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"Compassion" Takes Its Final Step

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...its final step being that murdering a helpless person gets no prison time whatever.

You might think I'm exaggerating.  I wish I were.  A Canadian court concluded that, because we are obliged to "grieve for the mother"  --  who remains quite alive for party time  --  she gets no jail, not a day, for offing her kid.  Those onerous demands of motherhood, dontcha know.

Here's the story.  This was not an abortion, nor is this blog about abortion.  It also was not, for aught the story reveals, an instance of post-partum depression, even assuming that being depressed is an excuse for killing a person who can't fight back.  It was that she didn't want her son, so she killed him.  The sentence, if you want to call it that, was three years' probation.

This is the true, hideous face of what our adversaries call "compassion."

Hat tip to federalist. 

9 Comments

It has nothing to do with compassion but science. I'd encourage you to study up a bit on post-partum psychosis (not depression), which is usually what afflicts mothers who kill their kids. More than do that kill themselves, it's worth mentioning, and many women who kill their kids while under the influence of post-partum psychosis go onto kill themselves.

Two years ago I heard a GOP lawmaker in TX describe her daughter's bout with PPP. The daughter wanted to harm her kid and couldn't be left alone with it for many months. But once the condition receded, she was back to normal and became a loving, caring mother who raised the kid to adulthood with no abuse or mental health problems.

Now, there are other women who kill their babies because they just don't want to be moms, fear daddy's wrath, etc.. And this case seems like it may fall into that category instead of PPP - the 19 year old hadn't told her parents about the pregnancy and killed it so they wouldn't know. (That said, the judges saw the scientific testimony and I did not.) But it's a severe injustice to conflate the culpability of defendants like that with those who kill their kids in a legitimate bout of post-partum psychosis. That's a temporary medical condition that does indeed (or should) mitigate culpability: If there was ever an instance where the "not guilty by reason of insanity plea" is justified, it's those PPP cases.

A few observations:

1. "It has nothing to do with compassion but science."

When the judge explains the "sentence" by saying that we must grieve for the mother, that strikes me as very much an appeal to compassion.

2. "More than do that kill themselves, it's worth mentioning, and many women who kill their kids while under the influence of post-partum psychosis go onto kill themselves."

I was unable to find any mention in the story that this particular woman had a desire, at the time of the birth or since, to kill herself, or that she harmed herself in any way. The harm was directed solely to the child.

3. "Two years ago I heard a GOP lawmaker in TX describe her daughter's bout with PPP. The daughter wanted to harm her kid and couldn't be left alone with it for many months."

But in that case, the mother did not harm, much less kill, the child. That's not what happened here. The whole of criminal law is about requiring adults to restrain their impulses to hurt other people, no matter how strongly felt.

4. "[I]t's a severe injustice to conflate the culpability of defendants like that with those who kill their kids in a legitimate bout of post-partum psychosis."

But as you note in your preceding sentence, this case seems as if it falls into the category of mothers who simply don't care for the chores of child rearing, rather than those afflicted with mental disturbance.

One thing the story did reveal is that the mother was at first convicted of murder, but the appellate court, on examination of the record, reduced it to what in Canada is the lesser charge of infanticide. Conspicuously, however, it did not render an acquittal; the defendant remains convicted of a felony. That could not have happened if, in the view of either the trial or the appellate court, the mother was psychotic at the time -- i.e., that she was disconnected from reality. So what we have here is a woman who, while able to understand what was going on around her, killed her son.

5. "[PPP] is a temporary medical condition that does indeed (or should) mitigate culpability."

As noted in my point above, the record as revealed in the story does not support the hypothesis that she had PPP, and thus the mitigation that would accompany that diagnosis is inapposite in this case. Indeed, the story, and the refusal of what was obviously a sympathetic judge to enter an acquittal, suggest that the defendant did NOT have PPP.

And even with all that, I did not take the view that NO compassion might have been warranted. My point was that this degree of compassion -- or what is called "compassion" -- had run amok. In other words, I did not and do not take the stance that no leniency should be shown here. It is possible, although hardly proven, that some degree of leniency might have been appropriate if this woman were proved to be truly, seriously mentally disturbed at the time she committed the murder.

Assuming arguendo, without conceding, that SOME leniency might have been proper, the scandal is in the degree of leniency. The woman is convicted of intentionally killing her son; no court finds that she did so because of a mental disease; but the sentencing judge, citing the burdens of motherhood, gives her a COMPLETE WALK.

