• BC
    I wonder... Was Dylann Roof both guilty and responsible for the 9 murders he committed at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in South Carolina? A jury earlier convicted him and today sentenced him to death.

    There is no doubt that he was responsible for the murders. His guilt seems more problematic.

    Roof was a 9th grade dropout; this is in no way exoneration, but it's a factor. Lots of convicted criminals are as poorly educated or worse. His home life was less than optimal, but that's almost the norm these days and very few people commit mass murder as a result.

    He seems at least deluded about reality. He was found sane enough to stand trial, but can one be sane and still think it reasonable to kill a group of people in church so that a race war will commence? Can one identify mass murder as right and still be sane?

    Serial killers, suicide bombers, mass killers, various psychopaths, etc. seem insane to me. Probably a good many more ordinary criminals were at least somewhat insane. Of course insanity is not a "get out of jail" card. People who are insane and dangerous should be excluded from society -- quite possibly for life, and perhaps a cure, with care, is possible.
  • Cavacava
    I have not followed the case very closely, the sad situation of these thoughtless deaths, one of many such situations, depresses me.

    I do wonder how our justice system allows a person whose competency is questioned to call the shots in a trial like this. From what I can gather, Roof at the beginning the initial trial dismissed his attorneys because they wanted to present expert testamentary that he is insane. So the Judge took Roof into his chamber, he has a conversation with Roof and he determines that Roof understand the seriousness of the charge and lets him act in his own defense.

    Can that be fair?

    When it came time for sentencing Roof again could have brought attorneys in to submit evidence of the mentally deficient state of his mind as a mitigating factor but Roof refused attorney's defense, offered no defense.
  • Wayfarer
    A jury earlier convicted him and today sentenced him to death.Bitter Crank

    there's your answer.
  • BC
    there's your answerWayfarer

    When people do things about which we say, "no sane person would do such a thing," why do we then treat them as sane and act accordingly?

    Suppose Roof was a psychopath; quite a few psychopaths have committed crimes as horrible as this crime. If one believes that psychopathy is not an option but a biologically imposed circumstance, should they be found guilty and sentenced to death (or life imprisonment), or should they be placed under care in a secure hospital? And if we place them in a hospital, do we think there is no cure possible, such that is not even worth considering?
  • Wayfarer
    From what little I read about this case, Roof strikes me as competent within the legal definition of that term. Certainly he might be psychopathic, but then many murderers, especially mass-murderers, are psychopathic. So that raises the whole question of intent and culpability. Are they also 'victims' of a 'psychopathic drive'? In which case, you might as well say it's the devil. (Coming to think of it...) But then many perpetrators of wicked crimes would be held not responsible. I don't much care for that.

    In any case, Roof was not like, for example, a case here in Australia some years back, where a man with a samurai sword killed and injured people in a car park, believing he was defending his family against attacks by aliens. He was clinically insane, literally couldn't know what another human being was. Roof was cool, calculating, deliberate, and intentional. That said, I don't actually support the death penalty as a matter of principle, because it always results in the execution of an innocent person, usually an underprivileged innocent person (as is demonstrably the case in the US). But in this instance, I couldn't argue against the death penalty for a crime of this nature.
  • Terrapin Station

    Why would he not be guilty (or responsible) if he's insane?
  • BC
    I'm unenthusiastic about capital punishment for several reasons. Innocent people are sometimes executed, as you mentioned; the process of appeal is painfully slow; most states do not execute criminals (whether they could or not). Life imprisonment, especially in our prisons, is a very severe punishment, worse in many ways than being executed, and its severity is sufficient.

    Certain offenders, like Dylann Roof, should be presumed insane until proven otherwise. Roof seems to have started entertaining delusions relatively early on--not that he was about to commit mass murder after dropping out of the 9th grade, but within a few years he seems to have developed a lot of delusions. One might argue that he is just stupid and not deluded, or that he is wicked and not deluded or stupid, but that's hard for outsiders to determine.

    If it were up to me, I'd pack him off to a secure mental hospital for a long evaluation, and possibly treatment. He can always be transferred to a prison if he proves to be sane.
  • BC
    Why would he not be guilty (or responsible) if he's insane?Terrapin Station

    There is no doubt in Roof's case that he is responsible for the murders. Eyewitnesses, forensic evidence, and his own statements all confirm his role. Insanity doesn't mean that a defendant is considered to NOT have done something for which he is being tried. Insanity means that the defendant is not guilty. Not guilty because their mental state rules out a rational process.

    Insanity is a usually not a successful defense, because of the way the law regarding insanity has been written and practiced. I would prefer a more inclusive standard of insanity, perhaps including extreme psychopathy. Bernard Madoff didn't kill anybody, he certainly seemed sane by any definition, but his willingness to selectively ruin mostly members of his own Jewish community would indicate a failure of normal psychology. He seems like a classic psychopath.

    If Bernie Madoff had been ruled insane and psychopathic, what would the outcome have been? Pretty much the same: the only difference would be the address of his long-term incarceration, and the nature of his daily activities. Were he housed at a secure psychiatric facility, he would be the subject of more intensive scrutiny and therapy (if any existed). He wouldn't be free to roam any sooner. John Hinkley, who was hospitalized as insane for attempting to kill Ronald Reagan in 1980, has just recently been allowed to have some limited freedom of movement away from the hospital, 36 years later.

