Tag Archives: mens rea

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/13/17

Good Morning!

1. I owe Robin Meade an apology. The astoundingly bright-eyed, bushy-tailed HLN morning host has been used here as an an example of the sexism of broadcast news media producers, and it is true that she is uncommonly attractive even by “news babe” standards. However, I have come to realize that she is also a unique talent, and more than just a pretty face and figure. Meade has natural presence and charisma, projects genuine optimism and and an up-beat nature, and most unusual of all, doesn’t spin the news or tilt her delivery to signal her own opinion. She’s really good at what she does. I’m sorry Robin; I was biased against you because you are attractive, which is just as wrong as being biased for you. You’re a pro, through and through.

2. Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh (who is also my favorite candidate for a Supreme Court post if one opens up) published what I consider to be a definitive refutation of the claim that receiving opposition research, as in “damaging information about Hillary Clinton,” is a crime under current law. He also makes a case that it couldn’t be criminalized under future law:

“It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).

Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?”

The professor concludes not. I hadn’t even considered the First Amendment issue in determining that the election law prohibition against receiving “anything of value” benefiting a candidate from a foreign nation or individual was not intended to preclude mere information, but Volokh’s argument seems air tight. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Science & Technology

The Michelle Carter Verdict

Michelle Carter’s 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, had told her that he has been considering suicide. First, she told him to seek counseling, then  she changed course, texting him to go through with it. “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” she wrote.  “You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.”

Later, she texted to Roy that his family accept his death, and that he would enjoy the afterlife. “Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts,” she texted.

“You are my beautiful guardian angel forever and ever. I’ll always smile up at you knowing that you aren’t far away.”

A week before the suicide, encouraging her boyfriend to be more diligent as he searched for the supplies he needed and then going through with his plan in these exchanges:

“Do you have the generator?”

“Not yet LOL,”

“WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?”

“Now.”

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t”

“I don’t get it either. I don’t know”

“So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.”

“I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up”

“No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You keep pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action”

 “You better not be bullshitting me and saying you gonna do this and then purposely get caught.”

“No, none of that.”

On July 12, 2014, Conrad drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a pump that released carbon monoxide. When he lost his nerve and got out of the truck, his girl friend texted him  to “get back in.”  She never alerted any authorities to stop the suicide attempt. The young man was found dead in his truck.

Yesterday, Judge Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, ruled that Ms. Carter, just seventeen at the time of her crime, committed involuntary manslaughter by urging Roy to kill himself. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz Of The Day: Deadly Dairy Queen?

The late Kenneth Sutter

The late Kenneth Sutter

Harley Branham, 21, a manager at the Dairy Queen in Fayette, Missouri, has been charged with second degree felony manslaughter following the suicide of 17-year-old Kenneth Suttner, whom she supervised. At an inquest called by the Howard County coroner, witnesses testified that Branham mistreated the teen. She  made Suttner lie on the restaurant floor as he cleaned it by hand, and once threw a cheeseburger at him.  Other witnesses said the boy also had been bullied for years at his school, where students mocked his weight and a speech impediment.

The coroner’s jury blamed both the Dairy Queen and the Glasgow School District for failures in training and prevention of harassment, concluding that Branham “was the principal in the cause of death,” and also that Dairy Queen negligently failed to properly train employees about harassment prevention and resolution, according to the inquest’s verdict form. Jurors also found that the Glasgow Public School system was negligent in failing to prevent his bullying.

All of those factors, the inquest concluded, caused the boy “to take his own life.”

Suttner shot himself on December 21, 2015.

Howard County Coroner Frank Flaspohler explained the inquest and the verdict, saying,  “I felt there was bullying going on and things weren’t getting corrected. Hopefully this makes the school pay attention to what’s going on. And it’s not just in that school. We all need to wake up and say this exists and we need to take care of it.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is this an ethical use of the criminal laws?

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Unethical? Criminal? Stupid? Careless? What The Heck IS This?

Headline:

QUICK! Someone punch it!

QUICK! Someone punch it!

Shopper arrested for punching newborn baby after ‘mistaking her for toy doll’

Well that’s certainly understandable and..wait, WHAT?

