On the one hand, we have a severely emotionally disturbed 20-year old. A loner. Unable to really handle high school. Who inexplicably strangles his next-door neighbor, and promptly confesses. Someone without any criminal history whatsoever. Someone who, while in prison, seems to be a model inmate. A kid who profoundly regrets what he's inexplicably done.
On the other hand, we have the victim. A twelve-year old girl. Murdered in her home, in her bed.
For the judge and jury, the second hand outweighs the first. Daniel Linton gets sentenced to death. The California Supreme Court unanimously affirms.
The case highlights for me the incredible difficulty of determining who lives and who dies. How to separate the monsters from those who have committed monstrous acts. As well as how much rides on that determination.
A depressing case on every level.
POSTSCRIPT - I'll add that, as with every case, there are additional details on both sides. On the victim's side, there's the impact of the girl's death on her family, the fact that the defendant had likely been in the house (and attempted to molest the little girl as she slept) previously, and semen from the defendant found on a discarded pair of the victim's underpants. For me, those circumstances are less relevant than the actual killing -- which is incredibly bad enough -- and don't change my perception that it's incredibly hard to tell who deserves to live and who deserves to die. Particularly when, as here, the murder seems out of character, and hence potentially the product less of an irredeemably bad heart than something else. But an informed (and superemely intelligent) reader thought the various grusome details of the case might matter to him or her (or others), and that seemed a more than fair point, so I thought I'd include a little bit more of a description.