Let the punishment fit the crime. Even assuming that the mother had some significant emotional problems, this sentence doesn't. The child deserved at least some chance at life.

Where is the compassion for the completely and utterly helpless victim? Although I feel very strongly in drawing a very strong, black line for when a fetus becomes a person at the moment of birth, this infant was a person by any legal or moral or religious definition anyone would care to espouse. If the law will not protect the most vulnerable among us, the law protects no one. This is a legal failure of the most outrageous proportions.

...in a legitimate bout of post-partum psychosis. That's a temporary medical condition that does indeed (or should) mitigate culpability: If there was ever an instance where the "not guilty by reason of insanity plea" is justified, it's those PPP cases.


Grits for brains (sorry):

Heuristically, "not guilty" due to insanity does not exist. If she is insane,
then perhaps she won't comprehend when just people execute her, n'est pas?

Neither medical, psychiatric, nor psychological factors are relevant
in the guilt phase of jurisprudence in my view. 1st hold her responsible!! and decide her guilt, then
execute her unless there be some reason to show mercy.

I am not claiming moral superiority; contrarily, your "scientific" pontification resembles
a 'holier-than-thou' illogical implosion. Hopefully, Americans won't take much
more of your brand of excuse-making. [Caveat: Jose Baez would enthusiastically embrace your non-sequiturs
as his own.]

Adamakis

Adamakis,

I believe you take your point further than it can go. Thus you say, "Neither medical, psychiatric, nor psychological factors are relevant in the guilt phase of jurisprudence in my view..."

If this woman had been so completely disconnected from reality that she thought her son was, say, a pumpkin, then neither legally nor morally could she be found culpable. The moral grounding of criminal law is that punishment is for people who know what they're doing and do it anyway. When you can't distinguish between a human being and a vegetable, you're not in that category.

The problem, which Gritsforbreakfast overlooks, is that there was neither a finding nor the basis for a finding that she didn't understand what she was doing. That being the case, notablogger is spot on in saying that this walk-away "sentence" was a "legal failure of the most outrageous proportions."

How does one distinguish this Canadian judge from Barack Obama, who famously argued against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act? Obama believed that the predicament of a doctor dealing with a live baby was more important than the live baby's life.

Mr. Otis,

Didn't the courts of old in America focus more greatly on the act itself rather than the mindset of the actor?

I would still hold a "nut" responsible for supposedly killing her son whilst esteeming him a pumpkin. I should think she may likely do it again. It's the act which precipitates appropriate justice.

Swift, firm justice will ipso facto precipitate deterrence, and protect others.

I know what you're saying though. Many of my close family members are lawyers of the Brennan genus,
so they have 'schooled' me on intent, negligence, and the like as irreplaceable to the very definition of a criminal act or offense. I just haven't been convinced. Too bad you're going 'Perry on Immigration" with me. It's me, not you.

Notwithstanding, I'm no Lyndon LaRouche?, Ron Paul, or Mike Church. I fought in Iraq & Afghanland for right reasons.

It's just that I've only "evolved" to the stage of Leonidas circa 481 BC or Oliver Cromwell circa 1641; not Anthony Kennedy 2011.

1 more from Adamakis:

Mr. Otis re: Crime & Punishment:

A la Bill O'Reilly, I am a simple man. Maybe simplistic, but henceforth I prod...

Take murder, straight-out, I don't know about aggravating factors, but what I mean is-->deliberate murder.

FIRST: Intent is already required to convict, otherwise it's manslaughter (accidental), and who has ever called for execution for such?

2ND: Anyone mechanically able to murder is culpable. What of all the machinations regarding diminished intent, (e.g. ambien defense) lack of maturity or intellect to comprehend mortality or morality, et al?
..............>>>>>>>>..IMMATERIAL in my humble opinion.

TIRD: What happened to the act being the plenary factor? Why is mens rea--again, beyond distinguishing basic intentionality--relevant?

Counselor, it makes this non-litigator wish to say to the "Fair-Trial/Innocence Project" lawyers who won 8 counts of only 2nd ! ! ! degree murder for Stewart in NC: MITIGATE THIS!

Just because a person is not criminally responsible does not mean that society is at a loss to protect itself. A person who can't distinguish between a boy and a pumpkin doesn't belong in prison, but surely belongs where she's not in a position to have unsupervised access to boys (or girls or human beings of any age)(or innocent pumpkins).

It's a moot issue for present purposes. Since, from aught the record shows, she did not have any such percipient disability, she should have been criminally punished, but, in a gruesome miscarriage of justice, she was not.

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