Pharyngula

They’re violent, murderous bastards. Rudi Boa, a scientist, got into an argument with Alexander York, an ignorant ass, while on a backpacking trip in Australia. Boa was arguing for evolution, while York was arguing for idiocy. Later, under the influence of alcohol, York attacked, stabbed, and killed Boa.

York was just tried and sentenced to five years in jail, eligible for parole in three. The judge apparently thought York was a man of good character.

As Greg Laden put it, “Stabbing an evolutionist to death, in Australia, is not considered a serious offense if you are a person of good character.”

Comments

  1. #1 Jeremy O'Wheel
    December 14, 2007

    Re VJ; “I think being dead is forever” – I don’t understand how that’s relevant. Are you suggesting that our justice system should be based on “an eye for an eye” and that punishment should be equal to the damage caused?

    Luckily most societies around the world have gone through an enlightenment on crime and punishment, and the goal is no longer vengeance, but rather attempting to protect society and avoid such events from occurring again.

    I really like this essay from Richard Dawkins on the subject of punishment.

    http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html

  2. #2 Bill Dauphin
    December 14, 2007

    Off topic but almost as shocking: this year’s deeply religious White House Christmas card.

    I just heard about this this morning, listening to the podcast of yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show. I guess it makes me glad I’m not on Dubya’s Christmas card list (as an aside, I did get a card from that scumbag, James Earl Carter [g]). Still, I agree with you that…

    We are headed toward a theocracy.

    Please, please, PUHLEEEEEEEEZE, no matter who the Democratic nominee is, no matter what 3rd-party distractors enter the race, vote Democratic next November!!! I know some of the Dem candidates are too churchy to make folks here really happy… but neither any of them nor their party wants to establish a theocracy.

    We may all be being overly optimistic, anyway: What if Gawd tells Dubya to suspend the Constitution before we even get the chance to vote?

  3. #3 H. Humbert
    December 14, 2007

    Only 3 years for killing someone? That’s outrageous. And for all those saying the sentence is fair, you need your god damn heads examined.

  4. #4 Graculus
    December 14, 2007

    It may not be an especially light sentence, really, especially compared to the serial murderer in British Columbia (8 women killed, as I recall) who received 25 years.

    No, he got LIFE. His first opportunity to APPLY for parole is in 25 years. The harshest penalty available under Canadian law for 2nd degree murder, and well warranted in this case. The first trial was for 6 murders, there are 20 more murder charges pending.

  5. #5 Bobby
    December 14, 2007

    Sometimes people ‘of good character’ do terrible things in the heat of the moment, or when drunk. That’s why trials allow character witnesses.

    How strange. ISTM that what you do in the heat of the moment, or what you’re willing to get drunk enough to do, is the ultimate revelation of your true character.

    Maybe my views are defective because I’m not a dualist, and therefore unwilling to divorce ‘character’ from how you actually act.

  6. #6 Jamie
    December 14, 2007

    Five years’ jail time, parole in three? What utter fucking bullshit. How can you murder someone with a knife (an incredibly savage act) and get off with this mere slap on the wrist? As someone here wisely observed, it’s a safe bet that an evolutionist who murdered a creationist wouldn’t get off anywhere near so lightly.

    The murdered guy was only 28 years old, too.

  7. #7 Fentwin
    December 14, 2007

    But a useful data point for your research.
    Posted by: Bobby | December 14, 2007 12:15 PM

    Indeed. I could expand my sample population to include Loons. :)

  8. #8 Bobby
    December 14, 2007

    “blew this one out of proportions”? The guy is dead. I don’t care who did it, but when someone kills another, it ought to be cause for considerable more outrage in a civilized nation.

    I suspect what we have here is a case of the non-theists (non-dualists) taking death as a more serious matter than the theists.

  9. #9 Danniel Soares
    December 14, 2007

    Probably my irony detector is bugged… if it’s not, one can’t blame this sort of thing in creationism itself, or extend this sort of thing to “creationists”.

  10. #10 notthedroids
    December 14, 2007

    Basically a he-said-she-said deal:

    Miss Brown told the court that York had grabbed her by the throat and pushed her to the ground before stabbing Mr Boa in his left side, causing him to bleed to death.

    York was found guilty of Mr Boa’s manslaughter at the Surpreme Court in Wagga Wagga on 16th July. He claimed he accidentally wounded Mr Boa as he tried to defend himself.

    I don’t know the details of the case, but I find it incredibly dubious that York “accidentally” stabbed Boa in self-defence.

