The Law: Should a Murderer Pay?

Confessed Rapist-Murderer Robert Eugene Watson deserved to be executed, said Maryland Judge George B. Rasin. But since such a sentence has become "an exercise in futility," Rasin gave the defendant a life term—and then tacked on an extraordinary proviso. Watson will be eligible for parole in 15 years, but whenever he is released, said the judge, he must pay 40% of his income for the rest of his life to the two sons of the housewife he killed.

Paying reparations is an ancient custom, and although it is not often invoked in U.S. law, it may be making a comeback. This summer,...

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