The Insanity Plea Is Insane – Part 2

Our judicial system is intended to deliver justice, not compassion. Ignoring this crucial distinction had led to the shameful and dangerous situation in which admitted murderers are declared innocent and released into society without punishment and without even simple restitution for the victim’s survivors.
We can agree that Jim Jones of Guyana was insane, but does that mean that if he had survived the Jonestown massacre he should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity? Or Adolf Eichmann?
Unconditional love tells us to hate the sin, not the sinner. But loving someone unconditionally does not mean condoning misbehavior and unethical conduct. Wrongdoing may be forgiven—that’s compassionate—but it should never be overlooked or ignored—that’s foolish. Doing that for children leads to spoiled brats. Doing that for adults leads to anarchy and rampant violence. When lawbreaking occurs, it should be recognized and dealt with according to law. That is what justice is all about. Only when guilt or innocence has been determined does compassion become proper. If a finding of guilt has been made, there may be reason for a lighter sentence or even a pardon. On the other hand, there may be reason to “throw the book” at the convicted person. But letting someone “get away with it” is misplaced compassion.
The Nuremberg trials declared loud and clear that people must be responsible for their acts, even in time of war. Trials in America today, however, declare that people are not responsible for their acts because their state of mind excluded reason. Consequently, criminals have been handed the legal means to get away with murder, and they, aware that their lives are at stake, quite reasonably use it. As the saying goes, they may be crazy but they’re not stupid!
Legislators should correct this most gross miscarriage of justice—a miscarriage based on the foolish idea that a person’s state of mind has a bearing on his innocence or guilt in committing criminal behavior. If the person committed the act, he’s guilty—period. Whether he remembers doing it or whether he could make a rational decision at the time doesn’t matter at that point in the judicial proceedings. His state of mind and other possible mitigating or extenuating circumstances should be taken into account only in passing sentence. Irresponsible behavior should never be condoned to the point of murder. The failure of legislators to recognize and correct this outrageous situation only contributes to the general deterioration of respect for law and social order.

The Insanity Plea – Part 1

Is a person responsible for his behavior if insane or brainwashed? In the past, legislative and judicial proceedings in America have answered no, allowing for what is called the insanity plea. To that I say: the insanity plea is itself crazy. It makes a mockery of logic and justice.
I am not discussing the death penalty here. Rather, my concern is personal accountability for crimes and enlightened treatment of criminals. We should be clear about the basis for punishment and incarceration. My position begins with this principle: There is no substitute for personal accountability and nothing more dangerous for society than to allow a person, regardless of his state of mind, to escape the consequences of his actions.
Because of murder trials in which the accused have pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, admitted killers have literally gotten away with murder—legally. The insanity plea allowed judges to sentence them to mental hospitals for observation and treatment. There they were found sane and then released by a judge because they cannot be tried twice for the same crime. That acquittal is nothing less than an atrocity.
It is legislative and judicial insanity that this should be allowed to happen. Ensuring citizens safety from violence ought to be a prime objective of legislation in any enlightened society. Yet many law-abiding Americans live in fear of crime in the streets and in their homes because “law and order” isn’t working effectively. When things get to the point of absolving confessed killers, that’s just plain disorder and benightedness.
Some people feel the legal system should be compassionate with criminals. Others feel it should be tougher. Can compassion and judicial sternness work together? I say they can, but only if each is properly understood.
In a free society such as America, laws are made to control behavior, not states of mind. So the second principle in my position is this: A defendant’s mental state should have no bearing whatsoever on whether he is found guilty of committing a crime. He may be insane, brainwashed, drug-crazed, hypnotically programmed, “possessed” by an evil spirit, have multiple personality disorder or be otherwise non compos mentis and incapable of telling right from wrong (e.g., retardation or mere adolescence with its incomplete moral development), but that should only be taken into account after the finding. If a person is genuinely unbalanced, he can be given a sentence which includes appropriate treatment to restore mental health, whether the treatment be psychiatry, deprogramming, detoxification or even exorcism. Then, if treatment is successful, the case should be reviewed. The person should serve the rest of his sentence unless the preponderance of expert opinion feels that pardon or commutation is in order. At that point compassion becomes proper—but not before.
This position applies across the entire spectrum of mind states and motives leading to criminal behavior. I include in that even mercy killings where a spouse or family member terminates the life of a hopelessly incurable invalid. Although the murderer’s motivation may be love and tender concern rather than hatred, greed or some other negative emotion, that is no excuse. It is only an explanation to be considered in sentencing.
(To be concluded)

Rt10 In Cheshire to be named “Metal of Honor Memorial Highway”

Next month state highway Route 10 in the center of Cheshire, Connecticut will be named The Medal of Honor Memorial Highway. The naming will be observed in a dedication ceremony on Saturday, September 12 at 3 p.m. during the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce’s annual Fall Festival at Bartlem Park.

The Cheshire Veterans Council and the Town of Cheshire requested the Connecticut Department of Transportation to approve the name. Rep. Mary Fritz, a member of Cheshire’s delegation to the General Assembly, took legislative action to put the request into effect.

Speaking for the Cheshire Veterans Council, VFW Post 10052 Commander John White said, “Cheshire is probably unique among small towns of America with a population less than 30,000 because we have two residents who were awarded the Medal of Honor. Marine Col. Harvey Barnum received the Medal for combat action in Vietnam and Union Army Sgt. Eri Woodbury received it for combat action during the Civil War. So far as I know, no other small town can claim to have two such Medal holders as residents. These men are genuine military heroes and deserve this public recognition.”

