Thursday, September 04, 2014
Sentencing of man in Michigan for "defensive" shooting through door of his home raises some issues: mandatory altruism?
The sentencing of Theodore Wafer for shooting to death a young woman banging on his door for help early one morning in November 2013, by Judge Dana Hathaway, who sobbed herself when reading the penalty of a minimum 17 years before parole, raises many troubling questions. The detailed news story on Reuters by Aaron Foley is here. A story by Elisha Anderson in the Detroit Free Press describes Wafer’s apology here. Legal questions come up immediately. Can the same death lead to a simultaneous conviction for manslaughter and second degree murder? That sounds like double jeopardy to me.
I realize that there are some questions about the legality of Wafer’s weapons possession and use and momentary intent. There’s also a good question why it was so hard to find his cell phone and call 911. Maybe he just did forget that night.
There’s also the issue that the victim had been drinking. Okay, there’s the “perfect victim” mentality, that turns into the idea of “casualties but no victims”. Had she not been drinking, this wouldn’t have happened. But that’s not enough.
This does lead me more to the areas of self-preservation and “personal responsibility”. I usually keep a cell phone, reasonably charged, near the bedside, especially when on the road. OK, I’ve probably forgotten a few times. An attacker would have to go to very elaborate plans not to have police called first (although I can imagine some “Tom Clancy” ways it could happen, with national security implications). Home security systems can be zone-alarmed, too. When driving, and out public, I pay more attention to security than I used to. There have been three times that I have been approached with possible hostility in parking lots. I’ve driven away or retreated every time (and then called police) and nothing has happened. (This happened with Mark Zuckerberg right after he move to California to start Facebook, according to his own account, and he simply drove away.) I may have been lucky. Mark may have been lucky. I do understand the “Second Amendment” position.
The bigger question comes from her banging on a neighborhood door for help. One would think he could have discerned that through the door – but he might have thought it was a ruse, a woman acting out with an accomplice behind. Unwanted visitors can present a big and sudden home security risk – something very inconvenient today for door-door salesmen (like what Comcast is trying to hire).
It seems as though the judicial outcome, at least in Michigan, in Detroit, is predicated on some kind of duty to help and play good Samaritan, and to expose oneself to risk, at least in some cases. It brings back old-fashioned ideas of what we used to call cowardice, back in the days when we had a male-only military draft.
If society, and the legal system, can compel altruistic behavior from its citizens, that can have a profound impact on how we see almost all issues, even down to the meaning of marriage.
I can see, in terms of social stability and sustainability, why it might be necessary to look at some things this way, sometimes. But then where do you draw the line? This kind of thinking comes up in contemplating scenarios where one’s way of life is suddenly taken away by force, or where that is threatened, possibly just at the individual level, or at a whole nation or world.
How I process this kind of ukase becomes quite interesting, and leads into areas of moral paradox that are quite troubling. Examination of this would make a good video. What do I use my freedom for? What is the ultimate impact on others upon whose sacrifice I may have unwittingly depended? This does lead me to examine my unwillingness to experience “complementarity” in intimate relationships, and what others make of that.