Tuesday, May 19, 2015

emotion and the law

NORTHAMPTON — Attorney David Hoose, one of a few Massachusetts lawyers who have tried death penalty cases, said Friday he was disappointed not only by the verdict jurors delivered in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but also with their quick deliberation....
 “It really sort of makes me look at victim-impact evidence and the role passion and emotion has in capital cases. Passion and emotion is not supposed to be part of criminal justice system,” he said.
The above appeared in the local Daily Hampshire Gazette and has been nibbling at my mind for several days.

Passion and emotion is not supposed to enter legal deliberations? You don't need to be a Zen Buddhist to feel the koan-like pressures of that observation.

What is it besides emotion that led anyone to codify social rejoinders to anti-social events in the first place? Someone got pissed because someone else punched him in the nose; someone felt wronged that someone else robbed her deaf, dumb and blind; someone wept that a family member should have been coincidentally shot dead in some American shoot-out.

Angry, bereft, unjustly treated ... the litany is endless and the law is a recognition of emotional wounds .... but the law keeps a civil and reasoned tongue in its mouth. It is codified, carefully constructed, in-control ... whereas emotion is enormous and edgeless and can fly off the unreasoning handle.

On the one hand, I sort of agree with Hoose: Succumbing to emotion is too messy and, possibly, anti-social. On the other hand, I don't: Of course people want their emotional wounds bound up. It's good to stay on topic, to address the issue rather than the emotion that may infuse the issue. On the other hand, where is the honest dividing line between emotion and reason?

1 comment:

  1. I must confess, i'm a tad suspicious of anything that alleges an objectively and reasoned conclusion. In fact, i think i'm a bit suspicious of anything ever being concluded.