    I can’t say that the verdict (manslaughter instead of murder) is incorrect, given the evidence, but I find it very disturbing how much benefit of the doubt the judge gave York.

  11. #11 Bobby
    December 14, 2007

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    Let’s see, one situation involves murder, the other involves failure to get tenure. One involves a few people expressing dismay on Pharyngula, the other involves a well funded propaganda outlet trying to stir a whole nation into outrage.

    How could anyone possibly see any difference?

    Oh, “religion”. No wonder we’re hearing objections to reasonable responses to both.

  12. #12 Glen Davidson
    December 14, 2007

    No, he got LIFE. His first opportunity to APPLY for parole is in 25 years. The harshest penalty available under Canadian law for 2nd degree murder, and well warranted in this case. The first trial was for 6 murders, there are 20 more murder charges pending.

    Ah, my mistake. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Still seems light by the standard in US sentences.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  13. #13 Glen Davidson
    December 14, 2007

    Let’s see, one situation involves murder, the other involves failure to get tenure. One involves a few people expressing dismay on Pharyngula, the other involves a well funded propaganda outlet trying to stir a whole nation into outrage.

    How could anyone possibly see any difference?

    Huge difference, really. One is just a dead scientist who had the “wrong ideas,” the other involves thwarting one the steps in the attempts of theocrats to take over America’s institutions.

    “Justice” gets shafted as “collateral damage” when the stakes are so high, and when the rule of a powerful nation seems within the grasp of the sectarian power.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  14. #14 Dustin
    December 14, 2007

    I’m trying to figure out whether I’m more upset with the wrist slap ruling, or with the contemptible, passive-agressive, unctuous jackoffs who have been mewling around the thread doing their very best to seem oh-so-reasonable in defending it. After all, there’s nothing about an ideologically motivated murder or the resulting 3-5 year sentence that’s worth getting upset about, anyone who does get upset about that sort of thing is, really, just being shrill.

  15. #15 melior
    December 14, 2007

    “I think he knew that the knife was in his hand … but he did not actually turn his mind to the potentially serious consequences of doing this.

    “Ya know it’s allllways good to have the Loooord by yer side.”

  16. #16 Sastra, OM
    December 14, 2007

    I don’t think this case really tells us anything about how “dangerous” either Creationists or Christians in general are — and I doubt that PZ meant to imply anything that general. Creationism doesn’t lead to murder. And I’ll agree with Olaf Davis and some of the other commenters here on being cautious about coming to snap conclusions on whether the sentencing was lighter because the judge is sympathetic to creationism or something. We just don’t have enough information, and this is a legal and judicial system most of us are not familiar with.

    But this case is an interesting counter-example we can pull out when faced with all the overblown and simplistic rhetoric on “evilution” and the evil things it leads to. Had it been the other way — an evolutionary scientist killing a Creationist — the creationists would have considered it very, very significant. But it wouldn’t be. And that’s the point.

    It’s similar to pointing out the higher rates of crime in countries which rate higher on religiosity. It doesn’t show a cause-effect that way — but it does rather knock out a simple-minded cause-effect connection the other way.

  17. #17 Ray C.
    December 14, 2007

    #7: I wonder, what is the name of the logical fallacy when you try to win an argument by killing the other guy? Argumentum ad Homicide?

    I suppose it falls under argumentum ad baculum.

  18. #18 VWXYNot?
    December 14, 2007

    I seem to remember a quote from a book that was something like “Lee Harvey Oswald could equally claim that he didn’t usually go around shooting presidents and this should not be taken as his typical behaviour”. Can anyone help me out with this quote? It sounds like Bill Bryson or Douglas Adams, but could also be from Bridget Jones.

    The Pickton verdict here in Vancouver has me confused too. 6 counts of second degree murder – WTF?

  19. #19 Eric
    December 14, 2007

    @Bobby #49:

    ISTM that what you do in the heat of the moment, or what you’re willing to get drunk enough to do, is the ultimate revelation of your true character.

    It seems that the best demonstration of your character is what you do when your faculties of reasoning are lowest, and the part of your brain that drives primal emotions takes control? It seems to me that the best demonstration of your character is how you act when you’re in control of your actions.

