Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sans Andrea's "Fault?"

Co-blogger and all-arond Big Brain, Jabs, has already written briefly and effectively on Andrea Yates. CNN reports that this nut is still pursuing the insanity defense.

Personally, I don't care what they do with Ms. Yates, so long as she's kept away from children. I'd like to believe that even a person as deeply psychotic as she can be redeemed and rehabilitated, but when you're faced with a crime as horrific as hers, it's difficult to maintain anything resembling a charitable perspective.


At 11:18 AM, Blogger Ben Miro said...

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At 11:19 AM, Blogger Ben Miro said...

It's difficult to be compassionate to a very sick person?

That Christ guy made it sound so easy.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I still think they should drown her. Only seems fair.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Yeah it sounds easy, but have you actually tried caring for people that are hard to care for? It's hard.

At 12:39 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

What Scott said.

If you read the article, you'll see that it's actually fairly unclear as to whether this woman was insane at the time of the murders. Whether she's since gone insane and is now "sick" is beside the point as far as the crime's concerned.

And because of that, yes, it's more difficult to feel compassion toward a mother who murders her children.

It doesn't mean I don't try (notice my lack of demanding her burned at the stake, for instance), but some actions are just innately horrific.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Ben Miro said...

It's not unclear in the slightest. Post-partum psychosis actually exists.

And no...I don't find being compassionate for the sick (or even for actual criminals) that difficult. Sorry.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Ben Miro said...

^ That reads a lot snarkier than intended. Just illustrating the disparity in opinion that I'm positive is reflected in the jury pool.

Speaking of...I'm rather shocked this is happening here as we enjoy putting retards to death. Not exactly a stronghold of liberalism and compassion.

I wish we had a live chat room...I'd tell you about a particular case I worked on during my (thankfully) brief tenure in a d.a.'s office. Oy.

At 7:53 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Prosecutors, however, insist that Yates does not meet Texas' legal definition of insanity: not knowing at the time that one's actions are wrong. They plan to present the same evidence showing how Yates killed the children after her husband left for work and before her mother-in-law arrived to help, and how Yates called 911 to report the crime.

"Everything I've seen has reaffirmed that she was sane at the time she killed her kids," prosecutor Kaylynn Williford said. "What's at the crux of this case is: You can be mentally ill and know right from wrong and be held criminally responsible."

That seems less-than-clear to me. And post-partum depression, real or not, is not an excuse to kill your children.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

The disclaimer's appreciated, Kat, if only to make clear that you aren't quasi-defending this nut. Personally, I'd like to believe that a woman like Yates can be rehabilitated. But realistically (and I'm sure, having worked for the da, that you understand at least partially) that's a questionable outcome at best.

Live chat'd be nice. Maybe we'll aim to make that a part of the Codemorse v. 3.0 package. Along with Thai hookers.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Make mine pad thai.

And I was kind of being sarcastic.

I don't find it at all hard to be sad for this woman. As sick as what she did is, whether she meets the legal definition or not she's got to be mentally ill. As such she can't really be rehabbed (and our penal system hasn't been about rehab in years if it ever was, at least that's this non-law dawg's opinion). Post-partum (or any kind of) depression is never an excuse but it can certainly be a reason or causation.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

To clear up one point here, in some states (and I think this happened in Texas), the law doesn't really care whether you're mentally ill.

The law is concerned with whether you knew what you were doing was wrong. I'm inclined to agree with that in the end.

If you know, while you're doing it, that drowning your kids is wrong, then whether you think that God told you to do it, or your dog told you to do it, shouldn't matter. You knew it was wrong, and you did it anyway. [That does not include the people who do something horrible and are so insane that they don't know what they are doing is wrong.] From the evidence presented, it appears that she knew all too well that it was "wrong" and did it anyway.

What I find somewhat perverse about thoughts regarding punishment for the allegedly mentally ill is that people seem to argue that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the horror of the crime and the level of culpability for the same. For example, people will argue, for the most horrible crimes (like that of Ms. Yates), that she just had to be mentally ill because the crime is so horrible. And who would do that? That seems to me to create a perverse incentive regarding the most culpable.

I reiterate my previous point: I think they should drown her.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

The law is concerned with whether you knew what you were doing was wrong. I'm inclined to agree with that in the end.

If you know, while you're doing it, that drowning your kids is wrong, then whether you think that God told you to do it, or your dog told you to do it, shouldn't matter. You knew it was wrong, and you did it anyway. [That does not include the people who do something horrible and are so insane that they don't know what they are doing is wrong.] From the evidence presented, it appears that she knew all too well that it was "wrong" and did it anyway.

Why are you so good at words?

Sarcastic or not Scott, sometimes it is hard. And I'd suggest, gently and kindly and all that junk, that implying otherwise is to take a very questionable position of moral superiority.

While I can feel "sad" for Yates' mental state, I can't feel the sort of compassion that Katanga's implying. That's just honesty on my part. I can understand that her potential depression was a possible causation. That understanding can make me sympathetic to her state. But her actions were horror, defined. And as Jabs has said (as usual, more eloquently and reasonably than I), what matters to me regarding this sort of thing is whether or not she was aware of the wrongness of her actions.

Waiting until your husband leaves the house is a fairly big indicator that she knew, in some way, that killing the kids was wrong.

And sympathetic or not, to consciously kill your children is about as grave an act as there is. I like to think I'm a compassionate person. But then, I also like kids.

