What to do with guilty Jodi Arias and other psychopaths

Yesterday (May 8, 2013), Jodi Arias was found guilty of murdering her boyfriend. Actually, she more than murdered him, she virtually obliterated him. Stabbing him 29 times, shooting him in the face, and slitting his throat almost from ear to ear. She made damned fucking sure he was dead.

That alone should qualify her as a psychopath. However, she's also a pathological liar. She had several versions of her story, finally admitting that she killed him but in, as she termed it, "self defense." She trotted in battered woman syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, and just about everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to beat the rap.

She may get the death penalty, but should she? The syllable "path" in "psychopath" and "pathological liar" indicates a sickness. She's not a mentally healthy person. 

pathology (n.) "science of diseases," 1610s, from French pathologie (16c.), from medical Latin pathologia "study of disease," from Greek pathos "suffering" (source)

As revolting as the murder was, can we separate her guilt from the sickness from which she suffers?

More generally, suppose all crimes could be traced back to some sort of pathology. What would happen to the entire concept of guilt? And suppose that once a pathology was identified, there was a "cure." Could we ethically hold people responsible for their actions before the cure, given their diminished capacity for making proper ethical choices?

Tags: Arias, Jodi, liar, pathological, psychopath

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I am against the death penalty because people make mistakes, too many people have been executed by the government in the Untied States who did not deserve it.

I understand but what about when someone admits to the murder, as she did?

But if they lie about their guilt, that takes the burden off us, doesn't it? Is there no situation in which it's time to stop asking questions?

Your arguments against wrongful execution equally apply against wrongful conviction, so how can you even justify going through the motions of a trial?

I've been having my doubts that justice is even possible given that, as famous law professor Avery Friedman opined after Caylee Anthony was unexpectedly acquitted, "Of course another jury might have convicted her."

Who will reject the good because it's not perfect?

Unseen will if it stimulates discussion.

Have you taken any philosophy courses? Conceptually, The Good IS perfect. If it's not perfect it's not The Good.

The only time a person, acting on behalf of the government should be allowed to kill another is in a war zone.

When those who order the war do so in order to steal another nation's assets? Or when their god tells them to order a war? Or when they feel slighted by another nation's leader? Etc, etc, etc?

... the amount of damage doesn't really matter, dead is dead. You make a lot of assumptions in your argument.

It actually matters a lot in terms of what charges to find her guilty of and it matters even more when it comes to the penalty phase in which aggravating factors can make the difference between life in prison or the death penalty in her case.

Interesting. How to factor in someone's genetic predisposition to being violent. One's genetics are beyond one's control, after all.

Maybe I wasn't clear. I am also asking a deeper question. If psychopathology is a pathology, is it really ethical to execute or even convict them of a crime if their behavior is merely a symptom of their disease? Let me repeat the last paragraph of the original post:

More generally, suppose all crimes could be traced back to some sort of pathology. What would happen to the entire concept of guilt? And suppose that once a pathology was identified, there was a "cure." Could we ethically hold people responsible for their actions before the cure, given their diminished capacity for making proper ethical choices?

It is this line of thinking which has steered me largely away from punitive justice. I'll steer clear of turning it into another free will debate, but ultimately there are going to be unchosen elements in every last criminal's story which contributed to their criminality. Do I really need to determine how much fault each and every individual bears in every criminal case?

No. What's the point? What function does it truly serve? If something is deemed criminal, it must be because it is deemed to be unjustifiably destructive or harmful. If we take measures to stop criminal activity, shouldn't those measures only go as far as needed to reduce or eliminate such harm?

If someone commits harmful deeds because of a neurological condition beyond their control, this provides reason to treat this individual as the highest order of threat. Execution is one way to eliminate the threat from that specific individual. In that sense, I would say it can be ethical provided there is no superior alternative.

What constitutes a superior alternative? I don't know, but it does seem like a question which could be addressed with science. This notion of exacting justice through punishment, on the other hand, seems much more difficult to treat scientifically.

What's left out of your discussion is the innocent victim, if he lives, or his survivors if he has been killed. I'm sure at least half the purpose the justice system is to provide some satisfaction or recompense to those harmed and/or their heirs.

Intentionally omitted. I don't feel that society is accountable to that. If recompense is possible, that's one thing, but the justice system cannot undo harm that is done, and punishment is not recompense. It pays not one thing back. As for personal satisfaction of the victims, that is too whimsical. Can the law really be accountable to individuals' sense of personal satisfaction? I don't think it can without conflict. Being a victim doesn't mean you've earned a special exemption here.



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