On February 14, 19 year-old Justin Carter was arrested for making a comment on Facebook.
In response to another commenter that called him crazy, Carter allegedly commented something to the effect of, ‘I’m f—ed in the head alright. I think I’ma (sic) shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.‘
Texas law enforcement personnel had to take his words at face value, as they were potentially threatening to others. Given the recent events at Sandy Hook, it’s hard to give a free pass to comments like Carter’s, even when they’ve been couched with follow-up comments like “lol” or “jk”.
At the same time, everything I’ve read about the case suggests this: He appears to be a young kid that made a poor decision to post a sarcastic comment, using a poor choice of words. If this is indeed the case, I’m not sure it makes any sense to keep him in jail. The $500,000 bond alone seems unfair and excessive, and the family can’t afford to post the fee to get him released.
After nearly five months, Justin still sits in jail, and is on suicide watch. Apparently nobody in a position to do so wants to be responsible for freeing him, in the off-chance that his comments were not sarcastic.
There seems to be great support for having the punishment fit the crime. Justin’s mother has launched a petition for Justin Carter’s release. As of the time of this post, the petition had over 82,000 digital signatures requesting his freedom.
Justin’s father, Jack, is obviously concerned for his son’s safety and well-being. Jack has said the most logical statement in this matter to date: “I definitely see the need to investigate such claims. Absolutely. But at some point during the investigation there has to be some common sense.”
If after 5 months, there is no evidence found against the kid aside from a comment on Facebook, it’s time to let him go. And I expect, with the growing media attention surrounding this case, Carter will be out of prison soon.
I’m not making light of the seriousness of what Carter did (and neither is the Carter family). But as a parent myself, I know that children and teenagers tend to do stupid and inconsiderate things from time to time, simply because they are young and don’t have the life experience to know better.
Carter has certainly learned his lesson the hard way, but it’s really a lesson for all of us. Dark humor, jokes about violence, and sarcastic comments about violence, simply don’t translate well on the Internet.
It’s very easy to hit the post button, but sometimes we don’t realize the implications of our words, what we’re feeling at the time, or the fact that everything we post online is out there – forever. It’s a discussion that we should be having with our kids – at home and in schools. Furthermore, it’s something we should be thinking about ourselves.