The Bad Seed?
(All emphases by Always On Watch)
In the 1956 film The Bad Seed, Rhoda Penmark has every possible advantage, but she is one evil little girl and without conscience:
"Rhoda Penmark lives with mother, the nervous Christine (Nancy Kelly), and a doting but often absent father played by William Hopper. They live in a sheltered world of private schools and manicured lawns, shepherded in Daddy’s absence by doting, buffoonish landlady Monica (Evelyn Varden). Their lovely little world — punctuated by Rhoda’s grating curtsies, smarmy good manners, tacky piano stylings, and the toxic mantra "What would you give me for a basket of kisses?" — begins to unravel when one of Rhoda’s classmates turns up dead. Christine gets increasingly unhinged by hints that Rhoda doesn’t take defeat kindly, and it seems the deceased — little Claude Daigle — had the temerity to win the class penmanship medal. This in spite of the fact that, as Rhoda screams, 'Everyone knew I wrote the best hand!' More puzzling deaths follow until Nature weighs in to reclaim the little beast."
I bring up The Bad Seed because of developments in the case of Lionel Tate, who murdered a six-year old in 1999:
"Lionel Tate, a twelve year old, with a normal I.Q. weighing 170 lbs, said he was imitating professional wrestlers when he beat to death 6-year-old, 48 lb. Tiffany Eunick in his Pembroke Park, Fla., home.Whatever happened to Lionel Tate? In 2004, his conviction was overturned on appeal, and he was released on probation. Almost immediately, he had a run-in with the law and received an additional five years of probation, yet he remained free. And it didn't take long for him to get into more trouble, for which he was again recently in court:
"July 28, 1999 Kathleen Grossett-Tate, a Florida highway patrol trooper and single mother, brought Tiffany Eunick home to watch for the evening. The mothers knew each other from Jamaica where they'd grown up. Tiffany and Lionel Tate, 12, had known each other between 2-4 weeks. After dinner as the children watched television, Grossett-Tate went upstairs. Around 10 P.M., she yelled for them to quiet down, but didn't check on them. Forty minutes later Tate told his mother that Tiffany was not breathing. Tate claimed he had Tiffany in a headlock as he slammed her head on a table, but a medical examiner's reported indicated injuries caused by much rougher abuse. Experts testified that Tiffany suffered a beating lasting 1 - 5 minutes. She had 35 injuries, including a ruptured spleen, lacerations, and damage to her rib cage, a fractured skull, brain contusions, a partially detached liver and bruises all over her body. (Tate changed his story years later claiming he jumped on her from a staircase.)
"Tate's described as bright, and street smart, had an eight year history of major behavior problems including fighting, assault, lying, stealing, and fifteen school suspensions. His attorneys argued that the death was an accident. Michael Brannon, a forensic psychologist at the Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law was appointed to examine Tate in 1999. Brannon's evaluation concluded he didn't suffer from mental illness but had 'a high potential for violence, uncontrolled feelings of anger, resentment, and poor impulse control.' Brannon recommended that Tate be placed in a secure mental hospital for intensive monitoring if he was released...."
"On Thursday [May 18, 2006], he was back in court over the holdup of a pizza deliveryman last May.From a May 19, 2006 item in the Washington Post:
"In a deal with prosecutors, Tate had faced 10 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery and violating his probation by having a gun. On Thursday, the judge let him withdraw his guilty plea in the robbery but still sentenced him on the gun charge. The robbery trial is set for Sept. 18.
"Defense attorney H. Dohn Williams said he did not understand why Tate would want to go to trial on the robbery charge, given that a conviction could bring a life sentence in addition to the 30 years for the probation violation.
"'He continues to get bad advice from meddling third parties,' Williams said outside court.
"Williams said Tate's mother, Florida Highway Patrol trooper Kathleen Grossett-Tate, told him he could win an appeal on the probation violation conviction, win his robbery case and leave jail in a year. She left court without commenting.
"Williams pleaded with the judge for leniency, blaming Tate's criminal behavior on his upbringing.
"'The death of Tiffany Eunick would never have occurred if there had been proper parental guidance and control,' Williams said...."
"FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Lionel Tate, the teenager who got a second chance after he beat and stomped a 6-year-old girl to death, was sent back to prison for 30 years for gun possession. 'In plain English, Lionel Tate, you've run out of chances. You do not get any more,' Circuit Judge Joel T. Lazarus told Tate, who smirked as he was led off to jail."Whether or not there is any validity to the bad-seed argument, rehabilitation is an extremely remote possibility. In The Bad Seed, no amount of love or good upbringing could change Rhoda Penmark, the child born without a conscience, a trait she had inherited from her maternal grandmother, who had been a cold-blooded killer.
In 2036, the year in which Lionel Tate is scheduled for release, he will be forty-nine years old--if he serves the full sentence, that is. I imagine that his mother will continue to make excuses and to search for leniency for her son. Such has been her pattern all along, despite her career as a law-enforcement officer. But excuses and leniency have done nothing to teach Lionel Tate about responsibility and accountability.