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Memory, identity, and responsibility

 
 
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 11:36 am
Let us suppose that someone -- for the sake of convenience let's call him John Q. Felon -- commits a heinous, premeditated murder. There is, furthermore, no question that he in fact is the perpetrator: his crime was witnessed by a dozen bishops, all noted for their visual acuity as well as their unparalleled probity. Before he is apprehended by the police, however, Felon is struck with a case of amnesia, such that he cannot remember any event, including the murder which he committed, prior to being so stricken. On this point all medical observers are unanimous: Felon can neither remember any event nor will he be able, in the future, to recall events prior to succumbing to amnesia. The amnesiac Felon is subsequently arrested and charged with murder. In his defense, Felon truthfully asserts that he has no knowledge of the crime.

Under these circumstances, is the state justified in charging Felon with murder? If so, should he be convicted? And if he is convicted, what punishment should the state impose?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 5,578 • Replies: 71
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Relative
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 11:46 am
I believe only in prevention and isolation, not punishment (revenge).

I believe we must imprison murderers to prevent them from murdering again, and to set an example for murderer-wannabees.

In this case especially, revenge is a very questionable act - this case alone revealing the deadly shalowness of it.

Can a stone be convicted of a crime? If a stumble on a stone in my yard, i 'punish' it by removing it from the yard thus clearing the yard of obstacles.

I feel there is a great potential for morally paradoxical situation; but compare this to:
- This is the same as being born in Ethiopia. You are not guilty, but you have a great chance of dying of hunger.
- Probably similar is inheritance : you can inherit money from your parents, as well as debts. Why?

I think Felon just inherited the crime from his previous self - memory plays no role here. Maybe he can prove he is a better man now; until then however he goes to prison.


Relative
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PDiddie
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 12:17 pm
If I understand your scenario correctly, JQF was of sound mind when he committed the crime.

He should be charged, probably convicted (his peer jury would determine that) and sentenced to life in prison (since I am not a death penalty advocate).
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 12:31 pm
Joe, it all depends on how clever his defense lawyer is and how substantial the medical report is on his supposed amnesia.

All things being equal, then I suspect he will be convicted. As for the sentencing, it depends on where he lives. You didn't mention that. Should JQF live in Canada, there will be no capitol punishment. Should he have fled to Canada from the U.S. then extradition laws will only permit his return if there is NO death sentence.
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NickFun
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:17 pm
I read of a young man who was drunk and driving and he got into a terrible accident which killed his two friends and left his girlfriend paralyzed. He survived almost unscathed. He had no recollection of the incident but was still found guilty and had to serve time. C'est la vie.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:25 pm
Relative wrote:
I believe only in prevention and isolation, not punishment (revenge).

I believe we must imprison murderers to prevent them from murdering again, and to set an example for murderer-wannabees.

How would that purpose be served by convicting Felon in this case?

Relative wrote:
I feel there is a great potential for morally paradoxical situation; but compare this to:
- This is the same as being born in Ethiopia. You are not guilty, but you have a great chance of dying of hunger.

But that is not a case of justice, that's just bad luck.

Relative wrote:
- Probably similar is inheritance : you can inherit money from your parents, as well as debts. Why?

Again, that is not an instance of justice, but merely good luck.

Relative wrote:
I think Felon just inherited the crime from his previous self - memory plays no role here. Maybe he can prove he is a better man now; until then however he goes to prison.

I like the idea of Felon having "inherited" the crime from his previous self, but then why should he be punished for that legacy?
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:27 pm
PDiddie wrote:
If I understand your scenario correctly, JQF was of sound mind when he committed the crime.

Yes, we can assume that Felon, at the time he committed the crime, was legally competent.

Relative wrote:
He should be charged, probably convicted (his peer jury would determine that) and sentenced to life in prison (since I am not a death penalty advocate).

What purpose does it serve to punish Felon?
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Heeven
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:28 pm
If Mr. Felon killed someone who made him angry or his personality was such that he was prone to commit premeditated murder, does his amnesia prevent him from doing so in the future? I am thinking no, if he is disposed to murder, then a memory lapse is not a solution to his violent traits.

If Mr. Felon was in a car accident and his body crushed so that he could never walk, talk or feed himself again, would he still be guilty of murder? Yes.

He should go to prison for the crime he has committed. His amnesia might be a ray of hope that he would never do so again but it does not absolve him of the deed already done.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:32 pm
Letty wrote:
Joe, it all depends on how clever his defense lawyer is and how substantial the medical report is on his supposed amnesia.

As I mentioned in my initial post: "On this point all medical observers are unanimous: Felon can neither remember any event nor will he be able, in the future, to recall events prior to succumbing to amnesia." We can, therefore, assume that all the medical evidence supports the diagnosis of permanent and irreversible amnesia.

Letty wrote:
All things being equal, then I suspect he will be convicted. As for the sentencing, it depends on where he lives. You didn't mention that. Should JQF live in Canada, there will be no capitol punishment. Should he have fled to Canada from the U.S. then extradition laws will only permit his return if there is NO death sentence.

The jurisdiction is largely immaterial. The question isn't whether he will be convicted, but whether he should be convicted.

