Forgivable- but justified?
It’s something of a cycle: Person commits crime, causes mishap, does perverted thing, person gets in trouble, person’s sob story comes out in the press.
14-year-old Antonio Barbeau, for instance, was convicted of killing his friend’s great-grandmother with a hatchet and a hammer last fall for a mere $155. “The court held that Barbeau had sustained a brain injury in 2009 after a car accident that left him with ‘unspecified cognitive disorder’ that had played a role in his decision to commit a crime,” the New York Daily News reported. “But it was not enough to ignore the brutal nature of the murder.”
District attorney Joe DeCecco of Wisconsin said in his 24 years on the bench, he had never seen anything like the gruesome nature of Barbeau’s crime- “not even close.” He said he felt bad for the family, but concluded that “this type of crime cannot go unanswered and be explained away by brain trauma.”
In this case, a mental illness, though “unspecified,” was noted, but it was not used as a justification. Were that such were the case more often.
It was revealed by the AP today that Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man convicted of sending more than 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and other material, including several battlefield video clips, to WikiLeaks, endured a “private struggle with his gender identity in a hostile workplace” which put “incredible pressure” on him.
Capt. Michael Worsley, the therapist to whom Manning “came out,” said being “put” (was Manning drafted?) in “that kind of hyper-masculine environment” of the military would make the pressure “difficult to say the least.”
Again, I ask you, “what difference does it make?” Osama bin Laden obtained copies of some of the documents WikiLeaks published, compliments of Manning. But because of his “gender ID disorder,” we are supposed to cut him some slack?
A criminal can always claim a disorder, but how can one prove or disprove it? Ariel Castro, the monster who kidnapped and repeatedly raped three women for more than a decade, definitely has something wrong with him. He claims he is “merely a sex addict,” yet no one is expected to feel sympathy for him. How do we determine when “mental illness” is or is not an excuse for wrongdoing?
Criminals should not automatically get a reprieve when it’s revealed they “suffer” from a mental illness. Of course all people who commit crimes have something wrong with them; they wouldn’t be criminals if they were “normal.” Whether that “something” wrong is extraneous egotism, hedonism, possession by evil, manic depression, or something more serious needs to be determined, and afterwards, considered whether it weighs into the crime at all. The majority of the time, I say, it shouldn’t.
No one is really “normal.” If we were, it’d be a pretty boring world, but just because we have a few ticks and quirks doesn’t mean we can apply them to recommend our innocence in the event we commit a heinous crime.
It’s a complicated issue, to be sure, but there are things people can and can’t help. People may not be able to help having a mental illness. We forgive them, but don’t excuse them. Committing a crime, though, is definitely something people can help, and if they can’t, why would they belong in free society?
Teresa Mull is the managing editor of Human Events.