Friday, July 28, 2006

The Daily Gripe #7 - Andrea Yates

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

With my work hours, commute distance, and having both a toddler and newborn in the house, I don't get to watch much television, and when I do it consists mostly of cartoons or educational programming. In order to keep up to date on what's happening in the world, I listen to podcasts during my lengthy commute, including NBC Nightly News. I sometimes run a day or two behind, which is why I just learned some disturbing news on my drive to work this morning.

It seems that Andrea Yates, who was once convicted for drowning her children, has just been found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity in a retrial. That really gripes me! Why, you ask?

You may remember the story. Her kids were missing, and she went on national TV begging for their safe return. They were later found drowned by their mother's own hand. Now, call me a radical if you will, but I look at it like this. If a child's parent causes harm to a child -- in any way for any "reason" -- there is no acceptable excuse. That parent should pay the ultimate price. Those poor children looked to their mother to protect and nurture them. Her crime was not only murder, but also betrayal of innocence. Those children were in no position to protect or defend themselves from the one person they should never have to fear.

I don't buy this insanity defense. So what if she was "temporarily" insane. If they treat her and release her, what guarantee is there that she won't have a relapse? None!

I accept that there's no guarantee that any one of us won't flip out some day and hurt someone. But a person's past actions is the best predictor of potential future acts.

I say there's only one fate fitting of Ms. Yates: execution in the same manner she carried out against her children. And eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a mother's life in exchange for her children's!



Anonymous said...

When considering issues of criminal justice, I find that the only way to remain fair and unbiased is to consider and accept certain standards, completely free of any influence from specific cases or occurrences. I try to start by asking general questions. For example:

- Does a government have a right to place punishment for violations of established law?

- Should punishment placed by a government be for the purpose of revenge and retribution, or should it be for the purpose of correction. (In other words, do we punish a child because he did wrong and deserves to be punished, or do we punish a child so that he learns to behave better in the future?)

- Should a government have the right to do things that its laws prohibit individuals from doing?

- Should a government punish a person who committed a crime because he was too sick to fully understand what he was doing? This one may seem a bit bleeding heart at first, but consider this: You have two children. One of them (age 8, let’s say) becomes sick and spikes a fever of 104. He becomes very irritable. His young brother (age 6 let’s say) is worried about him and walks over to give him a hug. As the 6-year-old grabs the 8-year-old to hug him, the 8-year-old swings out and clobbers his little brother. Maybe he draws blood. Would you punish your 8-year-old the same way you would if he had been well when the incident happened?

There are many questions such as these to consider, before even bringing in the Andrea Yates case specifically.

I won’t take time to run a long debate here about those questions, and others like them. I will quickly mention one other thing, however. Many people claim that God approves of capital punishment and that he specifically calls for it in the Bible. However, they fail to note that in the sections of the Bible in which God specifically directs killing a man as a form of punishment, God also sets certain restrictions and requirements of such punishment. The biggest requirement is that there be an eye witness to those certain crimes where God directs man to use capital punishment.

Interestingly, when God himself handed down a punishment for murder (when Cain killed Abel), God did not kill Cain. God separated Cain from the rest of society and placed a mark on him.

I believe that Andrea Yates was sick when she killed her children. Because of this, I believe killing her would be just as wrong as harshly punishing the 8-year-old mentioned above. I also believe it would be against God’s will and direction to us.

The murders of those children were horrible, horrible things. (Sadly, our world is filled with horrible, horrible things.) Killing Andrea Yates would not make the situation less horrible. It would not teach Andrea Yates a lesson. It would not prevent the next sick woman from killing her children.

I suspect that the only thing it might do is help the general public somehow make some sense of things, knowing that if a person commits a VERY bad act, he will be punished.

But the thing is, killing Andrea Yates would also be a VERY bad act. Where would that leave us?

Average Joe American said...

At this point, avoiding debate is agreeable. However, I do have a brief rebuttal to some of your key points. Specifically, your last three paragraphs.

- Of course killing Andrea Yates would probably not teach her a lesson. I doubt that she is capable of learning any lessons. It also would probably not prevent a truly sick woman from killing her children. It would certainly act as a deterrent to those who are not "insane" but might otherwise try to use an insanity defense to justify their actions.

- I further believe that removing Andrea Yates from society on a permantent basis would do more than just give the general public some kind of closure. It would guarantee us one thing: Andrea Yates would never again kill, whether "by reason of insanity" or otherwise.

It is for this last reason more than any other that I stand strongly convinced that Andrea Yates, and anyone else who would commit such a heinous act against a defenseless, innocent child, should not be released into society again. The biggest benefit of capital punishment is it's deterrent value, and there are two types of deterrent that result from capital punishment: 1) the individual punished would be deterred from killing again by his/her mere lack of existence; 2) others capable of premeditating their act might be persuaded otherwise by the possible consequences they would face.

What is best for society? To punish the masses for the crimes of the few by subjecting us to the danger of repeat offenders? Or to protect society from the dangerous few by preventing them from having the opportunity to become repeat offenders? I see only one acceptable choice, and I don't think I need to say which one that is.

Thank you for your thought-provoking input.


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