Murder is murder and mercy killing is mercy killing

The children of a retired chartered surveyor who committed suicide after being charged with his arthritic wife\’s murder have criticised the legal system for punishing their father\’s \”act of love\”.

I know this sounds rather callous but the man did admit to police to killing his wife: in a pre-meditated manner.

Thus he should be tried for murder.

For we do in fact have a system to decide between what is murder and what is mercy killing. Might not be quite written down there in the law books but we do have one.

Called \”a jury\”.

It\’s those twelve good and true who get to decide. And that\’s why those who kill should go to trial. So that they system we already have can decide whether it was murder or not.

Entirely true that \”mercy killing\” is not a verdict that the jury can bring in. But \”not guilty of murder\” is.

11 thoughts on “Murder is murder and mercy killing is mercy killing”

  1. Jury nullification is vanishingly rare, and when it happens suggests the law being nullified is wrong and should be reformed. in other words, it’s not a solution or a stand-by we should be happy to rely on.

    Most places judges won’t tell a jury they have this right, and can remove jurors who look likely to exercise it.

    If my elderly parents were in any such tragic circumstances, I’d be “critical”, too.

  2. Yeah, I don’t think any jury would feel that they could accquit, since the judge would have told them very specifically that if it’s premediated killing, it’s murder.

    Tim adds: Thing is, though, juries do acquit in such circumstances. There was the case of the doctor charged with killing a patient with morphine a few years back, she was in terrible pain etc….

  3. 1. If Mrs Thomas had attempted suicide before, why could her husband not have assisted a subsequent attempt – by simply providing the materials and leaving her to it?

    2. Holding someone’s head under water ( and bruising it in the process) until they drown seems like a rather aggressive act to me – and hardly an act of love.

    3. “Mr Thomas told the police he had been happy to continue caring for his wife”. Yet he said, “You don’t know what it’s like. I even had to change her sanitary towels. Imagine that.” ( As she was 70, presumably he meant incontinence pads.)

    4. “Mr Thomas, from the explanations that he gave to police, truly believed that he was doing what his wife wished.” Probably he did; but was he free of self-deception? In a depressed and desperate state, probably not.

    5. A CPS spokesman said: “…, the evidence clearly demonstrated that a serious offence had been committed and we concluded a prosecution would be in the public interest because a person had been killed, as Mr Thomas admitted.” Quite so.

    6. Old people often get depressed, even desperate. The family could have alerted the couple’s GP to the situation, and then perhaps this tragedy could have been averted.

  4. In practice, the CPS does a lot of the work – they won’t bring a prosecution for murder if the facts are such that a jury would be tempted to nullify, as Paul’s post suggests. As a process it’s bad in theory but not so bad in fact.

  5. That juries can and do acquit defendants when they believe the law is unjust does not mean it should happen in a civilised society.

    We have a very clear process: parliament creates the laws, the courts enforce them according to the letter. It is not and ought not be the job of the jury to decide what the law should be, or whether the defendant is morally in the wrong. It is the job of the jury to decide whether the defendant has committed a crime according to the letter of the law. That’s what “Justice” actually means — getting a fair hearing under the law, not the juries deciding to acquit because, although you clearly killed that old man, you’re a “good egg.”

    With that said, there are a couple of defences I think he could have legitimately used. He could have argued that he was so affected emotionally by his wife’s suffering he must be considered to have diminished responsibility, or momentary insanity.

  6. “It is the job of the jury to decide whether the defendant has committed a crime according to the letter of the law.”

    No, that could be done by judges. The juries are there to acts as a backstop against injustice. Which might explain why Mr. Tony Blair QC was so keen to abolish them.

  7. “It’s those twelve good and true..”: once upon a time, maybe. Didn’t Harold Wilson change that?

  8. dearieme: Twelve sentimental and thick, I fear.

    Though despite the soap opera elements in this case, I suspect a jury would have convicted, even on a murder charge, with appropriate judicial direction. And that would have been quite right, too. As to the sentencing, there were mitigating circumstances…

  9. Every member of a jury supposedly asks himself two questions:
    1. Is the defendant guilty?
    2. Do I want to see him punished?

    Juries are supposed to dispense justice. If they were just there to rubber-stamp the judge why bother with them?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *