Interesting legal question with philosophical overtones

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Unseen 3 weeks ago.

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  • #39398

    Unseen
    Participant

    Suppose a person, Joe, has been identified, after weeks of investigation, to have raped and murdered a classmate at his college. Recently discovered surveillance video, fingerprints, and trace evidence leave little doubt.

    A search resulted and Joe was finally found in a small town where he’d been taken to the hospital after a traffic accident, apparently with amnesia. He was found because his fingerprints had been taken in order to discover his identity.

    After Joe was arrested, his family hired an attorney for him and the attorney met with the prosecutor arguing this way:

    First, my client has no memory of this crime, even if he did commit it. The mens in the mens rea is absent. Secondly, given his memory loss, he can’t exercise his right to participate in his defense. Finally, given the above, I request his prompt release.

    The prosecutor said “First things first. I want OUR expert to examine him.” When that happened, the state’s expert agreed that Joe’s memory loss was very likely real and very difficult to feign, given the area of the brain damaged in the accident.

    In other words, Joe is even worse off than his attorney had argued.

    What should the prosecutor do?

    #39399

    jakelafort
    Participant

    The brain damage and amnesia occurred after the crimes and therefore have no immediate relevance for the prosecutor. It is all about Joe’s state of mind before he acted. The nature of the crimes is grave and a prosecutor won’t look the other way typically. Since the evidence is agreed to be significant the prosecutor can either summon a grand jury or bring felony charges. I think they usually go to a grand jury. But when there is a mound of incriminating evidence the prosecutor can get an initial hearing and persuade a judge that the case will go forward.

    Where the brain injury is relevant legally is legal standing for trial. I think a constitutional amendment might be invoked by Joe but i can’t recall and won’t look it up. So a judge will delay the trial until Joe is with it. But if that never happens? I probably used to know. Do Nazis who have dementia escape trial by reason of their illness?

    #39400

    Unseen
    Participant

    The brain damage and amnesia occurred after the crimes and therefore have no immediate relevance for the prosecutor. It is all about Joe’s state of mind before he acted. The nature of the crimes is grave and a prosecutor won’t look the other way typically. Since the evidence is agreed to be significant the prosecutor can either summon a grand jury or bring felony charges. I think they usually go to a grand jury. But when there is a mound of incriminating evidence the prosecutor can get an initial hearing and persuade a judge that the case will go forward.

    Where the brain injury is relevant legally is legal standing for trial. I think a constitutional amendment might be invoked by Joe but i can’t recall and won’t look it up. So a judge will delay the trial until Joe is with it. But if that never happens? I probably used to know. Do Nazis who have dementia escape trial by reason of their illness?

    That’s helpful from the legal angle, but it leaves a fair amount of ground for philosophical discussion of personal responsibility.

    As to your last point, while you may be able to justify trying a criminal with dementia, can you justify hanging him?

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 2 days ago by  Unseen.
    #39402

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Personal responsibility?

    Do we simply accept the foundation of criminal law when more and more evidence suggests that our actions are beyond our control? Free will is consonant with responsibility and perhaps even retribution. The old testament eye for an eye feels damn real when one’s own has been unjustly harmed. However it feels free will is simply not reality. And to some extent we weed out instances in which the suspect is not in her right mind. If he or she could not form the intent or have the capacity to refrain then criminal penalties are negated. And that is a way of saying that free will is no longer operational when say someone is delusional.

    As knowledge of the precursors or causative agents of our behavior is revealed will we extend the relaxation of criminal penalties? People are hornier when their herpes is active. Some suffer insane sex drives during manic phases. Bacteria and hormones make us this way and that. Apparently pedophiles have irresistible impulses. We know our closest cousins the chimps sometimes have males separate females from the troop and rape them. They even have infanticide and battles with rival troops. I am an easy going sort but on a few occasions i have lost my temper to such a degree that i felt out of control. I can see how even passive people under certain circumstances will kill.

    But if we find none of us can control jack shit about anything then the notion of personal responsibility is meaningless.

    As for executing criminals i changed my pov. I used to be in favor of death penalty. However for war criminals i can still go there. I am going by my gut not by reason.

    #39403

    _Robert_
    Participant

    As for executing criminals i changed my pov. I used to be in favor of death penalty. However for war criminals i can still go there. I am going by my gut not by reason.

    Why you talking like you have a choice about favoring the death penalty or not, LOL?

    #39404

    jakelafort
    Participant

    My next life i will work to exculpate wrongfully convicted. Imagine the horror? You say i did not do it. They say ya ya ya, that is what they all say. And then you watch your dreary days go by painfully slowly until one day you get a gift in the mail-soap on a rope. Then a glimmer of hope arises as your pen pal expresses romantic interest in your sorry ass.

    Along comes attorney jake to take your case! The genetic evidence is nearly proof positive that it was not you.

    #39405

    Davis
    Moderator

    While I understand that people are trying to present a nuanced opinion on “I am against the death penalty in general except for…”, to me this is not different to saying “I support the death penalty”. You either support it or you don’t. All forms of homicide which are easily avoided are inherently immoral. It makes human beings disposable which is the worst kind of dehumanisation you can do.

    #39406

    jakelafort
    Participant

    I don’t recall discussing death penalty here. It is a tough topic.

