The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward, 24,  punched and stabbed her boyfriend in a drunken rage, then hurled a jam jar, a glass and a laptop at him. This, in the U.S., would be called a criminal assault, and maybe even attempted murder.  Ah, but British Judge Ian Pringle knows better. He agrees these acts would normally mean a prison term, but Lavinia is a star student, and wants to be a surgeon. He hinted that he would spare her prison time so that her “extraordinary” talent would not be wasted. As poor Lavinia’s barrister, James Sturman, argued, his client’s dreams of becoming a surgeon would be “almost impossible” if she had to serve time.

Well, we certainly mustn’t jeopardize a violent felon’s dreams.

This kind of reasoning is infused with The King’s Pass, also known as The Star Syndrome, the rationalization making the perverse unethical argument that the more talented, prominent, useful and important to society a miscreant is, the less he or she should be accountable for misconduct that nets lesser lights serious and devastating consequences:

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.

Judge Pringle is taking the King’s Pass/Star Syndrome to a new low: he’s arguing that Lavinia should receive special treatment based on how valuable to society she might be, given enough immunity from the consequences of her own conduct.  This theory must have Kant doing somersaults in his grave. The philosopher argued that for a standard to be  ethically valid, it must be applicable and just in all similar circumstances. This standard  would give a near blank check to  wealthy, smart, gifted “dreamers” to engage in sociopathic activity whenever the whim strikes. As for the poor, the challenged, the discriminated against and the mediocre, who cares what happens to them? It’s no great loss to society, unless you consider the loss of one more fungible truck driver, waitress, clerk or dole recipient a loss.

The King’s Pass is why Bill Clinton wasn’t convicted of obstruction of justice, and why Hillary Clinton wasn’t indicted by the FBI. It is why Bill Cosby got away with his rapey ways for so long, why Lindsay Lohan spent about 30 minutes in jail, and why so many of the rich, powerful and famous seem immune from prosecution. It is why there is racial bias in our justice system, and why so many of the “elite” believe, not without cause, that laws are for the little people.

And excuse my cynicism, but somehow I doubt if the good and wise judge would have  given two shakes of a lamb’s tail  if the defendant before him wasn’t the comely young blonde above, but instead looked more like this…

 

..which is completely unfair, especially since the gentleman above identifies as a lovely, blonde, female.

Sure, multiple offenders should face tougher sentences than first timers, and juveniles should be given more compassion than adults. Giving special dispensation for being talented, ambitious and lovely, however, strips the law of equality, fairness or justice. Two individuals who punch, stab, and throw a laptop at someone should receive approximately the same punishment, regardless of their other differences. The way for Livinia to preserve her dream of becoming a surgeon was to avoid committing violent crimes, and to be civilized.

49 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement

49 responses to “The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

  1. Zanshin

    Jack, I think your last sentence is not what you want to convey.

  2. A good attorney might be able to mount the defense that she was anesthetizing him and then performing surgery. She, lacking an operating room, was just using the tools available to her in a student apartment.

    Also, that picture will show up in my nightmares tonight. Thanks.

  3. This is nucking futs!

    They should check security cameras in the court house and see if this girl tip-toed her way into the judges chambers, crawled under his desk, and give him a blow job and promise more, much more, for his leniency.

    This Judge should be removed from the bench, his reasoning for his actions is a travesty of justice.

    • Other Bill

      I’m with wg. This undergrad was simply doing some voluntary surgery on this guy. It wasn’t a knife attack, it was practicing making incisions.

      But seriously, this woman obviously has alcohol and anger management problems. Great. Let’s make sure she has the ability to write her own prescriptions for morphine or speed or whatever she wants as soon as possible.

      I think Z may be right. Either this judge is an idiot or he was bribed.

  4. Great post, Jack.

    This strikes a nerve: “laws are for the little people.” This is a big reason I voted against the establishment. They exempt themselves from laws they write for the rest of us.

    How does one enter office with a net worth of under $500,000, and leave after a few years worth tens of millions? Given that the salary the people pay ANY government employee would never reach that much in total, much less with taxes and expenses? Insider trading is one way it happens. Knowing about a law that is not yet public, but will greatly benefit one company or industry (usually at someone else’s expense) and investing in that before the public knows can really make one wealthy. If I did it, I would go to jail, but Congress is exempt.

    How does one parlay $1000 into $100,000 in about 10 months, as Hillary infamously did? How does Obama increase his net wealth while sitting as president? And don’t forget the Republicans who do the same thing.

