• Michael McMahon

The Justice System

Updated: Dec 1


Fairness and legal precedents are of utmost importance. Sentencing must be consistent for people convicted for similar crimes in order to be as democratic as possible. There’s too much deviation. Manslaughter unnecessarily complicates matters. It’s already difficult to harmonise sentencing for other crimes like assault so it’d be doubly difficult to be consistent in having two independent killing offences. The word of manslaughter instead of murder symbolically dehumanises victims as if you were killed for dinner! Some people may indeed be “out of character” when they commit a crime (they must of got the wrong script: we were all doing the Wizard of Oz while they learned Macbeth!). But in truth we can say the same about any criminal who changes and chooses to be repentant after a crime. So there’s no need for this distinction between murder and manslaughter (much like the nonexistence of the forced mating, coerced charity or kid borrowing crimes!).

The mitigating factors for murder are insufficient to justify there being two separate classes of the crime of killing a person. I acknowledge that there can sometimes be genuine accidents that causes deaths and cases of proportional self-defence. But there are other cases that don’t warrant this exemption. Another name for excessive self-defence is vigilantism. Once a person is seriously injured in an altercation they don't pose much of a threat due to their reduced mobility. There are 360 degrees around and above to fire a warning shot so if it just so happen to fatally hit the suspect then it's rather reckless. Even implementing a final blow to an incapacitated victim would be like justifying nonconsensual euthanasia. Firing at a fleeing suspect is dubious unless the perpetrator was at imminent risk of carrying out murder or serious assault. A synonym for negligence can be the intentional endangering of other society members in general; even when they didn’t intend to personally risk that victim individually. I agree with the insanity defence as a mitigating factor but not always as an exoneration. A psychotic experience will indeed confuse a person’s understanding of logic. But one would still need a small degree of understanding about causality and slyness just to carry out a complex crime. Anxiety is usually directed at one’s self.

I understand that some people charged with manslaughter have very serious and legitimate grievances against the victim. But society would descend into a free-for-all if everyone were to decide to act violently against people who they perceive to have mistreated them. That would send the wrong message. Being vengeful against other admittedly vengeful people is to be yourself part of the problem. It’s about dissuading people from escalating a volatile situation rather than trying to somehow accommodate such pent-up emotions when determining a court sentence.

I actually had in the back of my mind the notion of unprovoked fights and assaults when I wrote the first post in the thread. But I came across comments that disagreed strongly with my take on manslaughter for the opposite reason. They argued for the sake of the vigilante types of cases. This demonstrates the inherent risk of the manslaughter defence being exploited and abused in all non-accidental sorts of crimes. In my view it’s a lawless downward spiral. People might find rare borderline or tricky cases but overall this defence does far more harm than good. Hatred can be reasonable if a partner is caught cheating and this deceit can justify leaving the person forever but it really doesn't condone physical violence. This might sound unrealistic but we've to keep in mind that there are plenty of happy and elderly bachelors in the world who go through their entire lives without the need for a romantic partner. Unless, if it's like the Jarhead movie where they make a video and send it in for your fellow troops to watch, then perhaps we could interpret it as a tiny mitigating factor!

In summary, it’s not merely the length of the jail sentence but the potential multi-year disparity between murder and manslaughter that I find concerning. In rare instances there might even be a multi-decade difference for loosely similar non-defensive killings(*). The flip side of manslaughter is that a conviction of plain murder simply results in a life sentence. So in being charitable to one section we ironically risk being uncharitable to those who are repentant in premeditated cases. I think either increasing the manslaughter sentence sometimes or decreasing the jail-time for murder would lead to more overall consistency. I don’t think there’s much point having a mandatory life sentence for murder if it results in most people simply being charged with manslaughter instead. I think we’d be better off coming to a rough consensus on a medium sentence length for killing someone rather than always aiming for a life sentence.

Precedence is being used as a guideline and not a rule(!):

With rap music these days you never know what someone could cite as provocation:

Judge: Your excuse for stealing the bike is?

Defendant: My penis made me do it. It gives me the strength needed to get through each day.

Judge: Defendant was under duress. Charges dismissed.


(My comments are on post 4, 6 and 8 page 1, post 10 and 13 page 3 and post 8 page 4 of that thread.)