    An insane Dylann Roof wouldn't be sent to a country-club prison; he'd be packed off to a secure psychiatric hospital. Were he imprisoned, he would have to live in isolation for his own protection; otherwise he'd most likely be dead shortly after arriving at the prison. Or, they'd send him to a prison where white supremacists were the ruling gang, rather than black supremacists.
  • discoii
    I'm of two camps here, both leading to the ultimate execution of Dylan Storm Roof. Technically guilty or not, just like Lennie had to be put down in Of Mice and Men due to him being a danger to society, so does Dylan Roof.

    I see more value in making him an example for other racists out there -- if the state does not kill him here, I'd be really concerned about how much it empowers other white supremacists in America. Seriously, his death should be televised and he should be hung in effigy in a public square. I also wish Norway executed Anders Breivik as an example because he's becoming this sort of freedom symbol for white supremacists and neo-nazis all over Europe and North America.

    On the other hand, with the incoming Trump presidency, self-described 'alt-right' (code for fascist) white supremacists appointed to cabinet, an emboldened far right that cries out 'Heil Trump!' with a sieg heil, I'm afraid Dylan Roof is the first of many (and he is, because a bunch more followed him). Trump certainly has no clue how to handle it except by sending in the troops. I wonder if he knows what he's unleashed in America.

    To the minds of fascists and white supremacists, they are at war with liberal and leftist and diverse Europe and America, and also want to expand white empire. Since they have declared war against us, they ought to die like soldiers, and the liberal state should be clear about which side they are taking here.
  • Wayfarer
    Certain offenders, like Dylann Roof, should be presumed insane until proven otherwise.Bitter Crank

    Are you sure that's not simply because you don't want to contemplate the idea that someone could be so willingly evil?

    He answered all of the questions put to him at trial. He didn't think his victims were Martians, or claim that he was being 'spoken to by voices'.

    The line between mad and bad is often a hard one to draw.
  • TheMadFool
    This type of behavior is not new

    Dylann Roof is not insane and he's not guilty either. It's just primordial instincts
  • Wayfarer
    You've picked a great handle.
  • TheMadFool
    You've picked a great handle.Wayfarer

    I'm being serious. He's not insane - there's nothing wrong with disliking people who are different. There's a plethora of phobias. Some abstract like phobia of the number 13. Others like homophobia. This particular case being xenophobia. These are not mental illnesses are they?

    He's not guilty because fear and its usual partner hate can result in momentary lapses of judgment.

    What say you? :)
  • Wayfarer
    i don't support the death penalty as a matter of principle but this was a heinous crime.
  • TheMadFool
    Here's why the death penalty errs...

    If x stole some money the judicial sentence doesn't require something of same value be stolen from him.

    If x rapes a woman then the law doesn't require the rape of x.

    The same may be said of all crimes EXCEPT murdering someone. Why so?

    And of course sometimes life sentences are worse than the death penalty.
  • VagabondSpectre
    What's your standard of "guilt"?

    Also, should we hold him "responsible" and incarcerate him?
  • Terrapin Station

    I know the legal convention, but I'm asking from a philosophical perspective outside of that, "Why should we consider him not guilty if he's insane?"

    Also regarding responsibility, there's a sense of that term where we wonder if someone was responsible for their actions. In that case, it's clear that they performed the actions they did. But some folks would say that in some cases, a person can be not responsible for their actions.

    Personally, by the way, I'd say that he's responsible for the actions he took and that he should be guilty even if insane.
  • TheMadFool
    What's your standard of "guilt"?VagabondSpectre

    Well, guilt is an odd creature. With all the evidence and his own sworn testimonies it is, in a way, quite ''obvious'' that Dylann is guilty. And if there's anything I've learned in this forum is that one must be most cautious when faced with the obvious.

    My concern is when we deal with Islamic terrorism we hunt and punish, implying of course that guilt is more complex than it appears, the people who radicalized the perpetrator. Why not apply the same logic here and hunt/punish the white supremacist group who radicalized Mr. Dylann Roof? Simple.

    Also, should we hold him "responsible" and incarcerate him?VagabondSpectre

    We should be just and that demands casting a wider net of guilt as I explained above.
  • Terrapin Station
    Why not apply the same logic here and hunt/punish the white supremacist group who radicalized Mr. Dylann Roof?TheMadFool

    I'm not in favor of any expression prohibitions.
  • TheMadFool
    I'm not in favor of any expression prohibitionsTerrapin Station

    Even Islamic jihadist expressions?! Treading on a fine line there Terrapin Station
  • Terrapin Station
    Even Islamic jihadist expressions?TheMadFool

    Yes, even that. Even yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. Even incitements to riot. Even slander/libel. I'm a free speech absolutist.
  • TheMadFool
    I'm a free speech absolutist.Terrapin Station
    You maybe right. I don't know. But I thought you, as a philosopher, would make the distinction between free speech and hate speech.
  • Terrapin Station

    The whole gist of free speech as a normative, including as a legislative normative, is that it involves the protection of the ability to say things that people are extremely uncomfortable with, upset by, etc.--things that people don't want you to be able to say for various reasons.
  • Agustino
    In my own opinion yes. Nothing can excuse such behaviour.

