Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Trouble With Compassion

When Gov. Mike Huckabee explains why he worked to help convicted rapist Wayne DuMond get paroled before DeMond -- as predicted to Huckabee -- went on to rape and murder, he says he acted out of compassion.

Now there is another case where compassion for a violent offender, is given as the cause of actions which resulted in the preventable death of a woman. This time it was Monica Thomas-Harris who paid the price for so-called compassion with her life.

Deputy District Attorney Samer Hathout, who was filling in on the case, and her supervisor both signed off on the deal to let [Curtis Harris] out. Superior Court Judge Tia Fisher, who was filling in for a vacationing judge, agreed.

"The man appeared rational when I spoke to him, so I presented it to the district attorney and they agreed," said Harris' lawyer, Arthur Lindars. "It's everybody's worst nightmare."

When a man has a history of violence against his estranged wife and that wife reported him to the police so that he was heading to prison for false imprisonment and possession of a gun by a felon, an escalation of the violence by this man isn't a nightmare, it is a predictable possibility.


But he "appeared rational" when he came up with an excuse about why he should be freed before his sentencing is a lame excuse for ignoring the evidence. If the substitutes don't know that their absent counterparts -- and the victim -- supported his release, he shouldn't have been considered for release no matter what his lawyer believed or wanted.


The defense attorney -- the only non-substitute -- wasn't working for the safety or interests of the victim or the public. The rest of the system needs to act with the knowledge that defense attorneys operate with tunnel vision and distrust for evidence against their clients.

Like in the DuMond case there was supporting evidence that this man was not safe enough to release. In this man's file was a probation report which stated that Harris was a danger to his wife and unsuitable for release.

But so-called compassion trumped evidence and investigations.

A violent man only needed to talk about needing to see to his elderly mother for the victim and public safety to be forgotten. Those who think they can see into people's hearts are often the easiest to fool since they don't feel the need to do even the most basic research to ensure they aren't being played.

Judges and prosecutors will always be busy so we need to have processes in place so that the violent cannot use this regular occurrence to get what they should be denied because they can plead their case in such a way as to elicit a compassionate emotional response without the presence of any countering stories or evidence.

There is nothing wrong with genuine emotion or compassion and those who demand a complete lack of emotion have it as wrong as those they oppose. Too often this so-called rational response ignores the impact and severity of violent crimes when victims suffer no permanent bodily injuries. This type of person could look at this case and say the estranged wife was only scared not harmed and therefore conclude that this man was not a truly violent offender and shouldn't be treated by the system as such. The estranged wife's fear would then be labeled as irrational and incorrectly dismissed as irrelevant.

True compassion and good rational decisions come from knowing everything about a case or an offender and discounting none of the facts and none of the emotions. People can have compassion for a violent offender who cannot go out and see his elderly mother without making the decision to give that violent offender what he wants.

What gets called a compassionate action is too often in reality just being successfully manipulated or it is a handy lie used by the sloppy or the uncaring when a predictable bad outcome becomes reality.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:18 AM   1 comments links to this post


At January 20, 2008 8:35 PM, Blogger Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

I agree with your stance on compassion. Too often I think victims/survivors are pressured to "forgive" or offer compassion to their perpetrators-- and I think it's highly overrated, myself.
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story for those who have endured abuse
Available for preorder on Amazon, Feb. 2008


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