If society fails to provide effective laws and institutions to insure a reasonable amount of safety to its members, individuals have the right to premeditate the murder of an aggressor.
The issue comes up because of a movie that I watched with Amanda. In the movie, an overbearing and violent father terrorizes his wife, son, and daughter. The boy reports the abuse to the police after a particularly bad beating, but fear of the father prevents the mother and daughter from corroborating his story.
The daughter has a supportive teacher who is concerned with her mood swings. At one point, the teacher drives the girl home and asks the mother if thereís a problem in the family. Again the veil of fear causes the mother to cover up the real problem.
The police and the teacher are very limited in what they can do. Without formal charges and due process, they are powerless. This idea of due process is very important in protecting individuals from malicious prosecution by the police. Unfortunately, without the support of their mother, the children (both high school students) are powerless. They have no money, no where to stay, and fear retribution by their father.
Ultimately, the boy responds to the fatherís constant attacks by waiting in the garage with a shotgun. The boy has left his sister in the living room with a rifle in case the father makes it into the house. When the father arrives home, the son shoots him repeatedly.
The act is clearly premeditated. The question is: was the killing just. In the movie, the two children are convicted and sentenced to prison. I donít agree.
Itís clear that vigilantism is not a good foundation for the legal system. Lynch mobs and shooting squads are unjust. But when an individual is threatened, he has the right to defend himself with deadly force. When the killing takes place during an attack, it is clearly self-defense. Can self-defense ever be premeditated?
I think that the boyís actions were justified. I donít think he should have been convicted of any crime. The legal system failed to provide him with the reasonable safety he deserved. As a minor with no resources of his own, the system left him in the care of his parents. I donít think the mother can be absolved of guilt. She was an adult. It was her duty to protect her children. She failed her children by staying with the abuser. She even defended him and enabled him to continue his abusive treatment of the children.
I understand that there are some who would consider the mother as much a victim as the children. Her behavior was determined by the mentality of abuse. I, to some extent, agree with that idea. But I donít feel that it justifies her behavior. To me, she is an accomplice to her husbandís crimes.
Violence against an individual is very serious. Habitual abuse shouldnít be separated from other violent crime; it can be as serious a crime as rape. The father terrorized the family. Social institutions designed to protect the children (police, educators, motherhood) failed. The children were forced to act radically. They defended themselves from violence with violence. The guilt for the abuse rests on the father. The guilt for allowing it to continue rests on the mother and to a lessor extent on the police and school.
Itís not a very Ďcorrectí way to look at it. I am being harsh on the Ďabusedí wife. I just can not conceive of a person who is so cowardly and weak that she would allow her children to be abused. No, I can conceive such a person, I just can not respect or sympathize with them.