Ethics Quiz: Is It Ethical to Confess to a Murder You Were Acquitted of Committing, or Merely Annoying?


Come on, O.J! If he can do it, so can you!

Isaac Turnbaugh of Randolph, Vermont recently confessed to the 2002 shooting murder of a co-worker, using a rifle to kill the victim as he was at work in the American Flatbread Co, stirring a pot of  sauce.  A jury acquitted Turnbaugh of the charges in 2004. In July, Turnbaugh contacted police and said, jury verdict notwithstanding, he indeed shot Declan Lyons in the head with the rifle and wished to surrender to authorities. Too bad, they told him. In the eyes of the law, you are “not guilty,” and have to stay that way. Double jeopardy and all that.

Your ethics quiz for today:

If you have been acquitted of a murder and have a guilty conscience about it, what is your most ethical course of action?

(It’s a multiple choice, and you can pick more than one answer.)

1. Publicly confess, even though there is no legal way you can be punished for your crime, and in is certain that your confession will make everyone other than you feel worse than they already do.

2. Keep it to yourself. This can’t be fixed.

3. Publicly confess, and spend the rest of your life helping people, assuming anyone wants to be helped by a murderer, and realize that you are probably going to be harassed and ostracized for the rest of your life.

4. Don’t confess, and spend the rest of your life helping people, without telling than that they are dealing with a murderer.

5. Confess to a priest, your God, your mother, a psychiatrist, but otherwise, shut up. Nobody wants to hear this.

6. Hold a press conference, confess, get an agent, write a book, and hope for reality talk show offers or to get your own show on CNN or MSNBC.

7. Run off with Casey Anthony.

8. I have another answer.

My answer, which I am not at all sure is the right one, is #3. The public needs to know when the legal system doesn’t work, and so do the people in the system, so they can try to make it work better. The family and friends of the victim have a right to know that the victim’s murderer isn’t unknown and at large. Truth, in this case, will do nothing but make everyone miserable, but it is still better than allowing a lie to stand.

The murderer, meanwhile, has an obligation to try to even his moral and ethical balance sheet the best he can, recognizing that it will never be truly balanced.

One thought on “Ethics Quiz: Is It Ethical to Confess to a Murder You Were Acquitted of Committing, or Merely Annoying?

  1. 8. The moral course would have been to have told the entire truth on the witness stand DURING your trial, letting the court fairly evaluate any mitigating circumstances and accepting the outcome without endless appeals, etc. Failing in that, the subject is morally bound to Course #3.

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