The outrage and frustration from family members is understandable. Tony Day is accused of killing two innocent people and the maximum punishment he will receive under the law is nominal by comparison.
But Tucumcari District Judge Albert Mitchell acted responsibly and humanely with his ruling last week that Day should be sentenced as a juvenile.
Day, 14 at the time of the Nov. 26, 2012, slayings of his adoptive mother and sister, will likely be freed from state custody at age 21. That’s if he receives the maximum punishment for the killings as expected.
Victims Sue Day and Sherry Folts were “totally deserted” by the court, one of Day’s daughters said after Mitchell’s decision.
“The court did not fully appreciate the nature of the murder. Tony gets to live his full life, while we don’t get to enjoy the company of our mother and sister,” Sabra Williams said. “They’re not here to speak up because he took their lives.”
Scott Day, Tony’s adoptive brother, was more blunt.
“It was a stupid decision because the judge pretty much told every kid they can kill two people and brag about it, then get away with it.”
Their opinions matter and should receive heartfelt consideration.
But Mitchell recognized that no amount of incarceration can bring back Sue Day and Sherry Folts. And we cannot forget their accused slayer was an abused, neglected child.
Tony Day was discarded by his biological family and shuffled between foster homes most of his life.
Mike Day, his adoptive dad, said Tony lived with a biological grandmother for a while, but “she said she couldn’t stand him.” Tony seemed unable to control his bowels and “Grandma said he was always mean to animals,” Mike Day said. After coming to Tucumcari, Tony told the Days he’d been sexually abused as a young child.
None of those tragedies justifies murder, but Judge Mitchell heard testimony that convinced him the troubled youth may respond well to behavioral health treatment and that’s why he elected to give him a chance to eventually live a life outside the prison system.
It’s important to remember Tony Day is not being allowed to walk away from his actions with no repercussions.
He will spend years in state custody undergoing mental health treatment he should have received probably a decade ago.
And it’s not like he will leave the juvenile system anonymously, never having to account for his actions.
Everyone who’s ever known him will always associate him with that bloody winter night and forever question his integrity, his sanity, his ability to control his anger.
Many who’ve never met him know his name and what he’s alleged to have done and will never give him the benefit of a doubt.
Law enforcement certainly knows about him and any criminal acts he might commit as an adult, no matter how minor, will receive more scrutiny than most of us might face.
If Tony Day had killed two people as an adult, a lifetime behind prison bars would seem a just punishment, no matter the abuse and neglect he suffered as a child.
But while we can argue all day about what age an individual becomes an adult, most of us would agree that age is not 14.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Sue Day and Sherry Folts and we hope time will help them find peace with this unconscionable act perpetrated against the innocent souls they loved.
We’re also glad to have a court system that tempers justice with mercy when children are involved.
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis News Journal’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Arrowsmith and Editor David Stevens. All other views expressed on this page are those of their authors.