    Throw inept health care onto the masses, but exempt yourselves? Write tax laws to benefit your cronies, but will hurt normal taxpayers? The list is long and disheartening.

    More and more, if you are not a member of the club (the new ruling aristocracy) you are just a peon: a peasant who should shut up in the presence of his betters.

  5. Ash

    The flipside is that I think society is often overly harsh towards everyone, especially those who are young or poor.

    Similar to the hot young MD (to be?) who got drunk and kicked the shit out of an Uber car, I am not sure the punishment (n years down the drain and loss to society of an MD) fits the crime.

    I can absolutely understand why violent bank robbing felons should not be lawyers, … 99.9% of the time. But I can have empathy for that nurse from a few days ago and again wonder if the punishment fits the crime and feel saddened I live in such a harsh and stupid society.

    I am not saying here that our hot young MD shouldn’t even do time. I’m just wondering if drunk, enraged, bread knife stabbing AND conviction is enough reason to keep someone from becoming an MD.

    It is similar to our idiot traffic penalties that in California, for example, means the a ticket for $35 can balloon into $500 of fines when added fees are tacked on.

    This is just an example of a huge bureaucracy stamping on our faces and we should be appalled in many (if not all) of these cases.

    While special treatment here is unethical, the question I have is more about the ethics of the day to day sentences (and the likely overcharging) of the rest. That she got a reasonable and humane sentence is not unethical, why isn’t everyone?

    (And finally, I can tell you from personal experience, and the many news articles I read AND the many infomercials that clickbait lead me to, that the Medical Profession isn’t doing a wonderful job of keeping fakes, charlatans, miscreants, quacks, con-artists, morons, incompetent and unethical doctors out, even with their vaunted talents at ability keeping idiot drunk young MDs to be out.)
    .

    • So taking lethal force towards someone can earn a pass as long as someone might provide some medical good to society?

    • Thanks for bringing the other two posts into the discussion, Ash—I nearly did. In fact, I was tempted to again suggest that the young woman consider becoming a law professor at Georgetown….

      The issue you raise is a good one; it’s just a separate issue., I am a bit of an absolutist: professional have to be trusted, and I have no problem with having a strict ban on anyone who has shown, even once , that they can’t be trusted to follow bright line criminal prohibitions.

      Maintaining the standard is more important than any one individual who can claim legitimate special circumstances.

    • John Billingsley

      “Similar to the hot young MD (to be?) who got drunk and kicked the shit out of an Uber car, I am not sure the punishment (n years down the drain and loss to society of an MD) fits the crime.”

      I believe this would be Dr. Anjali Ramkissoon. She was a fourth year neurology resident at the time and was fired from that position as a result of the uproar on social media. The Uber driver showed remarkable restraint and declined to press charges so she avoided arrest. She is listed as having an active medical license with no discipline on file. Her profile indicates that she did not complete her graduate medical education (residency). She is listed as being a general practitioner. If she can find a program that will accept her, she can still complete her neurology residency. In this case, there was no loss to society of an MD.

      “I can absolutely understand why violent bank robbing felons should not be lawyers, … 99.9% of the time.”

      I’m curious about how to differentiate the 0.1% of violent bank robbing felons who should be lawyers from the 99.9% who should not be.

      “But I can have empathy for that nurse from a few days ago and again wonder if the punishment fits the crime and feel saddened I live in such a harsh and stupid society.”

      The punishment for the crime was the legally imposed sentence she served. It appears that punishment fit the crime, at least the judge who imposed it felt so. I do not see the decision to not allow her to become an attorney as a punishment. All professions have formal qualifications that must be met to practice them. That is one of the defining criteria of a profession. The Washington Bar decided that she did not meet one of the formal qualifications necessary to practice the profession of law in Washington. It was not punishment, the imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense, it was a matter of not meeting a requirement. The fact that she failed to meet that requirement because of her own actions is immaterial. Whether or not the standard is reasonable is a different question and it appears she is going to address that by appealing the decision. The bottom line in my mind is that not being permitted to do something you don’t meet the qualifications to do is not a punishment.

      “I am not saying here that our hot young MD shouldn’t even do time. I’m just wondering if drunk, enraged, bread knife stabbing AND conviction is enough reason to keep someone from becoming an MD.”

      There are typically more applicants than available slots for medical school. If she is not able to go to medical school, it does not mean that there will be less doctors, it just means that she won’t be one of them. Having already demonstrated some problem areas, substance abuse, propensity for rage, and violence with a deadly weapon, should she be selected ahead of another equally qualified candidate who has not demonstrated those problems? I know that the argument can be raised that the other candidates might have done the same thing and not got caught. That is true. But history of past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and we shouldn’t ignore the history we have just because it is imperfect.

