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Are Parents Responsible for Children Becoming Criminals?

Here in America, murder is not only against the law, it’s against our moral code. There’s no justification for cold-blooded murder in our court system. And here we have the case of Jason Balcom, now in the penalty phase of his trial for the rape and stabbing of Malinda Godfrey Gibbons in 1988.

The defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Doloris Yost, brings up an interesting, but contentious, case for Balcom’s defense in this case.

She is not saying that Balcom is not guilty of the crimes, Yost gives some fairly damning evidence of his upbringing that may have caused him to act in this way. Yost discusses Balcom’s mentally ill, abusive mother who lived an unstable lifestyle with a succession of men who got her involved in alcohol and drug abuse while she raised her son. She described his mother, Laura Balcom, as a “self-absorbed, needy and manipulative woman who had affairs with black men to rebel against her prejudiced parents in Michigan.” Motherhood is not an easy task, for sure, but it doesn’t seem like Jason Balcom had a mother who worked hard at the job.

Yost also put a marriage and family therapist, Dr. Tracey Laszloffy, on the stand in order to explore Balcom’s upbringing further. The therapist testified that if repressed rage in teens is not properly channeled, it is released in violent, aggressive behavior. At the time of the murder, Balcom would have been just 18.

Dr. Laszloffy, co-author of Teens Who Hurt, went on to say that Balcom covered his rage, knowing that in order to survive he needed to seem polite and courteous. She testified that Balcom’s erratic mother, Laura Balcom, “dealt out heavy doses of neglect on one hand and abuse on the other.” A former teacher of Balcom’s testified about how he was held back twice in the fourth grade and earned mostly Fs during his school years.

So, now that James Balcom is facing death or life in prison without parole, how much can we blame his mother for this murder? We know she did not force her son to commit this act against the victim, but she certainly did not give him the tools or any guidance on how to be a productive member of society.

And where were the schools, the guidance counselors, the police? Was it that easy for society to let this teen’s repressed rage fester? Or was it that Balcom was so clever to keep it hidden? Surely his grades could have been some sort of indication. How do you feel about this conviction? Do you feel that parents should be more responsible for their children’s actions, good or bad? Do you feel that we have lost touch with how to raise children who become good citizens? Or do you feel that no matter what their background or how they were raised, it’s up to each person to choose their way in life?

Please feel free to comment below and let us know how you feel. At the Law Offices of Glew & Kim, we see all clients as innocent until proven guilty, and believe in equal justice for all. If you or someone you know has been involved in a crime and needs honest, unbiased defense, please call us immediately on 714-713-4525 or use our online form for a free case analysis.