You could probably do a random poll anywhere in the U.S.—NewYork, Los Angeles, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana—and ask folks what they thought about the condition of our society, and I’d bet dollars to lug-nuts most would probably give you the same answer. Each with it’s own little twist of course. Down here, the majority would probably answer, “People today, dey crazy. Nobody makes no sense no more. Everybody t’inks dey got all de answers, but de answers dey got is all back’ards.”
I have a tendency to agree with them, but then again, I’ve been known to be a bit opinionated about certain things from time to time.
Take the post Jen put up on Monday about the McCann family and how the parents are now, now, suspects in the case. That’s an ongoing situation that drives me bonkers, and I keep hoping it doesn’t turn into another JonBenet case…
As if the McCann case wasn’t enough, we now have the woman who murdered her minister husband with a shotgun appearing on Oprah, and a woman from Cincinnati, Brenda Nesselroad, who was set free after killing her two-year-old daughter. She forgot the child was in the car when she arrived at work and left her in the vehicle for eight hours. Authorities estimated that the ambient temperature in the vehicle was close to one hundred twenty degrees. Granted, though, the mother forgot her child, but she didn’t forget the boxes of donuts she’d bought for an office meeting that morning. (And the woman’s an assistant principal at a middle school?!)
How did she get away with it? By her attorney niggling the ‘letter’ of the law. Check this out….
Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.
It means “the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty.” There are different mens rea (i.e. mental states) and culpability is based on whether the offending party possessed the mental state that comports with a particular crime. In the Nesselroad case, the necessary mental state is recklessness, and to prove that, you need to show that the offending party perversely disregarded a known risk. That is different than forgetting something. The prosecutor explained it this way:
“Here’s my challenge to anyone who thinks she should have been charged: Do you believe she left her child in there on purpose? That’s what I have to believe as prosecutor to charge her. That’s what the law is.”
The law he’s referring to is child endangering, which in Ohio requires a parent or guardian to act recklessly by disregarding a substantial risk.
To many, there is little doubt the mother was reckless. But the legal definition of reckless requires proof the mother perversely disregarded a known risk.
The prosecutor continues his reasoning by saying, “When people hear the word reckless, they say, ‘Well, certainly this person was reckless, but the legal definition of reckless is way, way higher than the definition we use every day.”
The county prosecutor decided the evidence supported Nesselroad’s claim she forgot her child was in the car. Once he made that decision, criminal charges were out of the question. He claimed if the mother forgot, she could not have disregarded a risk because she didn’t know the child was there.
Now if that ain’t back’ards, I don’t know what is….