Saturday, 23 August 2003

More on "Amber's Army"

Last month, I made some snarky remarks about Amber’s Army, an activist group started by the Commercial Appeal after the tragic death of Amber Cox-Cody, who was left in a day care van in the blazing heat of the Memphis summer.

Veronica Coleman-Davis, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennnessee, has written an excellent editorial on Amber’s Army. Coleman-Davis questions whether it is appropriate for the media to be engaged in this kind of activist organization. She writes, "Calling for community action under the heading of Amber’s Army is a risky entrance into the realm of shaping, not reporting, the news."

In other news, the day care workers whose negligence resulted in Amber Cox-Cody’s death, have been charged with first-degree murder. This surprised a lot of people in the community, including me, who thought that first-degree murder required premeditation. But according to Tennessee State Code 39-15-202 (2), first-degree murder includes any “the killing of another committed in the perpetration of … any first-degree murder, act of terrorism, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect or aircraft piracy.” (Note the interesting recursion in the definition. The recursion bottoms out in paragraph (1), which gives the usual “premeditated or intentional” definition.)

When you look at the definitions of “child abuse” and “aggravated child abuse” in 39-13-401 and 39-13-402, however, it seems that almost any action that results in the death of a minor may well fall under the classification of first-degree murder. Shouldn’t we be drawing some distinctions?