    @all:
    I have to say though – it does seem pretty ridiculous to me to blame this on religion. If two guys argued over sports teams while they were drunk and one stabbed the other (having never committed a crime in his life before that), I doubt it would make it’s way onto Pharyngula with a group of people claiming that all [insert sports team here] fans are murderers, or that “obviously this guy wasn’t a good person before if he did this” [paraphrase]. Yes, PZ, murder is a serious matter. Yes, the sentence does seem pretty light (though as pointed out, most of us know very little about the actual details of the case beyond the news reporting). But assuming that the sentence is light because of religion seems to not be warranted.

    If the circumstances were different – if they weren’t drunk, if the argument was a calm, thoughtful one followed by a cold-blooded stabbing – maybe then I could see blaming the short sentence on the religious aspect, as there wouldn’t seem to be another reason for it. But without knowing more about how much of the man’s history the judge heard, or the facts of the case, I don’t see how someone can say that (a) the judge’s appraisal of the man’s character was based on his beliefs about the origin of the universe, or (b) the subject of the argument (as opposed to the argument itself) was related to the stabbing.

  20. #20 So Sad
    December 14, 2007

    Wow! WTF has this got to do with evo v. creo controversies? In an Aussie context, a more controversial topic for a drunken argument might be whether rugby league is a better game than rugby union (and you parochial f***ers won’t know what either of those is!). If that argument had ended in alcohol-fuelled violence and a sad death, nobody would have tried to use it to fuel controversy about the competing viewpoints.

    But the USA is the Land of the Stupid and you can’t understand anything, can you? From your positions of proud and unsullied ignorance, you pronounce on the sentence, the protagonists, the argument, everything. I don’t know whether the sentence was “correct” or not, but I do know that in the civilised world we generally don’t lock people up as enthusiastically as you do in NastyLand. So 3 years in Australia probably equates to about 10 or 15 years in America. Possibly quite short, but another characteristic of us civilised folk is that we use our brains (you know, that grey porridgey thing between your ears) and know the difference between a really evil act and a more minor transgression that has unfortunate circumstances, and then we take that into account.

    But the saddest thing is that you pro-evo guys sound just like the creationist jerks in the way you just take everything out of context and extrapolate to absurdity. Pathetic.

  21. #21 Kseniya
    December 14, 2007

    You’re right. This isn’t about evo-creo. It’s about continuing English oppression of the Scots.

  22. #22 Don Quijote
    December 14, 2007

    @Kseniya
    You never know, he might not have been a true Scotsman…

  23. #23 Robin Levett
    December 14, 2007

    For what it’s worth…

    First, I’d endorse Jeremy O’Wheels’s comment that commenting on what the Court ought to have done without seeing a full transcript of the evidence, verdict and sentencing remarks is dangerous.

    However, there are a few points that the report does make clear. Firstly, York was tried for murder, but that the jury (Oz does have jury trials) acquitted him of murder and instead found him guilty of manslaughter.

    The judge is bound by the jury’s findings of fact. In the circumstances as we know them, the only way that the jury could have found York guilty of manslaughter only (and not murder), since murder only needs intent to kill or (in this case) to wound is if he didn’t realise the knife was in his hand and, since self-induced intoxication isn’t a defence, that he couldn’t be treated as if, had he been sober, he should/would have realised it.

    That being the case, the judge would have been compelled to sentence on the basis that the killing was accidental,
    albeit the blow that caused it was not.

    Those referring to this as bizarre sentencing for a murder are therefore way off the mark; as are those complaining that the judge gave York a free pass because of his religion.

  24. #24 Ted D
    December 14, 2007

    In an Aussie context, a more controversial topic…

    They were Scottish and English. Not that it matters in any case where they were from.

    But the USA is the Land of the Stupid…

    I’m from Sweden. Can I call you a loud-mouthed git now? We’re not enthusiastic about locking people up here either, and I’m not among those who cry out for harsher sentencing, but 3 years seems a bit short for killing someone even if I live in the “civilised world” and am using that grey porridgey thing between my ears. What constitutes an appropriate sentence may be debated, but giving someone leniency for killing, because they are of “good character” seems laughable to me, as one of the civilised folk. People of good character don’t get drunk and wave knives at other people.

    you pro-evo guys

    Do you know how that (quite apart form the rest of your obnoxiously toned post) makes you sound?
    Pathetic.

  25. #25 Jamie
    December 14, 2007

    Unfortunately many of my fellow non-American liberals think this kind of hysterical, frothing-at-them-mouth anti-Americanism is acceptable, and even laudable. They’re just chauvinists looking for a moral excuse to feel superior about their own tribe.

    Anyway, not everyone here who dislikes the leniency of the three-year sentence is an American.

