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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cop-Out Defenses

German Poet Christian Friedrich Hebbel coined it best when he said, "Whoever wants to be a judge of human nature should study people's excuses." Those have reached bizarre heights in the courtroom. The most ludicrous could very well be the Twinkie defense. It helped Dan White get an involuntary manslaughter verdict instead of first degree murder for killing San Francisco mayor George Moscone and the openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk (who had been friends with White). But now that list of excuses is laughable: Adopted Child Syndrome, Road Rage, ’Roid Rage, Black Rage, Computer Addiction, even the Everybody Does It Syndrome. Criminals are no longer responsible for anything they do – there is always an addiction or affliction that excuses it.

Is this a by-product of our society, of newer generations who’ve figured out how to plea their case? Or is this human nature, the natural need to hide behind some disorder or syndrome that could dispel responsibility? Even when being caught with a hand in the proverbial cookie jar, attorneys would just claim a Cookie Defense or The Cookie Monster Made Me Do It Syndrome. Where will the line be drawn? At what point will the justice system say enough?

Probably never… And why should they? It’s become a thread of humor that’s central to our nation’s entertainment. Because in America, our trials show up in the entertainment column as often as in political mags. We’re no longer about “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free”…the saying should be adapted: “Give us your fallen stars, your adulterers, your limelight mongering masses longing to be on the front page…”

But then again, O.J. didn’t like his front page phase in the 90s, even with his Super Jock Syndrome defense. Personally, I’m vying for the Sybil Syndrome – I’ll let the other me stand trial…if they ever catch me.