As reported at the International Herald Tribune:
Susan Atkins was a leading character in one of the most horrific chapters in California history.
On Tuesday, the former follower of Charles Manson sought to end her story on her own terms: by being allowed to go home. The state parole board denied that request.
Atkins, convicted in the slayings of the actress Sharon Tate and others in 1969, is dying of brain cancer and asked that she be granted compassionate release from prison.
Her husband, James Whitehouse, argued that she was so debilitated that she could not even sit up in bed. “She literally can’t snap her fingers,” he said. “She can put sentences together three or four times a day, but that’s the extent of it.”
As reported at the LA Times:
Now ill with brain cancer, with one leg amputated and the other paralyzed, Atkins has only months to live, doctors have said.
Ok, so let’s take a look at what we have here. I found this case very interesting and challenging. How do you properly balance our innate instinct of revenge with our other innate instinct of compassion? How should these feelings play, if at all, in the state’s decisions and actions? Those are the questions that I keep pondering without being able to find a satisfactory answer either way.
On the one hand we have a frail old woman, ravaged by cancer, one leg amputated who has very little time left to live. She’s not asking for forgiveness for what she’s done, all she’s asking is that these horrible circumstance be taken into account and she be granted a little bit of leniency. Are we as a society at a point in our development where feelings of revenge overpower feelings of compassion and leniency? It looks like the answer to that question is an emphatic yes, and that saddens me.
The state should not be in the business of revenge. That is one of the main reasons why I oppose the death penalty. Either way, the state is supposed to be an unbiased, impartial third party. The way I see it, imprisonment should be viewed not as punishment, but as removal of violent individuals from society in order to prevent them from committing other crimes. From this point of view it is hard to see how an argument about this lady “not deserving” to be let go makes any sense. Such argument is fueled by our feelings of revenge, and while it is acceptable at a personal level, it cannot be acceptable when the state is involved. Alas, the state is made up of individuals who bring in their own prejudices. There is really no way to escape that.
Pam Turner, a cousin of Sharon Tate, recalled the pregnant actress’ return to the United States, and dreaming of helping her with her baby.
Then she spoke about wanting to die after finding out that Tate and her unborn son had been stabbed to death.
“I was a child, but I was so sick with grief that I wished I too could die,” Turner said, sobbing. She described how Tate’s mother, her aunt, “howled like a wounded animal.”
And she recalled how her late aunt had been overcome with emotion when Turner became pregnant herself.
“She once put her hands on my pregnant belly and just cried,” she said. “She didn’t have to say what she was crying for. I knew. She was looking right through me and seeing Sharon and what could have been.”
The pain and grief are undeniable. But how does denying this sick, dying person parole lessen the pain in any way possible? Is it going to undo what happened? Are those feelings that this lady felt years ago going to vanish, erased from her memory? I am sure this lady will feel a little better after parole was denied, but the State itself is not supposed to have feelings. But if that was the case, then the prisoner couldn’t make the case for clemency either, now could she? I told you I had mixed feelings about this.
So on the one hand, I think that, given the circumstances mercy is warranted. I think every human being has some dignity by virtue of being human, regardless of their crimes. That is why I oppose the death penalty and that is why I think that under these circumstances, it hurts no one to grant this women parole.
On the other hand though we must worry about the precedent this would set. Does that make it acceptable for anyone on their death bed to ask for mercy? What if it is not such a clear cut case? What if instead of impending death within a few months, you have a longer period of time? Where do you draw the line?
However, besides the practical issue, I see another bigger issue. That of the whole idea of the life sentence. The point of the life sentence is that the person end their life in prison. Lifting the life sentence for a dying person, defeats the purpose of having it at all. Dying is a painful, horrible process cancer or not. If we make an exception for her, why not for a really old and frail person? If that was the case then we should do away with the life sentence altogether, and I don’t like that idea.
Confused yet? Good because i am myself. I don’t have a clear answer to this question, but if I had my shoulders to the wall, like the members of the panel did, I most likely would have voted to grant her parole. People it is better to be compassionate and forgiving than vengeful. I know I sound like a televangelist, but hey I’m not asking for you money!
The Pope is in Australia for the World Youth Day and he is supposed to apologize for:
decades of sexual abuse of children by priests.
Apologize? That’s it? This is the equivalent of catching a kid with their hands in the cookie jar and letting them go with an apology. Well, come to think of it most parents will do just that, but you get my drift. Usually a crime is followed by a suitable punishment. If wide spread sexual abuse involved any other institution but a religious one, would we expect such leniency? Of course not, they would be persecuted like you wouldn’t believe, but no, not the Church. The Church has been covering up such abuses for decades and all they have to do is say “sorry” and they’re home free. Am I the only one who is disgusted that even child sexual abuse can be overlooked by the authorities if the Church is involved? Fucking disgusting!
An Australian teenager, wearing a T-shirt with the writing “Jesus is a c**t” , and depicting a nun masturbating, has been charged with offensive behavior under the Summary Offenses Act 2005 for public nuisance. What is it about religion, that makes otherwise democratic societies, such as Australia, censor the most basic human right, freedom of speech? What is it about otherwise democratic societies, that makes them try to legalize morality and political correctness, a very anti-democratic endeavor? I don’t know, I just don’t get it!
Sen-Sgt Arron Ottaway defended charging the teen.
“I’m not religious but that’s just offensive,” Sen-Sgt Ottaway said.
Offensive? A writing on a T-shirt is offensive. So what? Is that reason enough to enact a law about it? What writing in any T-shirt is not offensive to someone? Why the special treatment for religion? Why is it above every other thing? Are Australian police going to do the same for someone wearing a T-shirt proclaiming Jesus as our lord and savior? Probably not, nor should they. Freedom of speech is more important than anyone’s feelings, even my own. Furthermore, and this may come as a surprise to some, NUNS ARE HUMAN AND NOT ABOVE THE “SIN” OF MASTURBATION. The only difference is that they probably feel really, really bad…after feeling really, really good!
Police conducted inquiries at Australia Fair shopping centre, where the teen said he bought the shirt, to find any shops selling it.
Am I the only one who is reminded of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia by such behaviors? Have they nothing else to occupy the police with in Australia, than trying to find out which store is selling which “offensive” T-shirts? This is laughable. This is absolutely ridiculous. I was not aware that Australia was a theocracy!
Gold Coast lawyer Bill Potts told website goldcoast.com.au that the arrest highlighted Australia’s need for a Bill of Rights.
“One of the great problems with our country is that we talk about rights such as privacy and freedom of speech and the like but they are not enshrined or protected in any way as they are in America,” Mr Potts said.
“While there are always limits on freedom of speech, you can’t incite violence or anything like that, it seems to be now more than ever that our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression should be protected.
“A Bill of Rights which enshrines that protection is long overdue in this country.”
Amen to that!