    "Instead you sit crying and complaining - some of you blind to your benefactor, and unable to acknowledge his existence; others assailing God with complaints and accusations from sheer meanness of spirit"
  • Agustino
    but can one be sane and still think it reasonable to kill a group of people in church so that a race war will commence?Bitter Crank
    Yes possibly one can see this as a way to take vengeance on the world for what their situation is. Have you never felt such a desire arising in you? Quite possibly you have, but the difference between you and him is that you realise that doing such would not actually change your situation, and the world isn't actually responsible. Your sense of compassion would probably also deter you.
  • BC
    Certain offenders, like Dylann Roof, should be presumed insane until proven otherwise.
    — Bitter Crank

    Are you sure that's not simply because you don't want to contemplate the idea that someone could be so willingly evil?Wayfarer

    You have identified a problem in my thinking. Yes, I guess I am reluctant to consider "evil" as an explanation for really really bad actions. Maybe part of my problem is that in distancing myself from Christian thinking, I lose some moral clarity. On the one hand, I tend to assume that people are good, but on the other hand, it is obvious enough that some people are not good at all. So, why? Are they clearly evil or are they sick, malformed, or damaged?

    I need to work this out. Clearly.
  • BC
    Have you never felt such a desire arising in you?Agustino

    Sure. I've enjoyed some fantasies about the demise of some people. As (maybe the famous American lawyer Clarence Darrow) said, "I Have Never Killed Any One, But I Have Read Some Obituary Notices with Great Satisfaction."

    One difference between people who enjoy reading some obituary notices and people who commit mass murder is the ability to discriminate between fantasy and reality. Another difference is a stable personality that puts a lid on one's hostilities. Normal people suppress the kind of murderous urges to which our species is heir. For most people, good urges overwhelm bad urges.
  • Wosret
    There's lots of evidence for brain damage, or malformation. Look at that ted talk about what we learned from scanning 80 thousand brains. It also mentions a psychopathic kid, constantly drawing murder, and finally attacking a young girl. They found a cyst in his brain, and removing it cured him. There's that guy that took a steel rod through the head, and lost impulse control, and went from mild and considerate, to abusive and uninhibited. This is actually quite common with strokes, and damage to the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for impulse control and future planning. Which is also why psychos are said to be impulsive, presumably.

    To believe that it comes down to a personal choice is to misunderstand everything.

    Even given that though, I still don't think that it even matters, as I'm opposed to punishment, or retribution. What matters is prevention. People should be detained if they're a danger to society, regardless of why, or how much it's their fault, and they ought to be treated humanely regardless of how responsible one thinks they are.
  • Ciceronianus
    In this, it's the law that matters, and nothing but the law. Behold, the law of South Carolina:

    SECTION 17-24-10. Affirmative defense.

    (A) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for a crime that, at the time of the commission of the act constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of mental disease or defect, lacked the capacity to distinguish moral or legal right from moral or legal wrong or to recognize the particular act charged as morally or legally wrong.

    (B) The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by a preponderance of the evidence.

    (C) Evidence of a mental disease or defect that is manifested only by repeated criminal or other antisocial conduct is not sufficient to establish the defense of insanity.

    HISTORY: 1984 Act No. 396, Section 1; 1988 Act No. 323, Section 1; 1989 Act No. 93, Section 1.

    SECTION 17-24-20. Guilty but mentally ill; general requirements for verdict.

    (A) A defendant is guilty but mentally ill if, at the time of the commission of the act constituting the offense, he had the capacity to distinguish right from wrong or to recognize his act as being wrong as defined in Section 17-24-10(A), but because of mental disease or defect he lacked sufficient capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.

    (B) To return a verdict of "guilty but mentally ill" the burden of proof is upon the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the trier of fact that the defendant committed the crime, and the burden of proof is upon the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that when he committed the crime he was mentally ill as defined in subsection (A).

    (C) The verdict of guilty but mentally ill may be rendered only during the phase of a trial which determines guilt or innocence and is not a form of verdict which may be rendered in the penalty phase.

    (D) A court may not accept a plea of guilty but mentally ill unless, after a hearing, the court makes a finding upon the record that the defendant proved by a preponderance of the evidence that when he committed the crime he was mentally ill as provided in Section 17-24-20(A).

    As you may guess from this, what constitutes insanity or mental illness of such magnitude as to impact on guilt is defined rather narrowly in the law. One can be stupid, uneducated, have a frightful childhood, and even have delusions, and still it will be no defense nor will it constitute mental illness.

    Note that what is required is that the defendant lack the capacity to distinguish between what is morally or legally right from what is morally or legally wrong.

    I haven't followed the case, but only note that the test in the law is not what you might expect.
  • TheMadFool
    Well I wonder why there's an old adage ''Silence is golden''
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