Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Boy and His Gun

Every so often, circumstances require us to ask a very simple question about our judicial system:  Is it about vengeance or is it about justice?

There is not doubt that James Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theater, and that he did kill twelve people.  There is no doubt that he booby trapped his apartment to kill the first person to enter.  If our system is about vengeance, then why even the pretense of a trial.  Pass the necessary amendments, and take him out behind the building and put a bullet in his head.

If our system is about justice, however, then like it or not, we have to accept the possibility that he is not guilty by reason of insanity.  It is a long established concept in both English and American law that a person has to be sane to be responsible for his or her actions.  We know that Holmes has been under the care of a psychiatrist and that Dr. Lynne Fenton has done research on schizophrenia.  She has also been part of a team that analyzes students at the University of Colorado who might be a danger to others because of mental illness.  Dr. Fenton may have been off the mark in regard to Holmes, but that doesn't mean he wasn't insane.

I'm writing this because the chorus of those who say Holmes is trying to get away with murder by pretending to be crazy is getting louder.  And not just among law and order types on the right.  There are lots of liberals who are saying the same thing.  I admit my prejudice.  I believe Holmes is mentally incompetent.  I don't want him to walk free  with a  prescription and best wishes, although I also think that one day in the future that could and should happen.  What I want is a fair trail where his possible insanity is taken seriously.

But what about the families of the victims?  Shouldn't they have closure?  Shouldn't they feel the relief of knowing that the killer of their loved ones is punished?  No, they shouldn't.  The justice system should not be about the feelings of victims and their families.  The justice system should be about the arrival at an objective  truth, (Or at least as close as we can get.) followed by an appropriate action by the courts system.

No comments: