Anecdotal -- but it seems that judges are handing out increasingly long sentences to parents who have killed their own children. Just yesterday the Osaka District Court upped the prison terms of a father and mother who killed their infant daughter from 10 years to 15 years (J). Last Friday, another Osaka court handed out a staggering 30-year prison term to a 24 year-old bar girl who abandoned her two children to starve to death in the family apartment (J).
I want the courts to be merciless with the killers of the children of others, for those that kill the children of others rob parents of life's only true treasures. However, persons killing their own children is almost always the result of families or individuals being under extraordinary stress. Judges should be taking circumstances into account, rather coming down with peculiarly arithmetic maximum sentences for these first-time offenders. In the first case mentioned, the baby, the family's third child, was killed out of a moment's rage at her not eating her food. In the second case, the young woman had only been recently divorced and was in retrospect overwhelmed by both her night work and childcare.
I can understand that society would have a vested interest in transmitting the message "Do not kill your kids." However, is it really necessary to deliver the message with a sledgehammer? Furthermore, is the judicial system the transmitter of choice?