  26. #26 G. Tingey
    December 14, 2007

    Australian law is based on British, and much closer to that in Britain…
    Here, such a murderer would be held in prison “Detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure” – which interprets as: “Of unsound mind, not to be allowed out unless and until the shrinks have had a really good look.

    Given that they murderer is obviously a religious kook, I would have expected this to happen.

    In this country (England) such a sentence could now be appealed by the prosecution as too lenient – I don’t know how it cuurently stands in Oz …..

  27. #27 stogoe
    December 14, 2007

    The dumbfuck stabbed a guy, and gets three years? Fuck. That. Shit.

    I’ma go to Aussieland, get drunk as fuck, stab someone just to watch them die, and then cover up the crime. Three years seems like a pittance to put that on my CV.

  28. #28 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 14, 2007

    Wow! WTF has this got to do with evo v. creo controversies? In an Aussie context, a more controversial topic for a drunken argument might be whether rugby league is a better game than rugby union (and you parochial f***ers won’t know what either of those is!). If that argument had ended in alcohol-fuelled violence and a sad death, nobody would have tried to use it to fuel controversy about the competing viewpoints.

    But the USA is the Land of the Stupid and you can’t understand anything, can you? From your positions of proud and unsullied ignorance, you pronounce on the sentence, the protagonists, the argument, everything. I don’t know whether the sentence was “correct” or not, but I do know that in the civilised world we generally don’t lock people up as enthusiastically as you do in NastyLand. So 3 years in Australia probably equates to about 10 or 15 years in America. Possibly quite short, but another characteristic of us civilised folk is that we use our brains (you know, that grey porridgey thing between your ears) and know the difference between a really evil act and a more minor transgression that has unfortunate circumstances, and then we take that into account.

    But the saddest thing is that you pro-evo guys sound just like the creationist jerks in the way you just take everything out of context and extrapolate to absurdity. Pathetic.

    Somebody needs a huuuuuuug

  29. #29 Mr. Yoop
    December 14, 2007

    Well, I’m tired of being a concern troll but:

    Justice Adams said he had given York a sentence at the lower end of the scale, partly because of the accidental nature of the stabbing.

    “I do not believe that he took aim but rather thrust out,” Justice Adams said.

    “I think he knew that the knife was in his hand … but he did not actually turn his mind to the potentially serious consequences of doing this.

    “The offender is a person of good character and the offence is a complete aberration.”

    Make of it what you will. I don’t know australian law but keep in mind, he was being tried for manslaughter, not murder. I don’t know to what extent 3 years is a lenient sentence for manslaughter. I believe it is an the lenient side but I don’t know whether it is exceedingly so. As for “being of good character”, I really didn’t get any sense that being an IDer was a tipping point to the judge. I think “good character” means never having a prior record. Once he’s out, if he commits another crime, he won’t be considered a person of “good character” as he now does have a record.

    Pure speculation, of course, but had it gone the other way I’m not convinced the sentence would be harsher.

    On the other hand: Are IDiots more likely than evolutionists to get angry while drunk and attack with a kitchen knife? Well, I’m loathe to put my opinion in text, but considering the invalid flailing and irrational name-calling on a drop of a hat and outright hatrid I’ve seen among IDiots vs. the outright surprise and pitying loathing and disgust I’ve seen among evolutionists, let’s just say I’m not surprised that the situation happened “this way” rather than “reversed”. I’m sure if we scour the web we’ll find a case of physical assault by an evolutionist to a creationist/IDiot but I don’t think we have to scour so hard to find quite of few of these.

  30. #30 Colugo
    December 14, 2007

    So Sad: “But the USA is the Land of the Stupid and you can’t understand anything, can you? … in the civilised world we generally don’t lock people up as enthusiastically as you do in NastyLand.”

    The civilized world?

    You mean the land where white Australians riot against ethnic Arabs in a suburb of Sydney – in 2005?

    Where Australian aborigine health and socioeconomic standing is so abysmal that even Native Americans are markedly better off by comparison?

    Where the rate of rape is about two and half times that of the US?

    Sure, we Americans suck. But with all due respect and affection, you guys are even worse in some areas.

  31. #31 Graculus
    December 14, 2007

    Still seems light by the standard in US sentences.

    Well, we don’t do judicial homicide.

    Thankfully.

    6 counts of second degree murder – WTF?