That said, I've never supported the death penalty, and I'm not going to start now. Though Jabs' continued suggestions of death by watery grave do have a darkly alluring resonance. Truly, the man is a Sith Lord to be reckoned with (or Decepticon, as the case may be). :)

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Well hard or not, as a Christian I'm specifically called to love the unlovable. Now I grant you that her crimes are horrific. I also grant that some part of her probably knew it was wrong. That doesn't mean that you can't feel compassion for her and seek to find out what drove her (madness, demons, chemical imbalance, smurfs) to this.

Answering that can't bring her kids back (neither can drowning her) and it won't lead to "Justice: American Style", but if it was an outside cause and it could have been prevented then who knows, maybe future acts like this can be prevented. And even if that's not the aim (What is the aim? Rehabilitation? No. Keeping her from hurting other kids? I doubt she would, but I suppose that's the most likely.) I can't see what harm understanding her would do.

And I don't think that being compassionate or seeking causation in any way excuses her from what she did. And regarding the inverse proportion Jabba spoke of, I think you can be perfectly "sane" and just damn evil. Of course I also believe in demonic possesion so YMMV. I think that this woman was mentally ill, but then I'm no expert.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Thanks, Codemorse the Great. Your wordsmithing far exceeds my too poor attempts at quality...

Nevertheless, I'd just make one further point (and it's not a point, so much as a Point of View, but take that for what it's worth):

I think if someone captured me, and tortured me, and then drowned me, I would hope that someone would do the same to the person that did it to me. I would think that it's deserved. Anything less would be less than Justice (American or otherwise), in my humble opinion.

Agreeing with a previous point made by Mark Kleiman, "vindication of the victim and the expression of the social disapproval of the act seem perfectly sound reasons for punishment."

Prevention and rehabilitation are not the only reasons to punish someone. Retribution is a fundamental and entirely morally proper goal of punishment. I think deriding it merely as vengeance is a mistake.

Some would question whether punishing Yates harshly is morally proper, but it may very well be a moral imperative.

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous portia said...

I think it's worth noting that we reserve particular social disgust for women who kill, especially children. We imagine women as life-bringers, not -takers, and that plays into our strong disbelief that such things can happen at all, which in turn means we don't adequately support at-risk women.

If Yates wasn't insane to begin with, living the rest of her life knowing she killed her kids and (according to her assumed religious beliefs) is going to burn in hell forever is probably a just retribution.

As for what can come out of it, the Yates case, the Tom Cruise/Brooke Shields nonsense, and other recent cases of PPD-triggered psychosis have the potential to help a lot of women. For many reasons, we've moved almost entirely away from the familial model of post-partum women with a large amount of support and assistance, and women are now expected to be able to take care of things on their own. That's a recipe for disasters large and small.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

That's incredibly well said, portia.

Thanks for bringing (what I presumptuously assume is) a woman's perspective to this.

I'm not sure about reserving particular disgust for women, though. I'd be just as horrified by a father committing these acts as i am by a mother.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

I would certainly hope that we would reserve disgust, disdain and any other manner of social anger on anyone who violently kills defenseless children in such a horrible way.

And her knowledge that she will burn in hell forever is not enough. She killed them here. She should suffer here. Retribution isn't theoretical, it's real, in the here and now.

I am not saying the post-partum depression isn't real, but there is absolutely no excuse for what happened to her children. None. And it's not society's fault. Or her husband's fault. Or anyone else's fault but her own. She took each child and held them under water until their lungs collapsed and they could no longer breath. She actually chased (from what I understand) the oldest child around trying to catch him before she dragged him into the bathroom and drowned him. The young boy actually managed to fight enough to come up for air twice before she fought him back down under water.

I simply cannot understand how this does not inspire anger in anyone who cares for children. They can't fight back. They can't protect themselves. And these children were killed by the very person who is supposed to protect them. I don't care if she's a woman. I don't care if she's a man. I think they should drown her here, and she should rot in hell for eternity. Five times.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

She said "particular" which means "more" or "stronger" adn yes I'm more disgusted when a mother does this that when a father does. Though the amount of disgust is a matter of fine degrees.

It does make me angry that she killed her children. I'm disgusted that anyone could do this. However I still don't honestly see what drowning her adn sending her to hell would do. I disagree with this statement, " Retribution is a fundamental and entirely morally proper goal of punishment." If that were the case then we'd be cutting of folks hands and branding them, etc. (though it could be argued that those weren't as much matters of retribution as markers). If you want to go there then there are countries you'd find whose penal systems at least are more to your liking.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Retribution is relative. You don't have to chop off hands for petty thievery, for example. I mean, I'm not asking for wild unhinged retribution. Just retribution equal to the harm caused.

You kill someone, you should die. You drown someone, you should drown.

Note, of course, I would not recommend any society actually operating in such a manner (drowning people that drown children), I just think it would be just and right.

I mean, you can think it would be right, while recognizing that it's impossible and unwise to implement broadly throughout society.

But I think you've got to be an unfeeling bastard not to think that she sort of deserves it, after the terror and violence she inflicted on defenseless children.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Okay, I see your point adn yes part of me would like to see that happen but that's a very dark part.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous portia said...

Thanks for understanding the 'particular'; I was also indicating the way our society, at least, has abandoned the woman-as-warrior concept (see also: Pagan Ireland, modern-day Israel) in favor of the Soccer Mom.

I believe that a huge, huge number of systems and people have to fail in order for something this horrific to have occurred. I don't think that recognizing those failures in the desperate hope to keep other horrors from becoming real is in any way 'mitigating' my response to what the last person in the broken chain did.

And I can't be behind jabs' concept of retribution, because the logic fails when another of us has to become a murderer. Just murder to meet unjust murder; that's not a balanced equation.


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