Thursday, July 20, 2006

What Should the Sentence Be?

A renowned geneticist who was Time magazine's runner-up for "Man of the Year" in 1995 for his pioneering work in gene therapy was convicted by a Southern California jury yesterday of sexually molesting the young daughter of a colleague from 1997 to 2001 and could face a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison. His attorney argues that the 69-year-old scientist should be placed on probation so that he can continue his vitally important work. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argue that he should go to prison because of the harm he inflicted on his victim, and the judge in the case has expressed concerns about allowing the scientist to remain free in light of an e-mail threat he made to the victim in 2004 that he might kill himself if she told on him.

Should the judge send him to prison, or should he allow the scientist to continue his research? There are apparently no indications that the scientist molested any other children, and so he could probably be placed under restrictions that would make it difficult if not impossible for him to molest anyone else. But if he isn't sent to prison, how fair is this to all the people who have been or will be incarcerated for similar offenses? Yet, if he goes to prison, what might the world potentially lose from his being unable to continue his research?

Some might find it easy enough to decide what should be done with this man one way or the other. But I see both sides of the issue and feel unsure of what sentence the judge should impose. The victim herself, now 19, is not on record for what she thinks his sentence should be.

What do you think it should be?

21 comments:

Finding Fair Hope said...

I think we must let the system decide here. No matter what "contributions" this man possibly may make to mankind, he is not fit to live in a world with womankind. I know the guilt and self-loathing he must have felt to threaten suicide -- but then again, it could have been another way to manipulate the girl. I'm not usually so hard-nosed, but the man has a debt to society that must be paid.

dr.alistair said...

he can do research in jail if it`s so vital to the public good. i question whether the debt is to society at all so much as it is to the future well being of his victim. any decision the system will make will be politically benificial to the judge, attornies and attendant political representitives. the system is self serving and incapable of providing any of the "due process" that it crows on about.

Nagarjuna said...

FFH: I don't think we have any choice but to let the system--i.e., judge--decide the man's fate. I wouldn't go so far as to say that he isn't "fit to live in a world with womankind." As I wrote, there's no evidence that he ever molested any other kids, and he's been married to one woman for many years. Therefore, I suspect that his threat to females of any age is minimal to non-existent, especially given his notoriety and the conditions he would face if placed on probation.

I agree that his suicide threat may have been more manipulative than genuine, but who am I to say?

If he owes a "debt to society," what kind of debt should it be? Spending the rest of his life in prison where he can't do the science for which he's renowned, the kind of science that could possibly end up saving and enriching countless lives through gene therapy?

And how much of his debt, whatever it may be, is to society, and how much is to the young woman he abused? What about him having to financially compensate her for damages and for punitive purposes, and what about basing a civil settlement partly on future earnings of work he'd be allowed to continue doing if not sentenced to prison?

Dr. Alistair: I doubt that one can do advanced genetic research in prison, and this man was on the forefront of that.

I agree that legal outcomes may often be shaped more by political considerations than by other, more important ones.

What can we do, if anything, to change that?

Namaste,
Steve

dr.alistair said...

i don`t think we can do anything to change that. the industry of change is filled with agendas that spool up into the political. one must become political to participate.

Anonymous said...

"What a tangled web we weave when we..."
The idea that criminals should be allowed to remain free simply because "they have something to contribute to society" is totally abberrant to me. The fact that this man possessed such privilidge and genius , in my mind, should earn him a harsher penalty.This guy was found guilty of molesting a little girl, he should spend the rest of his life in a cage.

If you were the girl's mother or father would there be any question of this?

Nagarjuna said...

How would his spending the rest of his life in a cage benefit society or his victim? This "genius" might just be able to save your life or the life of a loved one someday with his research if he isn't put in that cage. He might also be able to pay the victim more in damages.

Namaste,
Steve

Finding Fair Hope said...

The idea that he "might" save a life is hardly compensation for the destruction he has done to at least one life already. Because he's never been convicted does not mean he has not made moves on other children defenseless to handle the situation. If there is any excuse for having prison, this is one. Remove him from his temptation, his addiction, his ability to destroy. There are other scientists who will do the valuable research. What good he might be able to do if left free is not the issue, it's what damage he is known to be capable of if left free. I agree with anonymous.

Nagarjuna said...

From what I've read of the story, his relationship with this girl was a particularly close one, even after the sexual abuse ended. This would suggest that he was not a stereotypical child predator who poses the grave danger to society that some others do even if not for his notoriety now and the resulting fact that parents and children would now be extremely unlikely to give him the chance to reoffend even if he wanted and tried to.

Yes, other scientists can do his work, but few may be able to do it as well as he could. So, if you're for incarceration in order to protect society, I question the need for it. If you have other reasons as well, you're more than welcome to share them.

Namaste,
Steve

Jess said...

If he wanted his research to continue he could offer up his research already done, to others that could continue for him. Unless he is using that as some kind of defense, which itself is reprehensible if that is what he is trying to do. I am guessing there are plenty of people would be willing to take up where he left off. As a person that has been touched by abuse personally, I think he needs to see the inside of a prison cell and never see the light of day. The horror that people go through their whole life because of this one act is unfathomable. I am with FFH, this may just be the first time he has been caught doing this. These people don't usually start or stop at just one.

