We're looking at classism and the fact that in America there are two systems of justice. The first is the gentle, nice, forgiving system of justice and its for straightlaced middle class people (being white helps seriously). The other system of justice is vindictive, mean, and harsh its for anyone who isn't at least middle class and doesn't try to match the Leave it to Beaver 1950's image.
As an interesting similar case, in 1997 in Amarillo TX Dustin Camp, a local jock with a clean cut look and upper middle class parents murdered a local punk, Brian Deneke. Ran over him with his car during a fight, and according to a friend riding in the passenger seat yelled "I'm a ninja in my caddie". During the trial the judge repeatedly referred to Camp as a "boy" or a "child", and expressed the opinion that it wouldn't be right to ruin "a boy's" life with a long sentence.
Basically, if you're middle class, white, and can look like you came off the set of Leave it to Beaver, you get the kid gloves. Any freak, non-white, or poor person, they get the harsh treatment.