    Davis, why either or? It is perfectly reasonable to be against abortion in one circumstance and in favor of it in another. It is perfectly reasonable to have a not guilty verdict in spite of meeting the statutory elements of a crime in one case and have the identical crime in another case result in conviction based on different circumstances.

    So is it inconsistent to advocate death penalty for the leaders of genocides? It is a far greater stomach turner than the solo murderer of his best friend who has betrayed his trust and is sleeping with his wife. That is why we have judges and jurors. There are distinctions and circumstances that must be weighed in determining guilt and penalty. In as sense it is dehumanizing to allow the instrument of a genocide to avoid the death penalty.

    #39407

    Unseen
    Participant

    While I understand that people are trying to present a nuanced opinion on “I am against the death penalty in general except for…”, to me this is not different to saying “I support the death penalty”. You either support it or you don’t. All forms of homicide which are easily avoided are inherently immoral. It makes human beings disposable which is the worst kind of dehumanisation you can do.

    “I don’t eat meat except when it’s lamb chops.”

    #39408

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Yeah, it ain’t just killing animals is all wrong when we draw distinctions about which animals are okay to kill. Some won’t draw the line at cats and dogs. Hell some won’t at humans. I ate her liver with fava beans and a good chianti. I remember reading how in one city during the communist revolution in China tens of thousands of corpses were consumed. Under the circumstances eating humans was aokay. Donner party universalism.

    Where are the lamb chops? There ought to be lamb chops. Well maybe next year when the lab lamb chops with mint are served.

    #39409

    Unseen
    Participant

    Davis, why either or? It is perfectly reasonable to be against abortion in one circumstance and in favor of it in another. It is perfectly reasonable to have a not guilty verdict in spite of meeting the statutory elements of a crime in one case and have the identical crime in another case result in conviction based on different circumstances.

    You are talking implicitly about the “except for rape or incest” exceptions.

    If the state has an overriding interest in whether a woman brings a pregnancy to term or not and also holds that ending a pregnancy is murder, I don’t see how any exceptions, even rape and incest, can be justified ethically. “Abortion is murder, but if you were raped by a stranger or a relative resulting in pregnancy, we’ll turn a blind eye while you murder your baby.”

    See the problem?

    #39410

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Unseen i was simply questioning the notion you either support the death penalty or you don’t and all forms of homicide which are easily avoided are inherently immoral. In the case of abortion when religious nuts have their way i think that is indeed their NEVER ABORTION justification-taking a life is inherently immoral under all circumstances. But for those who are not driven by religious considerations there are not only rape and incest abortions that are hell yeah. There is also the parameters set forth in Rowe v Wade. The closer the acorn is to a tree the less justification there is for the abortion. There is a recognition of a woman’s autonomy balanced against the new life.

    And people who are suffering with no prospect of a decent life it ought not be considered wrong to assist the suicide. That should not be designated murder when done properly and with precautions.

    So for me it comes down to a rejection of All are INHERENTLY.

    #39411

    Davis
    Moderator

    When it comes to punishments, you are either in support of it being used (for whatever reasons, including limited ones) or you are against it. In terms of the morality of “using a method of punishment”, when to use it is irrelevant to the discussion of whether that punishment should ever be used. The same goes for torture. I am not in favour of severe torture being used, even if it means pulling someone’s teeth will “likely” result in revealing the location of a ticking time bomb. In other words there are two different conversations:

    Whether something should ever be a possible punishment.

    When that punishment should be permitted.

    We might want to answer the first question before bothering with the second. If you are against in the first case, then any argument about when that punishment will be permitted will simply be an attempt to exclude as many possible uses of that punishment to avoid it ever being used.

    The same would go for people who are completely against abortion. If it will be permitted, they will do everything they can to limit abortion to as few exceptions as possible with the “why” being irrelevant to them. That doesn’t mean that having a conversation about when to use that punishment is never useful, but it is not useful in terms of the morality of using a method of punishment for even the worst crimes.

    For me, incarcerating people is not easily avoided with any clear alternatives in some cases. Disposing of a human being is. A conversation about the “when to use it” will be useful between I and anyone who agrees that we should incarcerate. It will be of little use discussing when to execute people as all I will do is try to convince people not to do it for every single example.

    #39412

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Yes, christians are so full of shit with that “turn the other cheek”, and “love thy enemies” crap. I like how “the state” pushes the executions back on “the people”. Execution provides little or zero deterrence so it is revenge killing and well we all know the justice system is 100% accurate, right? It just lowers society to that first rung, the common denominator that proves we have gotten nowhere.

    #39413

    jakelafort
    Participant

    I come at it by framing the issue differently than Davis. I am opposed to a categorical verboten. Both torture and death penalties are no unless the circumstances require it. Those circumstances will always be extreme and unusual.

    Assuming torture works (big assumption) and using it will cause the victim to divulge the nation and time a madman intends to nuc the western world and torture is not only ok but required. With mass murderers like those who start genocides execution is warranted. It is a grotesque miscarriage of fundamental fairness to allow the perpetrator to escape his just due.

    Robert has encapsulated my thoughts that drove me to oppose death penalty. Or that is the story i tell myself! It is the same for slaughter of animals. Except it is a greater wrong by far. Billions of sentient, intelligent, emotion packed animals slaughtered each year and lives with diminished value. It is very wrong and those who continue to justify it but are otherwise enlightened are doing what slave holders did. It is easy to rationalize a wrong that is so beneficial to the exploiting class.

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