I agree with the goal of rehabilitation on the first page. Although I add that cautious punishment in jail isn’t always vengeful. So non-excessive punishment doesn’t contradict the aim of rehabilitation. Prison may be helpful in preempting and averting there being other future victims from the accused individual. The negative incentive of prison can eventually make someone see the error of their ways. The warning of prison time is necessary for the severe types of crimes so that we can then be more able to fully trust the criminal to not commit another serious offence in the long-term and to hope that they keep to their apology well after they’ve left jail. While it’s indeed true that a criminal can’t undo the past we can still try to learn from any misdeeds we may have made in order to change and prevent similar problems from arising in the future. People seldom change personality overnight and sometimes an epiphany can take a longer time.

On page 3, I wade into the death penalty debate. I appreciate the Christian teaching to be always forgiving but in the context of a severe crime I imagine it’s acceptable to simply dislike the person less. I reason that the penalty of death is unnecessary seeing as serial killers can be pretty much buried alive with various restraints in a jail cell. Implementing the death penalty in rich countries might serve as a poor role model for developing countries who'd have less resources in their court systems and forensic departments. I do understand the ethical and slippery slope arguments. Please note that I purposely refer to serial killers who’ve killed multiple people and not murderers with one count. The sheer amount of damage they could do by further demeaning their victims or stirring up unrest if they became unrepentant means that they need to be thoroughly rehabilitated.

I just think that as this particular crime is an infrequent logical extreme, the defensive punishment would therefore statistically be rarely used. So I don’t think there’s too much risk of a downward spiral. The ingrained evil of serial killers/mass shooters/war criminals are obviously many orders of magnitude worse than all of the other types of criminals. Thus it will be harder to rehabilitate them. Remorselessness could be used to infer the degree of intentionality during the crime. The sanctity of life is respected as the serial killer would avoid the death penalty. I just feel that trying to rehabilitate these specific individuals back into society is too risky and much of a lost cause.

Forgiveness is crucial and will always be a spiritual and emotional virtue. But indeed the concept of forgiveness, patience and giving second chances isn’t the same as subservience. It’s of course possible that a hypothetical person who committed multiple attacks is already fully repentant. Although in such a scenario it’d always be hard to tell whether they’re sincerely apologetic no matter what they said. You’d never know if it was with genuine sadness or else if they’re a bit equivocal with self-interest or ambivalence given how hostile their previous mindset must have been. Jail is a backup plan in case there’s a risk of remorselessness and recidivism. That’s why irrespective of the deterrence vs rehabilitation or free will vs determinism debates, there’d at least have some jail time for a severe crime if only as a precaution.

Post 48 page 2:


Unfortunately there could be serial attackers who might not even try to repent after being caught. In the case of the Norway mass shooting Breivik was not only remorseless but was still attempting to incite others to commit further hate crimes in court. His unapologetic attitude is an implied threat that he’d be willing to attempt to do it again if he was given the chance. I think rehabilitation can incorporate the idea of reverse reasoning when it comes to such uncooperative perpetrators. No it’s not about the active deterrence of others. A proportional judicial response is about being neutral and passive towards any unrelated criminals. It focuses solely on how to deal with the specific perpetrator who committed the crime. But sadly a disproportionately lenient response to the likes of Breivik might inadvertently be seen as a vulnerability or an incentive by other potential attackers who subscribe to these sinister ideologies.

The Christchurch mass shooter was influenced by Breivik's ideology and Breivik's repeated public statements of remorselessness worsens the risk of macabre followers. Some people say not to even mention their name to reduce notoriety. This might be helpful in recognising the unspeakable amount of evil they inflicted but I still think we've to sometimes say who they are for clarity so people know exactly who we're talking about. Perhaps we could get into a habit of naming them once at the beginning of a conversation and thereafter refer to them by the location name followed by the adjective mass shooter so as to avoid repetition. Although naming them is also necessary so the public understand the ideology they were motivated by as well as their personal characteristics so we understand the risk factors of their biographical profile. Moreover always avoiding their name risks creating an impression of an insurmountable threat such the fictional character of Voldemort under the designation of "he who shall not be named".

#23 page 1: https://debatepolitics.com/threads/mass-shooters-should-be-killed-slowly.365095/

Although both are dire crimes there’s an immense distinction between murder and serial murder. Even working within the framework of Norway’s restorative model there’s a mismatch in that Breivik would of got a similar sentence to a criminal who killed just one person. I understand Norway’s stance against the death penalty. Their commitment to objectivity and self-control is commendable. But a very grim way to rephrase his horrific crime is that he permanently confined 77 innocent victims into jail cells the size of a coffin. I think a three-room house arrest will be inadequate to change the mindset of this terrorist. Sometimes the medicine for an illness is painful and has side-effects so the way to cure psychopaths like him is intense confinement in my opinion. Without much display of self-awareness one can only assume he’s the same violent person as he was when the attack was carried out. Restorative justice can include the notion of tough love. The sanctity of human life recognises that evil people can repent or die of natural causes without in any way attributing sanctity to evil people themselves and their sacrilegious actions. Serial killers are not unconscious or non-rational animals even though their crimes might sometimes be dubbed animalistic. Norway might not like the notion of deterrence but they've managed to deter me from supporting such a lenient and complacent response to an atrocious individual.

The Atlantic: “Norwegian far-right monster Anders Breivik... received 21 years in prison for his attacks last year, including a bombing in Oslo and a cold-blooded shooting spree, which claimed 77 lives. That's just under 100 days per murder. The decision, reached by the court's five-member panel, was unanimous. He will serve out his years (which can be extended) in a three-room cell with a TV, exercise room, and "Ikea-style furniture."


(Post number 90, page 4.)

Fairness is a two-way street. We can’t scapegoat or exaggerate the threat posed by a particular person. By the way I’ve never heard anyone more obsessed about the word “homeowner” than America! I hardly ever see it used in crime articles in Ireland or Europe. I heard a joke about one of my deceased relatives who was bursting to use the bathroom but they mixed up the houses when they visited my grandparents. That could have been even more tense if it was in America.

You don’t even need to leave a voice message; just ring yourself with pretend threats and you’ll intimidate anyone that overhears you!

Further feedback on aforementioned ideas: https://www.politicsisle.com/threads/death-penalty-alternatives.1229/


(new examples of provocation cases in this thread)

A blog of links is handy to save storage space on the website. Moreover debate forums are a perfect medium to get people's opinions.

PS: I never went to law school. I did junior cert CSPE if that’s any consolation!

I had these walkie-talkies when I was a young child. They often picked up the signal for the builders talking to each other in the back of the estate. One day after dinner I heard them and started cursing into the walkie-talkie. The boss got angry and began threatening the employee with getting him fired as he didn’t know it was me. I tuned out so I’m not sure how they resolved it. I was too young to know any better!

Any defence given in verse format will be viewed as an additional mitigating factor:


Eminem - Stan

I was checking over my blog links so I spent the last half-hour listening to Stan and the Sopranos murder compilation. I didn't realise there was another guest in the room so I've truly no idea what type of person they're expecting me to be.

Needless to say there'll be a full acquittal on offer for those who confess to their crime in a music video presentation:


(No Doubt -It's My Life)

What better way to test your resilience than to deliberately get lost in a foreign city? I was feeling overconfident so I decided to let my phone go out of battery before finding my way back to the hotel. I couldn't ask anyone for directions because I don't speak Portuguese and didn't even bother to remember the name of the hotel. There's no cheating allowed for the sake of your own self-esteem. I was to test my orientation skills and rely on my general sense of direction to navigate to the other side of the city. Unfortunately it took me at least 4 hours to locate it because I didn't recognise the square it was beside from different vantage points. It was embarrassing because I passed by the top of the road at least 3 times and it was after 2am on return. When I checked Google Maps afterwards I could see that I was searching in all the wrong places miles away!

Sometimes you’ve got to assert your authority around the house(!):

We’ve to control our emotions against any agitated siblings! (She was actually crying in anger and incitement that she didn't get to attack me rather than it being out of sadness. I was confused at first by her apparent emotion of fear when it was herself who was on the offensive. I think it was merely an attempt to vilify me. Staring in fear isn't just a defensive sensation and it can also be used as a threat of vigilance in preparing and psyching yourself up to fight.)

(No I don’t need a taxi! After packing my bags a few times and having fallen out with my temperamental parents and many relatives, I’ve inadvertently become an expert on the trustworthiness of apologies! I learned the hard way. We sometimes got on quite well and I gave them a dozen second-chances even though they could be dismissive and unhelpful. But I’d to leave them for good after they started pushing and shouting where my mother smirked and my father snarled. It was in a threatening manner right in my face where luckily I managed to push them back. I remembered my disagreement with the provocation defence and avoided escalation! I immediately realised that I lacked sufficient evidence should the situation have gotten worse. My father approached me looking pensive while I was in my room. Then he suddenly grabbed me and tried to shake me as he screamed in my ear to never come back. I managed to shout back at him to get out and he retreated to the door. My mother and sister were with him and blocked off the entrance. I felt cornered and managed to close the door on them. It was only after much of the incident was over that I managed to pull out my phone and record them as a warning. I don't habitually have my phone on the ready and couldn't have recorded the incident as it unfolded. I quickly packed and my mother wouldn't stop following me until I left the front garden.