    Because the definition of 1st degree isn’t as loosey-goosey as it is in many other systems, and it avoids legal wrangling over mental states. The minimum punishment for both 1st and 2nd degree murder in Canada is life. 2nd degree gets you an earlier chance at parole.

    It’s not a perfect system, but we aren’t exactly suffering an epidemic of murders.

  32. #32 AlanWCan
    December 14, 2007

    Waiting for the DI or AiG to chime in on this one

    ….crickets….

    I’d bet though if the stabber had received a harsh sentence they would have been up in arms within minutes about xtians being persecuted for their religious beliefs (that jebus wants you to stab an evilutionist).
    Mind you, the fact that this seems to have been a pair of drunk Brits fighting with each other surprises me not a jot. The murderous rage bubbles too shallow below the surface on those islands for my liking (one reason why I left).

  33. #33 NJ
    December 14, 2007

    Jeremy at @22

    Re VJ; “I think being dead is forever” – I don’t understand how that’s relevant

    …followed by…

    the goal is no longer vengeance, but rather attempting to protect society and avoid such events from occurring again

    …which constitutes you answering your own question.

    A three year sentence is very brief compared to a death, and constitutes both a rather weak deterrent and a scant protection.

  34. #34 thalarctos
    December 14, 2007

    Maybe my views are defective because I’m not a dualist, and therefore unwilling to divorce ‘character’ from how you actually act.

    Yes, Bobby, *you’re* the defective one. Remind me again how many people you killed last week?

    It seems that the best demonstration of your character is what you do when your faculties of reasoning are lowest, and the part of your brain that drives primal emotions takes control? It seems to me that the best demonstration of your character is how you act when you’re in control of your actions.

    So who is it who chooses to give up control by getting drunk, then? Is that the “in control” part or the primal part, or a whole ‘nother part entirely? I think I need a scorecard to keep up with the various dramatis personae.

  35. #35 Hairhead
    December 14, 2007

    To Glen D, who thought that Pickton’s sentence for 6 counts of 2nd-degree murder was light — I can guarantee you that 1) Mr. Pickton will be in jail until he dies and 2) if he is not kept in protective custody, he will die violently while in jail, rather earlier than the normal life expectancy of a person of his age.

    And there are another 20 charges of murder to be laid against him in a separate trial. And he admitted in one of his journals to killing 49 women, and wanting to make it “an even 50″.

    And I may point out that Mr. Pickton seems to be a religious man, who, in his own words, was put on earth get rid of sinful people.

    (shudder)

  36. #36 Kseniya
    December 14, 2007

    I wonder if, as a boy, he felt picked on.

  37. #37 RamblinDude
    December 14, 2007

    Probably, with all his peers asking, “Willie amount to anything.”

  38. #38 RamblinDude
    December 14, 2007

    Oops, “Willie amount to anything?”

  39. #39 Luna_the_cat
    December 14, 2007

    Speaking from my admittedly-limited knowledge of Australian law, I do know that for manslaughter he can be sentenced to up to 25 years, no parole. Even for Australia, five years with parole in two years is light.

    But then, just a few days ago, a judge in Australia let nine teenagers walk free with suspended sentences after they *admitted* gang-raping a 10-year-old girl, because she (yes, this judge was female) felt it was perfectly plausible that the girl had consented to have sex with them all.

    I would say there seem to be a few judges in Australia with a certain disconnect from reality.

  40. #40 J Myers
    December 14, 2007

    But then, just a few days ago, a judge in Australia let nine teenagers walk free with suspended sentences after they *admitted* gang-raping a 10-year-old girl, because she (yes, this judge was female) felt it was perfectly plausible that the girl had consented to have sex with them all.

    So they essentially dismiss a case like this, and yet the incidence of rape in Australia is still 2.5X that of the US? It must be like Shiloh there every day…

  41. #41 mothra
    December 14, 2007

    Just to reiterate a few points.
    1) The death itself was accidental.
    2) The assailant tried to hide his actions.
    3) The assailant lied about his actions.

    The assailant obviously understood the difference between right and wrong. Had his actions (2, 3) gone the way he schemed, then this “person of good character” would have gotten off Scott free. Five years is far too lenient. MJ- exactly right!

  42. #42 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 14, 2007

    Jeremy – I’m not familiar with the Australian justice system, but over here in America, judges often make biased decisions based on their own personal prejudice. That’s what comes of being a politically elected official.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK the USA is completely unique in electing its judges.

