I’ve written and spoken often over the years about “evil.” Some people don’t like it when I use that word. They say it’s a “religious” word. I don’t use it in a religious sense though. I use it to describe people whose minds are working well enough to know what they’re doing, to know that they’re hurting innocent people, and who go right ahead and do it anyway, purely for their own gratification — people who would murder for money so they could go sip margaritas on a beach somewhere, people who would take pleasure in torturing another person sexually, or people like the two pieces of human debris who broke into a Connecticut family’s home, tied up the family, beat the father unconscious, sexually assaulted the mother and one of the two daughters, robbed them, and burned the house down, killing all but the father, who barely escaped. Why’d they do it? For two reasons apparently: money and amusement. This is what I mean by “evil.” (By the way, while some people don’t like my use of the word “evil” because it’s too “religious,” some others don’t like my use of a term like “debris” to describe human beings because it’s not “religious” enough — they say things to me like, “God doesn’t make debris.” To those folks, I say, I agree, human beings don’t start out as debris, but they have the freedom to choose to make themselves into debris, and when they exercise that freedom, debris is what I call them.) If you prefer, you can use clinical words like “antisocial” or “psychopath” to describe debris like these Connecticut home invaders/rapists/arsonists/murderers, but I worry that those clinical words sometimes imply that there’s a clinical explanation for their depraved behavior. There isn’t. Mental illness, when it’s present, exists in the mind. If you want, you can feel sorry for someone who has thoughts about raping, torturing, or murdering others, but if that person goes ahead and does any of those things — goes ahead and indulges those desires — mental illness alone doesn’t explain that. While you can usually see the beginnings of depravity early in a person’s history, like when a child takes pleasure in making animals suffer (as, interestingly, Saddam Hussein reportedly did), it’s a little bit like trying to explain the history of the universe. No matter how far back we get, there’s always going to be a point where the science leaves off, and what’s left lies in the realm of philosophy. One defendant in this Connecticut home invasion case was tried last year, and after a bogus mental-illness argument failed, he now sits on Death Row. The second defendant’s trial started today. Call it what you want. I call it “evil.”
A couple of other interesting Lawpsyc stories from the weekend:
When a gunman entered a Florida church and shot two pastors, members of the congregation subdued the man until police arrived, preventing the death toll from rising potentially much higher. Ten years later, I think this kind of reaction from bystanders is a positive legacy of the 9/11/2001 attacks.
An interstate truck driver has been arrested and charged with the serial murders of at least three prostitutes across the South over the past several years. It’s reminiscent of the serial “Railroad Killer,” Angel Resendez, who’d hop aboard trains to travel around and murder women in the South in the 1990’s, and it again illustrates the difficulty in connecting serial murders and apprehending the murderers when they’re that mobile.
And that Florida murder trial — the one in which the defendant husband claims that the deceased victim wife shot herself in the face — keeps looking worse and worse for the defendant. First he called 911 and said he shot his wife. Then he said he shot her but that it was an accident. Then when the cops arrived, he said she had shot herself. Now, if she had shot herself, her fingerprints and DNA would be on the gun, and the gun would be near the body, right? But the gun apparently had been wiped clean of fingerprints and DNA and placed in a nightstand. Hmmmmm, wonder how a person could do that after committing suicide. Stay tuned.