As for the punishment, I will allow you and anyone else to fashion whatever punishment you may deem appropriate.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:42 pm
Heeven wrote:
If Mr. Felon killed someone who made him angry or his personality was such that he was prone to commit premeditated murder, does his amnesia prevent him from doing so in the future? I am thinking no, if he is disposed to murder, then a memory lapse is not a solution to his violent traits.

In that event, would the state be punishing Felon for what he did, or for what he was capable of doing?

Heeven wrote:
If Mr. Felon was in a car accident and his body crushed so that he could never walk, talk or feed himself again, would he still be guilty of murder? Yes.

I quite agree. But then the crippled Felon would presumably still be capable of understanding the gravity of his crime and the nature of his guilt. In contrast, the amnesiac Felon understands neither.

Heeven wrote:
He should go to prison for the crime he has committed. His amnesia might be a ray of hope that he would never do so again but it does not absolve him of the deed already done.

Why not? We would not condone punishing someone for the crimes committed by a complete stranger. Isn't the murderer Felon a complete stranger to the amnesiac Felon?
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Heeven
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:47 pm
Hi Joe

I know Mr. Felon has no memory of the incident and may appear currently harmless with a low level of re-committing such a crime. This would be akin to a person doing wrong and being truly truly sorry and really meaning it about never doing it again (but who can believe such a thing?)

The purpose of convicting and incarcerating is to punish and try to deflect others who would do the same. While I know this seems not to work, there has to be some consquence to committing crimes.
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Heeven
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:49 pm
and although Mr. Felon does not remember his actions, it does not mean that he is not susceptible to a short-temper with a very violent nature. His amnesia is not a total behavioral change in him, it is only a memory loss.
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 02:58 pm
Oh, my Gawd! Bet this is another street car thing. Rolling Eyes

I do not believe in capitol punishment, both for humanitarian reasons and economic reasons. People stay on death row for years because of appeals and that is EXPENSIVE. Also, who knows what new evidence could turn up that provides new clues.

Soooooo. I say that should he be convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be locked away without benefit of parole.

I still say the venue is important.
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Heeven
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:01 pm
You have to admit - Joe does get us "thinking" with his Q's (chuckle)!
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:03 pm
If the premeditated murder preceded the amnesia, as stated, then he is still liable for the crime, and the amnesia defence is nothing but a legal smokescreen.
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Letty
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:06 pm
admits grudgingly, Heeven...but he's so damn lawyer like!
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gordy
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:11 pm
Mr Felon did it and was seen doing it .Then the law has no option but prosecute him. And a jury would have to find him guilty(which he is)

The memory thing is a bit of a distraction in my opinion.Even if he is a totaly changed man and will never commit another crime doesn't come into it.Remember he committed murder.Justice must be served.

He murdered,he wanted to murder. the man is guilty,send him down.Next case
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:20 pm
Heeven wrote:
Hi Joe

I know Mr. Felon has no memory of the incident and may appear currently harmless with a low level of re-committing such a crime. This would be akin to a person doing wrong and being truly truly sorry and really meaning it about never doing it again (but who can believe such a thing?)

I don't think that's an analogous situation. Felon is not like someone who is truly sorry for what he did because he can't be sorry: he has no memory of doing anything wrong (indeed, he has no memory of doing anything at all). If he said he was sorry, it would be as if he were apologizing for the actions of someone else.

Heeven wrote:
The purpose of convicting and incarcerating is to punish and try to deflect others who would do the same. While I know this seems not to work, there has to be some consquence to committing crimes.

I agree that those are two reasons to punish someone, but do they apply to Felon? After all, how is it fair or just to inflict punishment on Felon when he is unaware of his crime? Isn't that like something out of a Kafka novel rather than a legal code?

And how does punishing Felon under these circumstances necessarily deter others? If the justice system is so arbitrary and capricious that it would convict someone who is incapable of understanding his own guilt, doesn't that bad example outweigh the moral force of the punishment?

Heeven wrote:
and although Mr. Felon does not remember his actions, it does not mean that he is not susceptible to a short-temper with a very violent nature. His amnesia is not a total behavioral change in him, it is only a memory loss.

Very true. Felon could quite easily go on to commit other crimes. But in this respect is he any different from anyone else? Are you willing to put him in jail on the presumption that he might commit crimes in the future?
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:24 pm
cavfancier wrote:
If the premeditated murder preceded the amnesia, as stated, then he is still liable for the crime, and the amnesia defence is nothing but a legal smokescreen.

What if he had committed murder while sleepwalking? Isn't Felon in roughly the same situation? He has committed the crime while in one state of consciousness, but he is on trial while in a different state of consciousness. Aren't you setting up a standard where the punishment is inflicted on the body of the perpetrator, regardless of his state of mind?
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2004 03:26 pm
gordy wrote:
The memory thing is a bit of a distraction in my opinion.Even if he is a totaly changed man and will never commit another crime doesn't come into it.Remember he committed murder.Justice must be served.

What kind of "justice" is it when the state convicts someone of a crime for which the condemned has no knowledge?

gordy wrote:
He murdered,he wanted to murder. the man is guilty,send him down.Next case

The man is guilty? Which man?
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