It's harder to say a person was confused by their stress during an altercation when they've an expression of contentment as opposed to anger seeing as it implies deep indifference and vengefulness. Although I don't think a jury could appreciate the sarcasm in a smile. Should anything have happened I'd have been outnumbered 3 to 1 for witnesses. What would a court do when the victim is falsely accused of provocation but by a larger number of people? It's one person's word against another. That's the problem when you're alone and against a group. It's one reason why we've to be proportionate and unaggressive. Moreover a prolonged scowling expression of disgust can feel intensely threatening and demeaning even though it's mute and leaves no evidence whatsoever. In the weeks afterwards they approached me several times on the street telling me to come back but it was insincere because I'd already told them to stay away from me. They kept approaching me and following me down the road. I'd to ring them to tell them I'd have to push them away if they try to intimidate me. If they're already warned then you don't need a restraining order to prevent people coming to you repeatedly without your permission.

I then realised I'd been misreading their behaviour all along. My father became manipulative. He'd hide behind cluelessness where he'd say the incident never happened and then just he'd just ignore me. When he was questioned he'd always lie that he was sorry without actually saying what he was sorry for. Or else he'd keep repeating himself and go around in circles. I might advise or prompt him what to say if he seemed unsure where he'd begrudgingly parrot it back and I felt like I was apologising to myself. Meanwhile my mother would cheerfully say sorry for an incident and state what happened without really saying why she was sorry. Weeks later they'd take it back and say they actually weren't sorry. I always knew something was off where in retrospect it was obvious they didn't sound sad or upset when they said sorry. It appeared more defensive than genuine and they never elaborated on it but anyway I somehow felt morally obliged to accept their apology. When you tell one lie you've then got to tell more lies just to cover up previous lies so the whole saga continued endlessly. How can you trust someone when there's an infinite regress of lying about having not lied?! In fact the amount of time-wasting was almost worse than the initial incidents. They might get frustrated if I even mentioned it and accuse me of being obsessive. I thought at first they were just a bit anxious or insecure so I gave them more time but then the coercive incidents would repeat and they were well able to interact with others so I became more suspicious. One time they were threatening to call the police on something made-up but then months later they couldn't remember it and said I was confused and had hallucinated the incident. When I was in hospital years ago they went to a meeting with my psychiatrist and lied where they got him to say that I had hallucinated everything. They got panicked sometimes and overreacted. With apparent kindness my mother offered to clear out my apartment while I was in hospital saying that my landlord was reselling it only to realise weeks later that it was in fact my mother who had asked the landlord to end the lease.

We're mortal so after 6 months I gave them an opportunity and briefly tried to have a small, distant friendship with them but it didn't work out. I eventually realised that they were saying sorry just so they could lull me back and have an opportunity to reject me again a few days later. It forced me to reinterpret my understanding of the Christian notion to be forever forgiving. The best I could do was give them chances but I can't sacrifice my life waiting around for them to be honest. I tried to get them to change and failed. I've invested a lot of time trying to be friendly with them but if I return to them and were another incident to occur after a few months then that will be another long time with them wasted. A year after the incident I retried contacting them. They said they were sorry and that they were thinking about me for the year. Yet they soon showed indifference in that they failed to reply and spoke in a tired and unmotivated way. The inconsistencies of their statements began to appear. I could tell that they weren't thoroughly remorseful by their hesitation. They seemed somewhat less insincere than the previous attempt so I told them I'll phone them rarely as an acquaintance. Even if they weren't 100% sorry the year away was still enough of a warning and minimal contact isn't too much of a risk. If someone is slightly honest then I think you only need to slightly forgive them. I can't guarantee we won't fall out again.

