Monday, October 31, 2016

The Devil Made Me Do It: Loretta Lynch and the Absence of Intent

I had to watch this video twice, I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that she didn't indict Sec. of State Hillary Clinton on criminal charges because there was "no intent." Intent has nothing to do at all with criminal offenses. Let's look a little closer at this potential defense.

If you are driving along yakking on your cell and slam into a minivan killing a family, clearly there was no intent to do harm. Good luck with that one in court. Under the law you are criminally liable, the only mitigating factor that may pertain to intent is the degree to which you will be prosecuted. For example, because you did not intend to do harm, you may be charged with vehicular manslaughter rather than homicide.

Similarly, if I walk out of the house with my trusty .45, I do not necessarily have an intent to do harm, only protect myself. If someone should piss me off and I shoot them, am I not criminally liable because I didn't intend to shoot anyone that day? Once again, good luck with that one.

The absence of intent can be taken to any number of illogical conclusions. Someone dressed up in a KKK outfit goes to burn down a house, gets right up to the house and has a change of heart...while turning to walk away, a gust of wind blows the flame and ignites the house. Clearly, there is no intent; in fact he intended NOT to burn the house. Unless the culprit gets a jury of 12 Klansmen, I think the outcome of the trial is pretty certain. There are actual cases where lawyers have argued that their clients were innocent because their intent was absent, or somehow blurred by some other mitigating factor.

In Maryland a bodybuilder flew into a rage killing his girlfriend- most likely a case of "roid rage." His attorney argued that his client had consumed sugar and was propelled into a sucrose-fueled state of hyper-violence and was not responsible for his actions. This later became known in the legal field as the "Twinkie defense." I'm not kidding.

Maybe Hillary can use the Flip Wilson defense "the Devil made me do it." Actually, in her case this may not be so far from the truth. Back in the 1990's a man named Charles Sykes wrote a book called  A Nation of Victims. In it he outlined case after case where lawyers argued (more often than not quite successfully) that no one is responsible for their actions anymore. One case particularly struck me because of how absolutely ridiculous it was. In Wisconsin an admitted flasher applied for a job as a park attendant and was turned down because of his criminal past. He admitted flashing over 40,000 times and was convicted 30 or 40 times. Now I don't know about you, but here's a guy I want kept as far away from my kids as humanly possible. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found that because he had only flashed in libraries and laundromats, his civil rights had been violated. Not only did he get the job, he got a handsome cash settlement as well.

I know we've wandered pretty far away from Loretta Lynch and the Clinton investigation, but it was to make this point: If we can't depend on those in power to act responsibly, who can we depend on? This absence of responsibility seems to have become a part of our national psyche. The highest prosecutorial agent in government glibly refused to indict someone probably guilty of a plethora of crimes for a lack of intent? Many, many people have been incarcerated for far less.

I think that this issue really defines what separates liberals from conservatives...conservatives believe in personal responsibility...liberals believe that everything is someone else's fault (usually Donald Trump these days).

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