In England, Amy Duckers was shopping at a supermarket with her five-day-old daughter in a baby carriage. She was approached by a 63-year-old man who overheard family friends saying, “Come and have a look at this beautiful baby.” The man suddenly punched the baby in the head,  then reacted in horror when the infant burst into tears. He told police that he thought the baby was a toy, and not alive.

Oh! That explains it, then. Everyone punches dolls belonging to strangers in the face. It’s a mistake anyone could make!

The infant is recovering, but I may not. I can’t get my mind around this crazy incident. If he really thought the baby was a doll, you can’t properly charge him with a crime, but how would you categorize what he did? It’s obviously unethical—he has no right to handle someone else’s doll—but how much leeway do we give idiots or crazies, when their handicap causes them to do something like this?

The guy has been arrested, and it will be interesting to see what he’s charged with, and how the system deals with him. I assume that he will be observed for mental health issues. If he’s not, and they release him with a pat on the back and a “next time, make sure it’s a doll before you punch it,” I’m going to be very upset.

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children

Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part 4: Voisine v. United States

"Aw, come on, that was a love tap! Now put some ice on that while I go out and buy a Glock...."

“Aw, come on, that was a love tap! Now put some ice on that while I go out and buy a Glock….”

Be honest, now: you thought I’d never finish this series, did you? (Part 1 was posted June 28.)

In Voisine v. United States, a 6-2 U.S. Supreme Court holding issued on June 27 approved extending a federal statute banning firearms possession by anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include individuals who have “misdemeanor assault convictions for reckless (as contrasted to knowing or intentional) conduct.”

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that “the federal ban on firearms possession applies to any person with a prior misdemeanor conviction for the ‘use…of physical force’ against a domestic relation. That language, naturally read, encompasses acts of force undertaken recklessly—i.e., with conscious disregard of a substantial risk of harm.”

The opinion isn’t remarkable, nor is it a significant attack on gun rights. The case is really about language, as so many Supreme Court cases are. From the opinion:

“Congress’s definition of a “misdemeanor crime of violence” contains no exclusion for convictions based on reckless behavior. A person who assaults another recklessly “use[s]” force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally. The relevant text thus supports prohibiting petitioners, and others with similar criminal records, from possessing firearms.”

The real question, from an ethical standpoint, is whether Congress can and should remove a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse. Is that fair? Sure it is. It is already settled law that it is Constitutional to prevent convicted felons from owning  guns, even if it was a non-violent felony. From an ethical public policy standpoint, why would it be overly restrictive to ban gun ownership from those who engage in a violent misdemeanor?

Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor (of all people), rejected the majority’s “overly broad conception of a use of force.” In the view of the two dissenters, “the majority blurs the distinction between recklessness and intentional wrongdoing” and thereby does a grave injustice to criminal defendants. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Indiana’s Unconstitutional, Unethical, Thoughtful, Subversive Abortion Law

If you want to kill this no matter what, it's legal and ethical. If you just don't like its skin color or gender and want to kill it because of that, you're a monster....

If you want to kill this no matter what, it’s legal and ethical. If you just don’t like its skin color or gender and want to kill it because of that, you’re a monster….

Feminists, pro-abortion enthusiasts (They like it! They really like it!), the biased, brainless news media and kneejerk progressives who haven’t given abortion and its many ethical problems one-thousandth of the careful, objective thought it deserves are just dismissing the new Indiana law restricting abortion as one more “war on women” maneuver and yet another mindless attack on abortion rights. It is an attack on abortion rights, but hardly a mindless one, and Indiana deserves respect and some ethics points for aiming a law right at the fault line of dishonest pro–abortion logic.

Maybe the law will provoke some quality discussion before it goes down in flames, and maybe some abortion supporters will slap their heads and realize that the rhetorical and rational behind abortion is at its core intellectually dishonest. If so, it will have done some quantifiable good.

Maybe the law will be the tipping point that finally makes a significant number of ethical people who have blindly accepted the tortured logic behind the nation’s casual acceptance of millions upon millions of aborted human lives open their minds.

Maybe if I flap my arms really hard, can fly to the moon. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights