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 agree that, since execution is final, it needs to be reserved for cases where there really is no reasonable doubt of guilt. For example, if the crime doesn't depend upon purely on witness testimony or circumstantial evidence. Fingerprints in a knife handle. Being caught in lies designed to prevent detection. Their DNA mixed with the victims. Or even caught on video. Some combination of things like that can remove all but the most perverse doubt.

If someone left their fingerprints in a knife plus they have mysteriously burned some clothes in a fireplace or left their bloody clothes in a bag in a dumpster and if they have made a lot of google inquiries about the best ways to kill people. If a case like that can be built, how much doubt can there be?

At some point, doubt becomes unreasonable. However, if the prosecution's case is weak, then I couldn't support the death penalty.

Why even convict people, though, if you have so much distrust in the system or if it is wrong sometimes? You can't undo an execution, but if you put someone in prison falsely, whether or not they are eventually exonerated, you can't really undo that, either. If a man is put in prison for a rape based on false testimony at age 24, but 18 years later DNA exonerates him, it's not like you cam say, "Sorry 'bout that. Tell you what. We're going to make you 24 again."

Aren't your qualms, if accepted, good reasons not to even have a justice system?

I'm quite puzzled as to why there is so much anxiety about killing an innocent person under the judicial execution system.  It clearly isn't a problem for any other aspect of American law.  "Collateral damage" appears to be acceptable regarding driving, or gun-ownership, or even police shoot-outs.  Why is it unacceptable for the death penalty to scoop a few innocents?

I understand the death penalty is a mechanism to remove unacceptable people from the community.  If you are going to have a death penalty at all, and I really don't have a strong opinion on it either way, why can't it be acceptable to bump off an innocent or two amongst the vast majority of guilty?

Would I personally like it if the 'innocent' was me or mine?  No.  But then I don't think I'd personally like any of 'mine' to be "collateral damage" in any way - either as a victim or a bystander to a violent event.  That doesn't mean I have any guarantee that it wont happen.  Why is the judiciary system being held more accountable than the operator of a drone which kills innocent people, or the gun-toting adherents whose guns are taken and abused? 

Collateral damage seems to be acceptable in all other areas of American activity.  Why does that change for this situation?

I'm quite puzzled as to why there is so much anxiety about killing an innocent person under the judicial execution system.  It clearly isn't a problem for any other aspect of American law.  "Collateral damage" appears to be acceptable regarding driving, or gun-ownership, or even police shoot-outs.  Why is it unacceptable for the death penalty to scoop a few innocents?

Why limit your question to killing. Why is it acceptable for innocent people to be convicted of crimes they didn't commit, as I'm sure happens in your own judicial system as well as ours? 

I understand the death penalty is a mechanism to remove unacceptable people from the community.  If you are going to have a death penalty at all, and I really don't have a strong opinion on it either way, why can't it be acceptable to bump off an innocent or two amongst the vast majority of guilty?

See my prior answer. Also, you like most leave the victims and their survivors out and assume that the death penalty has some purpose such as getting rid of bad apples. I think the main purpose of the judicial system is to provide justice for those affected by murderous criminals. While there is no possibility of adequately compensating these people, at least once the planet is rid of them, they won't have to worry about the perpetrator being released or escaping prison and coming after them. Most of us who have support for capital punishment in particularly egregious cases see it as justice, not punishment. If justice is fairness, then the fairness is to the victims and/or survivors in the case of capital punishment.

Would I personally like it if the 'innocent' was me or mine?  No.  But then I don't think I'd personally like any of 'mine' to be "collateral damage" in any way - either as a victim or a bystander to a violent event.  

But why do you fret so much more about the off chance of someone being an unintended victim of the system whereas you exhibit very little concern for the much greater category of innocent victims of the murderer?

Why is the judiciary system being held more accountable than the operator of a drone which kills innocent people, or the gun-toting adherents whose guns are taken and abused? 

Who is it that's holding the judicial system more accountable than the drone operator? In both cases attempts are made to reduce the chance of collateral damage. I maintain that a system which takes the approach "this is a social and judicial matter" alone and more or less shoves the victims and survivors aside as not worthy of justice is dysfunctional.

Collateral damage seems to be acceptable in all other areas of American activity.  Why does that change for this situation?

Why pick on America? I'm sure it would take little effort to find examples of systemic collateral damage on your side of the pond as well. For example.

You don't need a drone or capital punishment to generate collateral damage.

I'm not 'picking on' America, I thought we were discussing the death penalty, and there isn't one in the UK.  I'm also not holding the UK up as any kind of paradigm.

As to why I didn't point out other victims - simply an attempt at brevity. If you're going to have a system that kills criminals, I think it should be a swift and efficient one.

The problem you pose with retribution of the victims is not such a problem if you don't try to recompense them.  Why does the State or Government owe something to the victim.  Its unfortunate, but I don't see why the government feels it has a responsibility to reimburse a victim, and in any event it isn't possible.  This problem is akin to trying to make the country a gigantic insurance company that reimburses for losses.

Shit happens.  The perpetrators get eliminated, and that should be that.  I see no liability on the part of the state or government to 'repair' it.  Collateral damage is everywhere.

I simply pointed out that collateral damage is a problem everywhere, pointing to examples in your backyard as proof.

The justice system shouldn't be there to compensate victims or survivors, but to dispense justice. And who needs it more than the victims and survivors?

Well that's the thing, Unseen.  Why is the state obliged to recompense the victims?  I'm not a big fan of "justice" in the way it seems to be used here.  You seem to be looking at the emotional perspective - I'm just considering practicalities.  A dead offender is a non-repeating offender.  I really don't feel the need to make the victims feel better.  You do.  That's not an argument, simply a different viewpoint.

A dead offender is a non-repeating offender.  I really don't feel the need to make the victims feel better. 

But it DOES make the victims feel better. Who does the judicial system exist FOR if not for the injured parties?

That's a great question, and I suspect there are many viewpoints on that.  I think for me it is basically to make society a safer place, so for me the system is there to remove criminals.  I can see that for others, there may be a different understanding.

 

"I think the main purpose of the judicial system is to provide justice for those affected by murderous criminals."

Neurolaw is becoming huge now and there are Lawyers specializing in it. 

There are questions like:

Is he guilty or did his brain make him do it?

If they are psychopaths are they guilty or defective?

If something is defective do we destroy it or try to fix it or just keep it out of harms way?

 If a lot of psychopaths are going to be spared the death penalty in the future then how else could justice be served for victims of crime?

 

Yes, both the law and commonly-held attitudes are having a hard time keeping up with the science.

No, not really Doug.  Funnily enough I think its a reasonable price to pay.  I really love my life, but once I'm dead I'm not actually going to miss it.

And if it is my beloved, I've been through losing a partner to breast cancer - these things happen.  You learn to accept what you cannot change.

 

"both the law and commonly-held attitudes are having a hard time keeping up with the science."

Yes - very much so.

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