Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Disastrous Sentence Mitigation for Maryland

--Richard E. Vatz

Maryland's generally liberal ethic has always extended to its criminal justice system.

How do Marylanders react when felonious actors are rewarded with verdicts exculpating them from responsibility from horrible acts?

Mostly with a yawn; after all, very few Marylanders will ever experience violence for which the perpetrator will, pace judges who sympathize with criminals and psychiatrists who mystify juries and courts with their psychojargon, serve no time in prison and/or will gain early freedom.
Latest case in point (credit The Baltimore Sun's Andrea F. Siegel for the following factual basis and quotes): A Crofton teenager, David B. Raszewski, has his 50-year sentence for raping a 7-year-old cut to 20 years -- and it may effectively be cut in half again to allow him parole before he is 30.

Why? Try to understand the rationale:

The premeditated outrage -- including Raszewski's enticing the little girl to his house and then raping her, followed by his trying to bribe her to ensure her silence -- was mostly forgiven by three Anne Arundel County judges who should be impeached for such a dereliction of duty.

What did the judges cite as mitigating factors? The rapist's youth, lack of prior record (want to bet whether he has committed similar atrocities before?), and post-arrest diagnosis of "atypical autism." "Atypical" is added to psychiatric diagnoses to make them compatible with their lack of correspondence to accepted behavioral symptomatology. Moreover, there is no evidence that this heinous act was uncontrollable or that Raszewski didn't know what he was doing (not even alleged by the defense). The judges, including Paul F. Harris and Pamela L. North, wrote that the attacker had "a fantastical view of sexuality." Ergo, what? Largely excuse those who rape children unless they have a well-adjusted view of sexuality?

The family of the victim and the victim are apoplectic and forever scared and scarred. Ten years until the criminal is free -- how reassuring. How sensitive the judges must be toward the permanent terror experienced by a little girl just starting life.

After release Raszewski will receive "therapy and psychiatric care." Show Marylanders the evidence that such coddling results in a cessation of sexual assault. There is no such compelling case that can be made.

This is yet another case of psychiatric/judicial get-out-of-jail early cards.

It can happen only when a state's population and legislative representatives condone it by inaction.

Professor Vatz has written for decades on psychiatry and criminality


Bruce Godfrey said...

I have two children with autism - not "atypical" but profound, though that might now be an overdiagnosis.

If there was no insanity (technically, "not criminally responsible") defense raised and successfully pled - unclear, although this post is tagged "insanity plea" - then it is inappropriate to use a "fantastical view of sexuality" as a defense. The court record (available here) does not reflect any NCR plea if I read it correctly; there was a reverse waiver hearing but not an NCR plea.

In general, I would not expect sound ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, etc., from a young adult who sexually violates a 7 year-old or, for that matter, from a repeat shoplifter. It may be true that autism, for some people, prevents someone from knowing about the wrongfulness of his actions or the nature of his actions. It may be that the defendant's legal counsel erred by failing to plea and pursue the NCR plea and if so, let that issue be raised promptly on post-conviction while the defendant is locked up.

Before judging whether 20 years was a more appropriate sentence than 50 years, I would want to know more about the case, more details. The attorney who represented Raszewski at the pre-trial/plea was James Crawford, a respected practitioner of my acquaintance. Spencer Gordon took over for the three-judge panel. I would want to read the charging document and see the investigators' reports. Actually, no I wouldn't.

Vatz said...

Mr. make a number of trenchant comments...thank you...imprecise tag removed...


Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.
Towson Distinguished Professor
Towson Student Government Association Faculty Member of the Year, 2009-2010
Professor, MCOM/COMM; University Senate; Towson University
Blogger, Red Maryland