    During the presidential election of 2004 I saw an ad in the forest of “X for president”, “Y for senator”, Z for dogcatcher” ads that were standing around: “[name] — Republican for Judge”. That was the greatest shock I’ve had in the last… 7 years at least.

    “Yeah! Vote for me! I will not be impartial!!!”

    TSIB.

    ———–

    Now, to return to the topic <consciousness slowly returning from *headdesk* — there’s a metal bar in the desk which prevented it from breaking)>:

    So who is it who chooses to give up control by getting drunk, then?

    This is a very good point.

    If marijuana is illegal, why isn’t alcohol…?

    —————

    Still seems light by the standard in US sentences.

    By that standard it probably is!

    —————

    considering the invalid flailing and irrational name-calling on a drop of a hat and outright hatrid I’ve seen among IDiots vs. the outright surprise and pitying loathing and disgust I’ve seen among evolutionists, let’s just say I’m not surprised that the situation happened “this way” rather than “reversed”.

    Agreed.

    —————

    A three year sentence is very brief compared to a death, and constitutes both a rather weak deterrent and a scant protection.

    Hah. The only deterrent that works is a high chance of getting caught. If all murderers — not manslaughterers, murderers — thought that they would be caught, only religious and similar fanatics would be murderers anymore, and even they wouldn’t be serial murderers. In the real world, people think “yeah, if they get me I’ll get life in the slammer, but I have carefully planned the perfect crime, so they won’t get me (…and even if they get me, they won’t be able to prove anything)”.

  43. #43 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 14, 2007

    Jeremy – I’m not familiar with the Australian justice system, but over here in America, judges often make biased decisions based on their own personal prejudice. That’s what comes of being a politically elected official.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK the USA is completely unique in electing its judges.

    During the presidential election of 2004 I saw an ad in the forest of “X for president”, “Y for senator”, Z for dogcatcher” ads that were standing around: “[name] — Republican for Judge”. That was the greatest shock I’ve had in the last… 7 years at least.

    “Yeah! Vote for me! I will not be impartial!!!”

    TSIB.

    ———–

    Now, to return to the topic <consciousness slowly returning from *headdesk* — there’s a metal bar in the desk which prevented it from breaking)>:

    So who is it who chooses to give up control by getting drunk, then?

    This is a very good point.

    If marijuana is illegal, why isn’t alcohol…?

    —————

    Still seems light by the standard in US sentences.

    By that standard it probably is!

    —————

    considering the invalid flailing and irrational name-calling on a drop of a hat and outright hatrid I’ve seen among IDiots vs. the outright surprise and pitying loathing and disgust I’ve seen among evolutionists, let’s just say I’m not surprised that the situation happened “this way” rather than “reversed”.

    Agreed.

    —————

    A three year sentence is very brief compared to a death, and constitutes both a rather weak deterrent and a scant protection.

    Hah. The only deterrent that works is a high chance of getting caught. If all murderers — not manslaughterers, murderers — thought that they would be caught, only religious and similar fanatics would be murderers anymore, and even they wouldn’t be serial murderers. In the real world, people think “yeah, if they get me I’ll get life in the slammer, but I have carefully planned the perfect crime, so they won’t get me (…and even if they get me, they won’t be able to prove anything)”.

  44. #44 Chris O'Neill
    December 14, 2007

    There aren’t that many creationist nutcases in Australia (at least nothing like the proportion in the US), so I was interested to see what sort of person the killer was. According to the report, the killer was an English backpacker, so at least the story doesn’t reflect on creationist influence on Australians.

  45. #45 Robin Levett
    December 14, 2007

    @Stogoe (#):

    I’ma go to Aussieland, get drunk as fuck, stab someone just to watch them die, and then cover up the crime. Three years seems like a pittance to put that on my CV.

    You’d be convicted of murder and sentenced to life – I don’t know what the tariff sentence would be in Oz.

    Doesn’t anybody read? He was acquitted of murder; that means that the jury (not the judge – he had to work with the verdict he got from the jury) decided that he intended neither to kill nor to do serious harm; and, since self-induced intoxication doesn’t negative mens rea, (ie isn’t a defence), it wasn’t his being drunk that led to the death.

    To find York not guilty of murder, the jury had to have believed that he struck out without thinking about the fact that the knife was in his hand and what damage it could do – and, the crucial point, that it wasn’t the drink that made him forget. So the judge was sentencing someone who swung a blow with no intent to kill or do serious harm, but that blow killed because of the knife. Argue with the verdict if you like, but for the crime of which he was convicted – punching someone, but that punch killed – with no previous, and a discount for a guilty plea (we don’t know whether he had offered a plea of guilty to the manslaughter charge, but given the facts I suspect he did), 5 years is probably not far off right.

  46. #46 Mr. Yoop (concern troll and wipy sap)
    December 14, 2007

    1) The death itself was accidental.
    2) The assailant tried to hide his actions.
    3) The assailant lied about his actions.

    I couldn’t find this in the article. Did I miss this or was this in another article?

    Such actions would certainly warrent a harsher sentence (although I accidently killed someone I might get scared enough to try something stupid like that.) Um, I’m not doubting your word or anything like that, but I you sure the lieing and hiding evidence is this case.

    1) The death itself was accidental.

    I wouldn’t call stabbing someone while “quite drunk” an accident. Although, I’d definately call it diminished capacity. I honestly don’t know if I feel 5 years is very light or kind of light. I’m not a big one for heavy sentences for unpremediated stuff, but then I’m kind of wimpy.

    I’m not seeing much here to imply creationist vs. evolution bias. Still, point of insane action and notable story is very valid.

  47. #47 Jeremy O'Wheel
    December 15, 2007

    I can’t believe how much misinformation and misunderstanding there is of the law in this topic. I’m going to go ahead and presume that the majority of people who have commented have never studied law and have no idea what they’re talking about. I certainly hope that’s the case, because I still have some faith in the legal system, and if people who know as little about what they’re talking about as the people in this topic are in the law profession or studying law, we’re in for some serious problems.

    First I wanted to say that jail isn’t the only way people are punished, and being released on parole does not mean you are “free” at all. There are all kinds of restrictions and rehabilitation and integration programs that ensure that people spend a lot more of their life dealing with their crime than just the jail time. Of course in many places these programs fail, and the criminals re-offend. However by using SCIENCE and applying it to the outcomes of particular sentencing, we’ve seen massive progress made around the world in sentencing. That’s one of the reasons why jail terms are trending towards being lighter than they used to be; because people have realised that sending people to jail is expensive and doesn’t achieve very much that is positive.

    Regarding the rape case mentioned a few posts ago; first it’s important to note that the sentence is being reviewed and appealed. It’s also important to note that 6 out of the 9 boys were also below the age of consent, so legally could not have agreed to have sex either, and at least 1 of the 3 who was above the age of consent is mentally handicapped, and may well be deemed legally unable to consent either. So we know that 7 and probably 8 out of the 10 people involved are in a position where if they had sex with an average adult, that adult could, and probably would, be charged with rape. In such a situation, what would a custodial sentence achieve? That was surely the question that the prosecution asked, and decided that it was the best interests of society and the people involved, if they weren’t sent to jail.

    As I said before, jail is only one way of punishing people, and all the people involved were still seriously punished. Just punished in a way that will hopefully mean they won’t commit the crimes again.

    This attitude that jail is the only acceptable punishment for crime, and anything else is just a slap on the wrist is a demonstration of ignorance of the legal system, and nothing else.

  48. #48 Don Quijote
    December 15, 2007

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK the USA is completely unique in electing its judges.

    Switzerland knows a similar system (no wonder after all the constitution of modern Switzerland was modelled on the US constitution). In some states in Switzerland judges are elected by popular vote (or the local parliament). In most cases the political parties do suggest a candidate. Surprisingly these elections are usually very dull and a system of voluntary proportional presentation is uphold.

  49. #49 tenebrous
    December 15, 2007

    Sorry guys but this minuscule sentence for murder is typical for our legal system. It has little to do with evolution vs fantasy but more to do with our weak sentencing provisions here in Australia.

  50. #50 Steven Carr
    December 15, 2007

    One good thing.

    With these violent scenes of murder, Ben Stein’s movie ‘Expelled’ will not be able to be shown in churches.

    What do you mean, this murder won’t be in the movie?

  51. #51 Robin Levett
    December 15, 2007

    @Tenebrous (#92):

    …this minuscule sentence for murder…

    It wasn’t a sentence for murder; did you have anything relevant to say?

  52. #52 Flaky
    December 15, 2007

    There’s too many post on this thread all ready and everything I’m about to write have pretty much been covered, so I doubt that anyone will read this. Regardless, I have to say to PZ that I didn’t intend to debase the gravity of a mans death, instead I was merely commenting on PZ’s claim that creationists are “violent, murderous bastards” as well as Greg Laden’s “Stabbing an evolutionist to death, in Australia, is not considered a serious offense if you are a person of good character.”

