and progress marches on!

Democratic Daze: Elsewhere in this issue, Democratic State Chair Mark Brewer responds to my previous criticism of his party's decidedly nondemocratic presidential caucus. What he doesn't mention is that one of the evils of his system is its denial to "voters" of the secret ballot so essential to real democracy, which of course he opposes.

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