Nagarjuna said...

Jess, I can't speak as one who has personally suffered abuse. But I've seen its terrible effects on others, and I hope I don't seem to be minimizing it. I'm just trying to understand what is the best way to deal with this serious problem in general and in this particular case.

For instance, if you could somehow know with certainty that this scientist had never molested any other children and would never, if set free, molest any others, would that make any difference to you? Or would you still want him to go to prison? If so, how long would you want him to remain there, and for what purpose?

Namaste,
Steve

Jess said...

I think yes, he needs to go to prison and no it makes no difference to me whether he might do it or not in the future. He already did it once that is enough. For the simple fact it would set a precedent for others to come behind him and get off using his case. You know, what's good for one should be good for me.
How long should he go there, as long as the law allows for his case. While there he could probably attend the programs they have in place for sexual predators to help them understand why they prey on kids and how to stop doing that. It sounds naive of me to think they change, which I doubt, but there might be the chance he may be the one. Can you tell this is one of my other peeves next to protesting against the death penalty? I have a ZERO tolerance for people that harm kids. I can say, having dealt with many kids that have gone through this and watched them go through what they go through it makes me sick to my stomach. And no I don't think you are minimizing it at all,I think you are like everyone else, trying to come up with an answer for a question that has no good answer.

Anonymous said...

i don't care what he may be able to do, he should have a punishment even harsher than the common offender...
there is no excuse for his behavior-thier "close relationship" was aperversion that he was in control of...

Jess said...

"i don't care what he may be able to do, he should have a punishment even harsher than the common offender..."


Anon, While I somewhat agree with what you say, I don't think he should get a harsher or a lighter sentence than anyone else. He deserves the same treatment that Joe Schmo would get in the same situation. The thing is though, this will probably not happen, because he probably has the best representation money can buy for his defense.

dr.alistair said...

we are so caught up in intellectual hubris that we think we can find an answer to this. for all of our moral and ethical absolutes we should realise that there are many that see nothing wrong with the actions of this man and will advocate his position. what we see as victimisation some see as privelige. the judeo-christian filter that we use to create "right" has blinkered to how the "system" fails us when we need it most. in many ways it is the system it`s self which perpetuates behaviours such as the one in question.

Anonymous said...

"we are so caught up in intellectual hubris that we think we can find an answer to this. for all of our moral and ethical absolutes we should realise that there are many that see nothing wrong with the actions of this man and will advocate his position. what we see as victimisation some see as privelige. the judeo-christian filter that we use to create "right" has blinkered to how the "system" fails us when we need it most. in many ways it is the system it`s self which perpetuates behaviours such as the one in question. "

trust me, there is no "intellectual hubris" in my response to this question. I know what is right and what this animal DID TO that little girl is dead wrong.
Now, if your moral compass is flickering I think it may be more because our culture has become increasingly selfish; any suggestion that this brute has the privilidge to defile this innocent child is very nearly as perverse as the act itself. I suggest what you do before you
over-intellectualize the punishment this child-molestor should recieve is to consider what your reaction would be if it had happened to you, to your son, to your daughter. In personalizing this debased intrusion into a young child's life you may finally have a "moment of clarity" on this subject...

Anonymous said...

Steve, I noticed you used an improper adjective in describing the victim of this mad-scientist:
"And how much of his debt, whatever it may be, is to society, and how much is to the young woman he abused?" Steve

This was no "young woman" Steve, this was a 9 year old, a little kid, a child, somebody's baby, a girl...

Nagarjuna said...

You're right about the "improper adjective." I understand that the girl was 9 or 10 years old when the abuse began. When I referred to her as a "young woman," I meant that's what she is now, but it was misleading. Thanks for correcting me.

Namaste,
Steve

Anonymous said...

Fair enough Steve. Thanks for accepting correction, may we all do so as graciously as you have here...

Anonymous said...

In the deep corner of this animals world, he wishes that people would give him a free pass. He does not deserve to be in society. His place is in jail with the other sores on the hind of humanity. It is a shame that his work will go to waste, but that shame is on him. The only way he should be able to continue his work in the outside is if all his appendages were cut from his body and he was secluded from the world just to work in a dark hole. Sorry for the harshness, but it is the truth. BDOF

Nagarjuna said...

Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I suggest that we should not condemn anyone without first walking in his shoes. Now, not condemning doesn't necessarily mean giving a "free pass." But it does mean tempering justice with compassion and mercy. What would this entail in this man's case? I don't know. That's why I raised the issue. But I don't think it should entail locking him away for the rest of his life, much less physically brutalizing him. It would be interesting to know what his victim thinks.

Anonymous said...

My response may have been on the harsh side, but I am a father of a girl about the same age. The perspective may be different on my side of thought. Any human that can manipulate a young person into sex, or any sexual act, is a sick person and does not belong in our society. The guy deserves jail. Period. God save his soul. BDOF