The facts are simple. The ethics are not.
Near Shiner, Texas, a father arrived home to find a 47-year old man sexually molesting his 4-year-old daughter. So the father beat him to death, apparently in the process of stopping him.
Assuming that the father has no criminal record or history of violence, and that this is really what happened—and ignoring the fact that the incident occurred in Texas—your Ethics Quiz is this: If you were the local prosecutor, would you seek to prosecute the father?
The crime would presumably be involuntary manslaughter, or perhaps just manslaughter. I know there are many defenses, including heat of passion, defense of a child, and temporary insanity. Let’s assume, however, that the father says, simply, “I saw the man trying to rape my daughter, I heard my daughter screaming, so I killed the bastard. And I’m glad. And I’d do it again.”
My answer (I think) would be yes, I have to prosecute him, though I wouldn’t want to. I would assume that he might be acquitted “A Time to Kill” style, and if he were convicted, I would ask for a suspended sentence.
We don’t have rule of law if we allow citizens to take the law into their own hands, or look the other way when they do. On the other hand, does it make sense to go through the time and expense of a trial when, as a prosecutor, you don’t believe that the defendant should be punished? If you, and virtually everyone else in the community, feels that what the father did is, if not justified, so mitigated by the circumstances that he shouldn’t be made to suffer for it, is it right and just to make him suffer through a trial?
Now you’re the prosecutor. What do you do?
UPDATE: More about the case here.
Facts: Victoria Advocate
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