      This case was in England and I don’t know all the procedure for becoming a doctor there. I will look at this from the standpoint of US medicine. I am not certain that drunk, enraged, bread knife stabbing and conviction would necessarily keep a person from becoming a doctor here. I’m assuming the charges would be a felony. People with felony convictions have been accepted to medical school. Florida law allows people with felony convictions to be licensed though the criteria are strict. Even her own barrister said her dream would be “almost impossible” if she had to serve time, not “impossible”.

  6. Ugh. I must recuse on commenting. Lavinia looks too much like a girlfriend from long ago (who had much better control of her anger than Lavinia). I’m the hardened criminal with the nasty temper.

  7. Mrs. Q

    For me this comes down to if I want someone who thinks it’s acceptable to stab others, to perform surgical procedures on me. The answer is no. And the judge really should have thought through what it means to have a violent person perform operations on people. I’m not suggesting she can’t be redeemed, however if she is allowed to be *this* unethical now, how far could she go with a scalpel in her hand?

    And Jack that pic of the fella…amazing.

  8. Paul Compton

    Sorry Ash, but as you pointed out: “the Medical Profession isn’t doing a wonderful job of keeping fakes, charlatans, miscreants, quacks, …..”, and I really can’t see how adding violent drunks to the list will be an improvement.

    She has demonstrated that she doesn’t have the, let’s sum up a long list with, … hmm, temperament, to be a doctor or surgeon. I certainly wouldn’t want her cutting on me.

    That said, the real point is still justice for all.

  9. I dunno. Hurling a jam jar at someone simply inexplicable, unacceptable behavior. What did the jam jar do to deserve such treatment? Such a waste, such a waste.

    As for the the King’s Pass, perhaps the judge was convinced that the accused drink-and-drug-filled condition was some sort of mitigating circumstance to justify the ruling. It does not pass the proverbial “smell test”, though. It sends the message that all are not equal under the law and that you get the justice you can afford.

    jvb

  10. Other Bill

    This woman can do any number of things with her life. She can get an MBA and get a job at Goldman Sachs. She can do whatever he wants, just not be a surgeon or a lawyer. She can redeem herself, let’s just take the scalper and the script pad out of her hands.

    • Steve

      Jack great post, one quibble. Must you use rapey?

      • Actually, a strange, bearded woman broke into my office, held a machete to my nose and forced me to use “rapey”…then she was gone. No, actually, I used it voluntarily. What’s wrong with it? Cosby’s crimes were worse than simple sexual assault but not quite rape in all cases, if any. Hence rapey.

        • Steve

          I just find that it is a bogus term that is usually used by an sjw as a ad hominem against those they disagree with. Cosby is certainly a rapist and that is a suitable description of him and his actions. That and the whole rapey thing always puts the voice of a twenty something women who uses cutesy terms for everything.

  11. Spartan

    It looks like she might be mentally unstable and is self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. I might have ordered therapy as well instead of jail time — as jail time does not cure drug addiction and mental illness. And her “hotness” would not have mattered to me obviously.

    That other dude you have a picture of looks mentally unstable too …..

    • Actually, that’s Quentin Throckler IV, graduate of Cambridge and the Sarbonne, and a Princeton PhD. He is credited with devising a theory that unifies string theory with Epicurean ethics, as well as the writer-artist of a popular graphic novel series, “White Shade,” which will be made into a movie scheduled for Summer release in 2018, starring Russell Crowe, Kate Upton and Adam Sandler. He was just having a bad face day, and retaining water after judging a home-made beef jerky competition.

  12. Dwayne N. Zechman

    Yowza! How is she ever going to . . . y’know . . . ACTUALLY become a doctor if she can’t comprehend the number-one fundamental medical ethics of FIRST, DO NO HARM…?

    It makes the reduced sentence not only wrong, but . . . ironic.

    –Dwayne

  13. You know, every now and again when I’m feeling adventurous, I go to a place I think will have a whole lot of people that don’t think like me and poke at their sacred cows. You meeet all kinds of people, and recently, I was given probably one of the better answers to a gender/race issue from the other side yet.

    The original fact pattern is that racial activists will cite disparate impact as a problem at every stage of an interraction with the legal system. Black people are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.

    The juxtaposition is that the disparity between men and women in the justice system is about six times that of the racial disparity I just described. Men are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive harsher sentences… All for the same stimulus. Sonja Starr wrote extensively on this, and despite some of her methodology being questioned, there’s general consensus that she was on to something.

