Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Punishment for Attempted Suicide is...

the death penalty?

The D.A. in California handling the prosecution of the "deranged and suicidal" man who caused yesterday's horrifying commuter train accident said he would probably seek capital punishment in the case.

No, he's not charged with attempted suicide, of course, but for the murder of the accident victims, who presently number 11.

This man is clearly a danger to himself and others, but he's also ill. He certainly needs to be taken out of circulation, but how does killing him achieve anything? It doesn't bring the victims back and it won't deter people from insanity. Pursing capital punishment is a waste of time and money.


R. Chandler said...

You do realize that through this man's negligence and total disregard for himself and others, 11 people were killed. Here is the definition of murder under the California penal code

California Penal Code

187. (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a
fetus, with malice aforethought.


188. Such malice may be express or implied. It is express when
there is manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away
the life of a fellow creature. It is implied, when no considerable
provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing
show an abandoned and malignant heart.
When it is shown that the killing resulted from the intentional
doing of an act with express or implied malice as defined above, no
other mental state need be shown to establish the mental state of
malice aforethought. Neither an awareness of the obligation to act
within the general body of laws regulating society nor acting despite
such awareness is included within the definition of malice.

So as you see, since the act was completed with malice aforethought and the malice was implied, "no other mental state need be shown to establish the mental state of malice aforethought." Under that basis, the man has been appropriately charged with the crime. Yes its obvious that the man has some mental issues. I'm sure those will be addressed while he is serving his sentence. Of course, usually the goal of a prosecutor in murder cases is to get the death penalty. That is not to say that he will receive the death penalty. That will be up to the courts to decide. God bless you.


R. Chandler said...

Oh and one more thing...suicide and attempted suicide are no longer crimes in California...just so you know.

Andy said...

Hey Robert,

Thank you for your insightful comments. Eh, I confess, it wasn't my best post. I didn't mean to sound glib.

I see your point about the law, but I just don't understand the purpose of the death penalty. From my perspective, life in prison without parole is a worse punishment than death and doesn't cross uncomfortable moral lines. Additionally, studies indicate that it saves the taxpayers money. Moreover, my religious morals just tell me it's wrong.

R. Chandler said...

No worries Andy and yes I agree with you. I am not an advocate for the death penalty myself. As a Christian I don't think that we should take another life. One of the ten commandments is "Thou shalt not kill"...not "Thou shalt not kill unless the person being killed has killed another person or persons." I think that life without parole would be the appropriate punishment in this case.

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll forgive the absence my regular obnoxious level of detail, but I just got home at 1 AM after working for about 16 hours straight. Basically, the quoted part of the California statute will have no impact on the ability to pursue a defense based on mental defect. First off, to really get the full picture, it would be necessary to also quote the language relating to the mental defect defense. Legally speaking, one cannot have intentionally done anything if one cannot form the necessary intent. A defendant who proves insanity will have proven an inability to form the intent to kill someone (the the inability to know that doing so was wrong). On a realistic level, though, everyone knows that this guy won't be executed. First, I find it unlikely that he wouldn't plead to something to avoid the death penalty, since the evidence is stacked against him. Second, if it goes to jury, it seems unlikely that a jury would impose death, even if asked. Lastly, even if he gets sentenced to death, California rarely carries out executions. Thus, on a practical level, I wouldn't worry too much about the death penalty in this situation.


SailRacer said...

You can cite California code to you're blue in the face. The best punishment (and I do believe this guys illness does not mitigate the fact that he should be punished) is to give him a life sentence without parole so he can sit in an 8x8 cell the rest of his life and consider what he's done. I don't believe as man we have the societal right to take life. It is one of the real problems I have with war and my most personal reason (of many) for being anti-death penalty

Andy said...

Wow, thanks for all these comments, though the issue, of course, is not whether it's legal to go for the death penalty, but rather is it the right thing to do?

Of course we know really no details of his situation, but I'd like to throw this out as conjecture: I think it's entirely possible, given his mental state, that he had no idea he'd hurt other people. Seriously. He thought the train would run over him, crush him in his car, probably stop the train, and that would be the end. I'm sure he didn't foresee one train jumping the tracks and colliding with another. I don't say that to exculpate the guy, I just think it's entirely possible there was absolutely no conscious malice involved. Just insanity/stupidity.

He doesn't need a "prison" so much as a permanent home in a mental institution, I think. I suppose it all depends on just how crazy he was.

On an unrelated subject, speaking of crazy, some guy got on the A train this morning (yeah, there was room for him!) and was yelling at us about George Bush, how we shouldn't believe anything he says. Earth to Stupid Guy, George Bush got 12% of the vote in Manhattan, and you can be sure it wasn't anyone in Washington Heights. If you're going to preach the choir, at least don't yell at them during their already awful commute.

mmisanass said...

He has not been tried or sentenced yet. No one has any way of knowing what the penalty phase will produce. I do not agree with the death penalty. However, I feel that anti-death penalty advocates tend to jump the gun and politicize trials well before the death penalty is a concern.

Andy said...

From yesterday's New York Times:

"The Los Angeles County district attorney said today that he would probably seek the death penalty for the suicidal man who abandoned his S.U.V. on a heavily traveled commuter rail track here early Wednesday, causing a violent wreck involving three trains that left at least 11 people dead and nearly 200 injured."

That's the *first sentence* of the article. So I would disagree that it's too early to start a discussion or that it's not yet a concern. The D.A. said it's on the table.

mmisanass said...

Has he been sentenced yet?

Survey says-----NO!

So it is a moot point at "this juncture in time"

Trickish Knave said...

Yeah, let's give him life imprisonment and let him think about what he's done- like he gives a shit or that it will torment him for the rest of his life. More important than his lifelong "grief sentence" is his burden on the taxpayers.

Pursuing capitol punishment wouldn't be a waste of time if there wasn't so much money in the appeals process for the lawyers. True, the death of a deranged asshole won't bring the victims back, but there is something that the friends and family of the victims can be given- retribution.

The "Thou shalt not kill" argument for dismissing capitol punishment is lame. The Hebrew text, translated literally, says "Don't murder" (yes I learned some Hebrew in my Old Testament class). God-ordained genocide was common at one time during the history of Israel which clearly violated the 6th commandment.

I'm not buying the 6th commandment as a legitimate reason for not injecting a syringe of Clorox into someone who just killed her children by drowning them in a bath tub.

Your alternative:
"Put them in the corner and let them think about what they've done."

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