In his first interview after his child's suicide, Phoebe Prince's dad recommended "leniency" for her alleged bullies. Should we care?
Slate's Emily Bazelon, who last week questioned whether the six teenagers indicted in Prince's suicide had really bullied her to death, spoke with Jeremy Prince, who says that he didn't see his daughter as depressed in her final months, but "what I didn't see was Phoebe in school. Perhaps if I had, that would have made a big difference. It is the great tragedy of my life that I was not there." He doesn't, however, necessarily crave a legal response to this tragedy. He says, "If someone is punished disproportionately to what they've done, that would be wrong," and adds, "You want to see the law acknowledged, and reasonable penalties, but without making an example of them." Summing up his attitude on the subject, he says,
If they confessed to the court and said they were sorry, I'd appeal to the court for total leniency. You can go two ways. You can look to the court for revenge or you can look for leniency. The latter path is mine.
Prince's view makes sense, especially in light of evidence that not all the teenagers charged bullied his daughter as severely as has been claimed. And it's interesting to hear his perspective, as a parent, on Phoebe's life and on what more he could have done. At the same time, his call for leniency can only mean so much. It's a bit reminiscent of Samantha Geimer's request that the LA courts drop charges against Roman Polanski. The South Hadley teens' crimes, if they did commit them, were less heinous than Polanski's, but the principle is the same — as Tracy Clark-Flory pointed out in our discussion of the Polanski case, victims shouldn't get to decide the fate of criminals. Neither should their families — because as much as we want the justice system to provide closure for the grieving, it also needs to remain impartial. So while Jeremy Prince may be right that the "South Hadley Six" deserve clemency, it's not his call to make.
Image via Slate.