Saturday, March 15, 2014

Crime and Punishment in the 21st century

Good and evil in the brain scan age.

Would justice have been served if Whitman had survived and been executed?
Charles Joseph Whitman (June 24, 1941 – August 1, 1966) was an American engineering student and former U.S. Marine, who killed sixteen people and wounded thirty-two others in a mass shooting rampage in and around the Tower of the University of Texas at Austin on the afternoon of August 1, 1966. Three people were shot and killed inside the university's tower and eleven others were murdered after Whitman fired at random from the 28th-floor observation deck of the Main Building. Whitman was shot and killed by Austin police officer Houston McCoy.

In fact, Whitman complained of headaches and an altered mental state in the days and weeks leading up to the killings. His own suicide note read that "I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts."
Whitman knew that something was wrong. His note further reads, "After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder." And indeed there was. Whitman was found to have a glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, pressing against regions of the brain thought to be responsible for the regulation of strong emotions.

In this era of brain scans and analysis two things could have occurred, a. He would have undergone surgery to remove the tumor prior to acting out or, b. The tumor would have been discovered after the shooting and a jury might have acquitted him based on brain science.

Was Mr. Whitman evil or just sick.?

Would justice have been served if this man had been locked up for life?
In 2000, an otherwise normal Virginia man started to collect child pornography and make sexual advances toward his prepubescent stepdaughter. He was sentenced to spend time in a rehabilitation center, only to be expelled for making lewd advances toward staff members and patients. The next step was prison, but the night before he was to be incarcerated, severe headaches sent him to the hospital, where doctors discovered a large tumor on his brain. After they removed it, his sexual obsessions disappeared. Months later, his interest in child pornography returned, and a scan showed that the tumor had come back. Once again it was removed, and once again his obsessions disappeared.

Was the man evil or just sick?

Paul Hunter

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