    Reading the linked article I cannot even make the judgement that Boa was murdered by York. The five year sentence, with parole in 3, that was probably quite reasonable, if York doesn’t have a history of crime, considering that the killing might have been, at least in part, accidental. Three years in a prison isn’t exactly a picnic and York will probably have a hard time getting a job afterwards, not to mention that he’ll have to live with the fact that he stabbed a man to death on his conscience for the rest of his life. These are things that the judge had to consider. York certainly didn’t get away with murder, as many seem to imply.

  53. #53 Drake
    December 15, 2007

    In all fairness to York, science can be very disconcerting.

  54. #54 Karen
    December 15, 2007

    As I mentioned earlier, and mothra made available in super-obvious bulleted form, this guy both lied about and tried to cover up evidence of his involvment. These were the articles I had found earlier:
    http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=3301974
    http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/ViewArticle.aspx?articleid=3303113

    These are two separate witnesses (not the drunk evilutionist girlfriend) that testified to the jury. As I said before, I sure would like to see the transcripts.

    I’m not sure that those facts were taken into account at sentencing, but they certainly were when the jury decided that this was manslaughter.

  55. #55 stitches
    December 15, 2007

    Where’s the outrage? The average US sentence for murdering your wife is three to six years…and the assailant/murderer doesn’t need to be “of good character.”

  56. #56 tenebrous
    December 16, 2007

    Robin Levitt

    Perhaps you’d care to elaborate on how my post was irrelevant to the topic here instead of just making a blithe dismissal.

    They argued, York came back with a knife and somehow Boa got stabbed and died. Perhaps Murder was too strong a term on my part but sentence was still too light.

  57. #57 Michael Murray
    December 16, 2007

    The judges sentencing report is here

    http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/scjudgments/2007nswsc.nsf/6ccf7431c546464bca2570e6001a45d2/0173144ca9641164ca2573b000798f6a?OpenDocument

    It is interesting how keen people are to believe media sources they wouldn’t normally trust when the report accords with their prejudices. It didn’t take much effort to find the court report above — I think I googled york and the name of the judge.

    By the way Australian judges are not elected.

    Michael

  58. #58 Robin Levett
    December 16, 2007

    @Tenebrous(#99):

    Perhaps you’d care to elaborate on how my post was irrelevant to the topic here instead of just making a blithe dismissal.

    Given that your entire post was that the sentence was a miniscule one for murder, it required little analysis. If you want to know what my views are, look at the rest of the thread. You may find my comments more easily if you spell my name correctly.

    They argued, York came back with a knife and somehow Boa got stabbed and died.

    You might want to start by finding out what happened, rather than guessing. York did not “c[o]me back with a knife”.

    Even so, on the facts as you have stated them, the appropriate outcome could be anything between an outright acquittal of any crime and a life sentence with a long tariff for murder.

    Read the sentencing report referred to in comment #100, think about it, and then come back with an argument as to why the sentence was too short.

  59. #59 Jason Failes
    December 17, 2007

    Fentwin #7 wrote:
    “Argumentum ad Homicide?”

    This meme needs to spread in the (often historical, but sadly also often contemporary) context of the highly religious/superstitous backing up their arguments, not with logic and reason, but with intimidation, violence, torture, and murder.

    That said, one comment on the heated debate here: Whatever one’s preconceptions, there seems to be an all-around call for greater details of the case. In other words, we unanimously want more facts, even when those facts may mean one’s own previous comments and speculations being proven wrong.

    That call for facts, and the willingness to change beliefs and opinions based on new facts, seperates all of us here from the creationists. (Not to mention the ability to hold a heated online debate for days without resorting to death threats)

  60. #60 NJ Salcedo
    December 19, 2007

    Today I open the door of my house in Peru, walked to the fence, and two guys pretending to be neighbors tried to give me an Atalaya pamphlet. I asked them what do they think about evolution, and after 10 minutes of anoying “conversation”, I told them that I respect their believes and I just expect them to respect mine. Now I think I am glad I didn’t open the fence… They used to say they have important news to share, now they use a decoy: “we have some information for you about from the neighborhood association” liers, liers.

    I was born and raised in Peru and I learned about evolution early in my life. In 26 years I had never heard anything such as creationism or ID there, and although I have not heard these words around yet it is hard to believe there are people that go to school and still have the nerve to say that we are god’s creation. Is the whole world going backwards now?

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