    So the question is that if someone is deeply concerned about inequality, that they are genuinely interested in justice for everyone, why wouldn’t you be just as, if not more concerned with the gender disparity, than the racial one?

    The shitty answers deny the data “Men aren’t a disenfranchised class.” Which is true if you look at life as an extension of Marxist class warfare, but if objectively false if you look specifically at the criminal justice system. The slightly less shitty answers at least admit the phenominon is real, but pretend it’s being addressed already: “Most of the black people we’re talking about are men, so there’s an intesection here, and helping black people will help men.” (This is, by the way, a regular go-to for feminists resisting men’s rights groups “You don’t need to worry about that, we’re equality, we got you covered”.) The next level up is indifference “I accept that it’s a problem, but I choose to spend my time over here, because I think other things, like race, are more important.” The best level response is something like: “Huh, I never thought of that, maybe I’ll incorporate that into my activism.”

    Fine, fine, that last one is kinda pie in the sky. But I got the indifferent answer, and we talked for a while. At some point, a little bell went off in my head: In systems based on the English system, it is generally preferred, not good, but preferred that 100 guilty people go free than a single innocent person receive punishment, because there is no greater injustice. Following that logic, my expectation would be that we probably see the reasonable baseline in the black and male populations… That is that I think that generally, the people who are arrested, charged, and imprisoned generally committed the crimes that they are convicted of.

    So are we looking at this from the right perspective?” Are black people and men being railroaded through the system, or are white people and women being given a get-out-of-jail-free card? Now I get that the answer might not lie entirely on one side of that… But it’s an interesting question, and one that passes Kant: If we are aiming at equality, will that be a function of having a more lenient, or harsh system? Will more people go free, or will more people be incarcerated?

    • Comment of the Day—just remember, you are third in line…I still owe Fatty and Zoltar.

    • dragin_dragon

      HT, your comments always cause me to think a bit more than normal, and to take longer than usual to reply to you, for which I thank you. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out a slight flaw in your reasoning. To wit, suppose the statistical differences in both racial and gender rates of offense are because of actual differences in rates of commission. Specifically, what if black men commit crimes at a rate 5 times higher than white, and suppose that men commit crimes at a rate six times that of women. Occam’s Razor will likely not help us here, because institutional racism and sexism is as simple an explanation as ‘They’re actually committing the crimes at those rates’. Still, it begs the question of why is the difference in disparity not being addressed, and I believe the answer is quite simple; on the one hand, the racial disparity favors white men, thus making them villains. On the other, it favors an oppressed minority over those same white men (even though women have been a majority for quite a while), again, sort of making women heroes. Since it is widely believed that all white men are racists, all the time and that all white men are misogynists, all the time, the first should be reported, the second ignored.

      • Your question was “suppose the statistical differences in both racial and gender rates of offense are because of actual differences in rates of commission.”

        My original answer was: “All of this, by the way, is true. It doesn’t account for the five-fold disparity between the black and white prison population on a per capita basis, but it is a thumb on the scale.”

        The fact that men and black people as a demographic punch above their proportional representation in crimes committed is going to be the lion’s share of why the prison populations aren’t represented. Obviously. But the fact still remains that it is well documented that all other things being equal, men and black people seem to get worse treatment than their white and female counterparts. The most blatant example I can think of is statutory rape. When a male teacher rapes a female student, they’re sent to jail, when a female teacher rapes a male student, not only do they not always lose their jobs, but in the case of pregnancy she’s owed child support.

        My point here is that our perception on this issue has historically been “black people are oppressed”, I don’t think that’s true. Back to my rape example… That male teacher DID rape his female student, he SHOULD go to jail. Going to jail isn’t unfair, he isn’t being oppressed, the female rapist is privileged. And while that’s cold comfort and maybe a semantic point to the people calling for equality, I think it’s philosophically important, because I think the black advocates sees judiciary reform as a silver bullet to a lot of the problems within the black community, where in reality, if the justice system treated everyone the same, very little would probably change for the black community, the difference would probably be felt strongest among the white community who all of a sudden wasn’t let off with a warning, wasn’t granted the relatively sweet plea bargain, was denied bail or was denied parole.

        • dragin_dragon

          OK, got you. Now I understand what you’re saying. And I agree, I think. But, still ruminating on it as well.

  14. The prosecution should appeal the judges decision and the judge should be impeached.

  15. Dan

    Stunning. I’d forgive her

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