The Medal of Honor is America’s highest military decoration. It is awarded by the President on behalf of Congress to members of the armed services who distinguish themselves through bravery at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in combat against an enemy of the United States.

Cheshire has extensive connections with the Medal of Honor. The highway name will begin at the Medal of Honor Plaza where a monument honors the two recipients. It continues through the center of town where the Cheshire Historical Society displays Sgt. Woodbury’s Medal of Honor, and past Cheshire Academy where his portrait as headmaster hangs. He is buried in the cemetery at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the Academy. Cheshire Public Library nearby has a display case containing an actual Medal of Honor, photos of Col. Barnum as a boy growing up in Cheshire, and his presidential citation for the Medal. The highway name ends at the Cheshire Police Department.

Col. Barnum, who lives in Virginia, will speak at the ceremony. The day before he will talk with students at Cheshire High School, where he is on the Wall of Fame for school graduates.

Among the invited guests are Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Sen. Christopher Murphy, both Cheshire residents. Cheshire’s delegation to the General Assembly and the Cheshire Town Council are also invited.

The Cheshire Veterans Council consists of Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Army Air Force Roundtable, Disabled American Veterans, and American Veterans. Their booth at the Fall Festival will have information about the Medal of Honor and will distribute a commemorative souvenir of the Dedication.

Was Hiroshima Good for the World – Part 2

Russia was also at work on an atomic bomb because the Manhattan Project’s secret had been leaked by Robert Oppenheimer, now known to have been a Communist. I therefore agree with Edward Teller, also a member of the Manhattan Project and the so-called father of the Hydrogen Bomb, who said in his memoir, “We had no choice. In such an arms race, there is no slowing down, let alone turning back.”

I also agree with Gen. Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, who said it was necessary. When I had the privilege of meeting him at an Army Air Force reunion in the mid-‘90s, I asked him about his feelings of conscience over the event. He replied, “I had a duty to perform. I’ve never lost a single night’s sleep over it.” I respect his warrior attitude and I recommend his memoir, The Return of the Enola Gay.

Equally to the point, Gen. Tibbets told me that when he lectured publicly, he was sometimes thanked afterward by people who said the bomb saved their lives. Most of them were American soldiers and sailors fighting in the Pacific, preparing for Operation Olympic, the massive invasion of Japan planned to begin in November 1945 and continue through March 1946, extending the war for probably another year. Based on experience from the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, military planners estimated American casualties at more than 1,000,000 dead and wounded. Japanese casualties were estimated above 2,000,000. Japan, although clearly losing the war, still had tremendous military resources—both men and weapons—in readiness to defend its homeland. The armed civilian populace was in addition to that.

Surprisingly, however, some of the people who thanked Gen. Tibbets were Japanese civilians who lived during the war or were descendants of wartime civilians. The Emperor and warlords had declared a policy of “no surrender, no retreat” for Japan if it was invaded. Everyone—young and old alike—were commanded to fight to the death for their homeland and, given the mindset of strict obedience which had been inculcated in the Japanese, the command of the divine imperial ruler could not have been disobeyed. It was simply unthinkable for them. Many of them did not want to fight to the death, Gen. Tibbetts was told, but they felt they had no choice. The atomic bomb, therefore, actually saved the lives of millions of Japanese.

It is to the enormous credit of America that, for all the nuclear saber-rattling the world has gone through since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we’ve been able to avoid another such event because of America’s military strength. Nuclear weapons have helped to hold things together for America and the world. It’s time for the critics to acknowledge that—even as America continues working toward global nuclear disarmament.

Was Hiroshima Good for the World? – Part 1

Seventy years ago, America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War Two. Ever since there has been passionate debate about whether it was necessary to use nuclear weapons on Japan. Critics of the action say Japan was ready to surrender, even without the bombings, and the U.S. military’s estimate of the casualties—both American and Japanese—resulting from an invasion of Japan set for late 1945 were vastly overstated.

The critics’ case does not persuade me. Here’s why.

I’m a former naval nuclear weapons officer. I’ve stood at Ground Zero in Hiroshima and felt heartsick as I looked at the mementos of nuclear destruction housed in the museum there. My military experience showed me the horror of nuclear weapons, up close and personal. I’ve literally had my finger on the red button which could launch fiery kilotons of death to submarine crews—men whom, if I met them today at a social function, I’d probably like very much, despite differing political beliefs. I long for the day when global politics will safely allow the world to disarm and eradicate all nuclear weapons. Like Gen. Eisenhower, who said “I hate war as only a general can,” I hate nuclear weapons as only a nuclear weapons officer can. Yet as horrible as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, the alternative of not dropping the bombs would have been far worse for American forces—and for the Japanese as well, both military and civilian.

It is well known that Germany was rushing to develop its own atomic bomb. What isn’t widely known is that Japan was doing the same thing. In the last months of the war, two German submarines were captured en route to Japan. One had a cargo of lead, the other had a cargo of deuterium or heavy water. Both are radiation-shielding materials; both were intended to help the Japanese effort to build their own nuclear weapons.

If Germany and Japan had succeeded, history as we know it would be quite different. Most likely, you and I would be speaking German or Japanese. Just imagine a world map in which Germany ruled all of Europe and Japan ruled the Pacific. Do you think their quest for empire would have ended at our shores? I don’t.

(To be concluded)