Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Must Read Of The Day

Gib answered my call and then proceeded to take me to school. I'm reprinting his comment here. Read it, and then pray you never show up on the opposite side of his court room:

"First, the author of the post you link is wrong when he says drunk drivers who kill never get such sentences. It's harder to convict drunk drivers of murder, because a mental state such as "reckless disregard" or "depraved indifference" must be found, but it can, and has, happened. (Martin Heidgen in New York being the example that springs to mind) Drunk driving killers have also been convicted under the felony murder rule in states where your 3rd DUI is a felony, for instance. I think much of this writer's outrage is predicated on this erroneous assumption. Also, Brian Nichols (to name another) has claimed to be mentally ill as well, and may very well have a diagnosed mental illness. But because he used a gun to take his lives, rather than a car, I suspect the author has less sympathy for him. If Alvarez had gotten drunk, tried to "play chicken with the train," and caused the death and destruction he had done, I am virtually certain he would be in the exact same legal position he is in now. There may be an argument that the legal system doesn't properly address crimes committed by the mentally ill, but the argument linked to isn't it.

"Also, terms relating to mental illness have very specific meanings in the legal field. That Alvarez had something wrong with him mentally may be true, however, since it didn't prevent him from understanding what he was doing or why he shouldn't have done it, he's as legally culpable as you or I would be. Mental health defenses rarely succeed - basically, since whatever illness he has, he's still capable of understanding the world around him, which means he can be expected to follow society's rules.

"Next, if you read the orginal article, you'll see that the jury did not believe his claim that he was trying to commit suicide. It was in the defendant's interests to portray himself as crazy as possible, but that doesn't make it true, and disputed facts should be viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict. (At least, that's what I tell the Court of Appeals, and they seem to agree.)

"Finally, his mental illness probably did benefit him to some degree - he was convicted of capital crimes, which allow only a sentence of death or life without parole. He was not sentenced to death, despite a crime with a staggering human cost, and the only reason I can think of to spare his life would have been some variant of mercy shown because of mental illness.

"How was that?"

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