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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Man's sentence fails to match his crime

Friday, January 18, 2002

We expect the criminal justice system above all to be fair. We may from time to time disagree with the degree or severity of the punishment but as long as justice is consistent then it is also fair. Yet on a daily basis, I read reports of justice that does not seem to match the crime. And this week was no exception.

Brett Svoboda is a 21-year-old Kansas man with an 8-week-old infant son. Now we tragically know that Svoboda was ill-equipped to be a father at his young age. But unfortunately for 8-week-old Trey Svoboda, it's too late.

When Trey Svoboda was taken to the hospital in January 2000 doctors found 36 rib fractures caused by squeezing. Some of the ribs had been broken, healed and then broken again. One rib had been broken three different times. The cause of death was the infant's inability to breathe properly with multiple rib fractures. And all of these instances of violence occurred in a brief six-week period of time between when the infant came home from the hospital and when doctors pronounced him dead. Six short weeks and 36 broken ribs. It must have truly been horrible.

Brett Svoboda told a judge this week that the infant would stop crying if held tightly. But authorities now know that Brett Svoboda was lacking any parental skills or understanding whatsoever. Virtually each day Brett Svoboda squeezed his infant son hard enough to break a rib and slowly take his life.

In my opinion the tragedy was compounded when Brett Svoboda was given only a five year sentence. In just two years, the then 23-year-old Svoboda will have paid his debt to society and will return to the streets. That is as great a tragedy as the death itself.

Some people are simply unable to parent in any shape or form. We have them in Sikeston as well as any other place. These people are the silent killers and abusers of our society. Unfortunately we hear of them only when tragedy turns to death. And what signal do we send to others? We slap this young man on the wrist and forget the painful death suffered by his infant son.

Perhaps there are some questions in society that will forever remain unanswered. Among those are why a person would be so callous as to cause this type of death. It may be born of ignorance or inexperience or both. But it does not provide an excuse for the killer and it most certainly is not an excuse for the courts to look the other way in this case. And that, in my opinion, is exactly what happened.

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