The tears shed by a Court of Queen’s Bench justice during the sentencing of a young man who murdered his infant daughter are shared by the community.
When Mr. Justice Earl Wilson sentenced Julian Oliver Thomson to five years penitentiary in Red Deer court on Tuesday, his eyes welled up with tears.
Thomson, 22, in a fit of rage last Nov. 25, triggered by the infant crying, shook her violently, crashing her head against the side of an exercise saucer, then threw her to the floor.
Zaria McCall, just shy of three months old, suffered severe head trauma, including three fractures to her skull and extensive internal bleeding.
The injuries came at the hands of one of the people she should have been able to most rely upon for protection.
Children are a gift, to be cradled and embraced with unconditional love. And above all else, those given the responsibility for bringing them into this world must fiercely defend their right to life.
When they die at the hands of a parent or other caregiver, tears should be shed by us all: out of compassion, frustration and confusion.
How could somebody entrusted with caring for an innocent, helpless child turn on her with such deadly rage?
“A child looks to her parents for love, safety and affection,” said the judge. “It is the court that must speak for Zaria.”
It’s rare in court for a judge to show such emotion, but they are as human as the next person.
And cases dealing with the abuse of children and seniors, particularly, speak to the awful perils of society’s most vulnerable members.
Judges repeatedly see and hear of heinous criminal actions that are far beyond the comprehension of most reasonable people. But while justice requires a reasoned perspective, it defies human nature to expect anyone in such a circumstance to be completely detached. Emotion is, and always should be, part of the human condition.
The five-year sentence imposed on Thomson, after pleading guilty to manslaughter, may seem light.
But judges are bound by sentencing guidelines set down by the higher courts.
Crown prosecutor Jason Snider said that while manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the sentence was in line with those handed out to others under similar circumstances.
Zaria’s family understands, to a point. “Although we wish that the sentence handed to Julian Thomson could have been longer, there is no amount of punishment that can undo this horrible, horrible crime and give us back our precious little angel,” the family wrote in a statement.
“We would like to thank (Justice) Wilson for being very thorough and explaining the basis of his decision and giving Julian the maximum sentence based on the precedent set by previous cases.”
But precedents should be challenged, when the standard becomes an affront to social values.
And certainly the death of a child deserves a harsher sentence.
“We would never wish this pain on anyone, and (we) believe that a stronger punishment would deter similar crimes in the future,” read the McCall family’s statement, which urged the public to lobby officials to consider harsher sentencing values.
We have an obligation as a society, and as individuals, to do everything possible to protect children. Dealing more harshly with killers like Julian Oliver Thomson would be a good place to start.
Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.