I tried to be patient and optimistic because we were once great friends where they gave me lifts and meals and we also went on nice walks and holidays. I was confused about whether I should let it go even if they weren't sorry. That's what I tried doing. I wasn't sure how indebted I was to them for having had a pleasant childhood. I'm not happy to leave anyone and I do wish they were nicer in the past where we would still be friends. But sometimes people slowly change for the worse over many years and there's nothing we can do about it. Long-term friendships can be beset by a series of minor incidents that have an exhausting and accumulative effect rather than a single major incident. There were a lot of these smaller incidents where they might try to embarrass me, pressurise me or undermine my goals. I used to put it down to them merely being confused but I can now see from later incidents that it was really out of ill-intention. We only know our parents as adults and don't know much about their childhood. Sometimes they'd conceal hostility in the guise of help. For example they tried locking me in my room and then the house until I would agree to go to a 4 month stay in a hospital in Dublin but I managed to escape them over the garden fence. They started doing more harm than good overall. When I left my leaving cert my father was constantly panicking and waking me up in the middle of the night. I tolerated it at first because I thought he had anxiety and was just worried about me but I soon realised by his hateful accusations that he was just using it as an excuse to seriously harass me. In other incidents my father didn't say no and instead always lied that he was going to do something only to cancel in the last moment. He booked interviews in Dublin for an Open University course and agreed to be a guarantor for a loan and then waited until the deadlines had passed. It was frustrating and extortionate but he'd think nothing of doing these type of things. I was at an airport where he made up a whole story about speaking to a manager and got me to leave a queue for ticket resales only to be delayed for 5 hours in having to re-join the queue. I forgave him even though he didn't say sorry solely because it was himself who had paid for the ticket. When someone is always mean it can be straightforward to avoid them but it's when the person has mixed good and bad behaviour like my parents that it can become very confusing in how to respond. Unfortunately my father can struggle to understand basic empathy. He bought himself an apartment to lease out to others and then deceived my grandmother that it was for me. I had to kindly decline my grandmother's offer of thousands of euros to help with a mortgage and had to explain to her that he was lying.

Eventually I'd to stop seeing my psychologist, life coach and aunt who all disagreed with me! I told my aunt about the incident who then decided to join in and started poking me as I left her house and dismissed my experience of mental illness. Then she'd carry in my bags to make it look as though I was the aggressor where I'd have to go back in and get them off her. That could be yet another potential problem with provocation where someone would be framed for a crime. It confused me as she was very helpful in the past and helped pay for my school in Galway for the year but people can change their temperament very quickly. She said sorry weeks later but it was in a defiant and argumentative manner where she'd minimise what happened and demand that I accept it. I used to get on well with my psychologist for a long time. She helped me understand interpersonal skills. But then all of a sudden she started bringing up the subject of my parents in each session against my will. She'd ignore my comments, ask the same questions repeatedly and just accuse me of being obsessive saying that other people had gone through worse. My life coach was pleasant at first. She gave me advice on career paths. But then she offered to talk with my parents. Afterwards she changed her mind and seemed to agree with them saying that she was a parent herself. They could all be very nice but they became too judgemental. People can be biased when they're also friendly with your adversaries and didn't see the incident first-hand. I imagine people born into large families must probably have a masters degree equivalent in crisis management and conflict resolution! It’s safe to say a few situations went a bit beyond them! I remember trying to study and sometimes I’d hear dance beats humming in the background from my sister’s room. I used to try to block it out with white noise or earmuffs. At this stage I’m so accustomed to studying under adverse conditions that thankfully I’m less distractable and can study on the move! My sisters never interacted a lot with me so I'm not sure how much difference it makes to them that they left me a year ago. At least I still get on well with my younger brother and others in my extended family.)

"If I died and it was it was Pluto or Hades and if it was the twelve Greek gods then I would have more truck with it because the Greeks didn't pretend not to be human in their appetites and in their capriciousness and in their unreasonableness. They didn't present themselves as being all seeing, all wise, all kind or beneficent because the God who created this universe if it was created by God is quite clearly a maniac. Utter maniac; totally selfish! We have to spend our life on our knees thanking you? What kind of God would do that? Yes the world is very splendid but

it also has in it insects whose whole life cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind. They eat outwards from the eyes. Why did you do that to us?

You could easily have made a creation in which that didn't exist. It is simply not acceptable."

(Stephen Fry on the Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne RTE)

Perhaps we need capricious judges in the colosseum who stick their thumb up for a suspended sentence and down for life sentence without wasting time on objectivity!

Erased post (almost):

Stress can compromise our decision making skills but we still have to control ourselves as inflicting pain on others won't make the stress go away.


Recent Posts

See All

Current Affairs

(Feel free to reply in the linked threads if you disagree with anything I said. I'm unsure if I'll pay to have the blog forever so you can download some pdf's if you want.) Maybe if they provided dif


Michael is a truly wonderful person. (I did not write that myself!) You thought correctly; when I go to the hairdresser I always get a jack-of-all-trades hairstyle. Short on the sides for a slightly d


I went to a secondary school in Clare for 4 years and then to a grinds school in Galway for my last year. There were a few students from the countryside in both schools. I went from hearing a joke or