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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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.

As a side note, I would rather support therapeutic support for victims instead of pandering to vengeance. 

This is a really difficult topic for me, because my gut reaction in just about every one of these kinds of cases is "let the motherfucker burn". And it's honestly because I 100% reflexively think they deserve it. In my mind, if you willfully, purposefully choose to brutally kill someone/people for no reason other than you wanted to, and you'd do it again if the opportunity arose, to me it doesn't matter if the perpetrator has a mental illness or not. You are responsible for someone's life being taken from them, and saying "oops there went my bipolar disorder LOLZERS" doesn't excuse anything. There's a news story in the US about how a woman literally cooked her infant in the microwave after a fight about its paternity with her boyfriend Why? Who fucking cares, for fuck's sake. 

Granted, I don't think everyone who is found guilty of murder should die (like people who've committed second-degree murder).  I do think that some people can even be rehabilitated. I also think that there are people who kill because they're selfish, miserable assholes who couldn't give two shits about anything other than what they want, and if the death penalty is inflicted on them, I wouldn't raise any ruckus about it. Some of them very well may have extreme cases of psychopathy or sociopathy, but that doesn't make them incapable of understanding what they did. 

However,

whether the death penalty is pragmatically the best route to go,  I don't know. I've heard different opinions about cost, effectiveness, and ethics, including the "well if you're all for killing them then you're no better than they" argument (which doesn't phase me much since I'm not the one actively going out finding people whose throats I can slit just because I fucking feel like it). I just default to being okay with the death penalty, and some days I'll veer a little more towards "eh, life in prison I guess", for whatever random reason. 

Anyway, that's my opinion. I'm not saying it's the right one, and I'm not even fully comfortable with it, but I'm fine not taking a supposed high road on this issue. At least today.

Actually, to add to this, and I have a feeling this sentiment isn't going to be popular:

I don't understand why it's acceptable that a dog who kills a baby or child, or even just bites someone's face, gets put down, but a human who willfully kills another human somehow only deserves life in prison. 

"Well a human isn't a dog. OMG WTF."

Humans are animals the same as dogs. And a dog doesn't even have the same mental capacity as a human, so what does that say about Jodi Arias? If a human is supposed to be placed higher than other animals, then (s)he shouldn't do base, "animal" things. You act like an "animal", you get treated like an animal.

That's assuming there's a general agreement with putting animals down that kill/maim humans. 

She requested to be executed? I say let her have it lol. 

I guess "brutally" meaning "planned", versus it happening in the heat of the moment. Still thinking "brutal" from the 30-ish stab wounds and slit throat deal.

if you willfully, purposefully choose to brutally kill someone/people for no reason other than you wanted to...

This becomes the crux of the matter. What is it that makes some want to murder to the point of actually doing it while most people don't? I do not murder people, but truth be told I don't want to murder people. I don't ever recall choosing not to want to murder people, and I have no motive to do so. Is there really any merit in that at all?

Conversely, for someone who does have the will to commit murder, from whencw did that will arise? Why would anyone choose to be a selfish, miserable asshole who couldn't give two shits about anything other than what they want? At some point the rational aspects fall apart. We hold people accountable for their decisions and actions because there is no one else to hold accountable. I have no issue with that, but are these people worse than us or truly bad, or are they just fucked up, or possibly even just different depending on how they actually violated the law.

This becomes the crux of the matter. What is it that makes some want to murder to the point of actually doing it while most don't? I do not murder people, but truth be told I don't want to murder people. I don't ever recall choosing not to want to murder people, and I have no motive to do so. Is there really any merit in that at all?

I think if you have actually spend the time and effort planning how you're going to kill someone, and then go through with it, it's worse than if you got into an argument with someone, things got out of control, and you killed the person you were arguing with. They're both inexcusable, but for me the forethought makes a big difference, even if the outcomes are the same. That's why there are different levels and types of homicide charges.

Why would anyone choose to be a selfish, miserable asshole...?

Because it's easy, and people are apathetic and lazy lol. I'm not coming from a "people are inherently good" perspective. I think people have to actively choose to be good, and if the desire's not there, then there's not much to be done about it other than enforce laws to encourage people to not be dicks to each other.

I don't think it makes a difference if people who commit premeditated murder are better, worse, or the same as people who don't. It's a moot point. I have no doubt that there are people in the world who want to hurt/kill someone, for whatever reason - but not everyone acts on it. I'm not sure what your issue is here. If it's with me calling premeditated murderers assholes, then.... okay, lol. I have no problem saying I think I'm better than Jodi Arias, because there have been times I've wanted to make someone hurt (which I will not get into), and I've never followed through with it - and not because I was afraid of getting caught.

You are missing the point. People's actions are not random. They are subject to causality. If you trace the line(s) of causality backwards from someone's criminal acts, sooner or later you are going to get to root causes which are not of their choosing.

You can't choose your circumstances or what life you began with, but you can still choose your actions and responses. Or do you not think that free will exists?

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