Monday, November 24, 2014
"Not criminally responsible" defence is crazy
While we wait for Luka Magnotta's trial to play out to its conclusion, this is as good a time as any and a better time than most to review the notion of "crazy" as an excuse for murder. Greater psychiatric and legal minds than mine are required to fill in most of the blanks on the "not criminally responsible" defence, but I have a couple of common sense observations that I think are worth considering.
Guy Turcotte was a licensed cardiologist when he stabbed his two small children to death. He was responsible enough to practice an advanced branch of medicine, but in the eyes of the law, he was too unhinged to appreciate the gravity of killing his 5 year old son and 3 year old daughter. As a result, he was a free man fewer than four years after the murders, and remains free pending a new trial.
Luka Magnotta isn't a doctor, but he functioned well enough in mainstream society, albeit as a fringe character with a record of petty crimes for which he was held accountable when he was caught. It was only after he was arrested for murdering and dismembering Jun Lin that Magnotta and his lawyers decided he was mentally incompetent.
Funny, that. Not funny ha-ha, but funny-strange that people can function as normal - or, in Magnotta's case, relatively normal - members of society, but when they murder someone all of a sudden mental illness is the culprit. That strikes me as blatant manipulation of a wishy-washy legal system, and a gross disservice and injustice to the victims and their families. Worse than victim-blaming, the "not criminally responsible" defence excludes the victim(s) from the equation entirely, as if their existence was a moot point.
I don't doubt for a second that Guy Turcotte and Luke Magnotta are mentally unwell. You don't commit the kinds of crimes they committed otherwise. But if crazy is a good enough excuse for not being held criminally responsible for murder, it's an even better reason to make sure the killer never walks among us again.