Hmmmm. I always have a hard time in situations like this separating out rational and emotional reactions.
1. What a horrible thing to do, what a monster, she should be punished, etc
2. what a horrible thing to do, something terrible must be wrong with her, she needs help and why couldn’t somebody have prevented this by seeing it, etc
1. The media loves to parade rare but horrific events like this, but do we really want to base criminal justice policy on outliers?
2. Evil seems to be inevitable, so we shouldn’t expect to have a system perfect enough to prevent it 100% of the time
3. Perhaps a better mental health, social support system would reduce the indicdence of such events?
4. Perhaps a stronger deterrant system reliably carried out would reduce the incidence of such events?
FWIW, I’m opposed to the death penalty, but not on the usual grounds. Though pretty far to the left generally, I don’t think it morally unjustifiable for the state to take life if it can be demonstrated empirically that it is an effective deterrant and reduces suffering on balance. I happen to think this isn’t true since I think most of what it is used for are actions that don’t involve rational consideration of the consequences and for which deterrance is unlikely to be useful. And, of course, there are lots of good arguments against it on pragmatic grounds (it’s generally applied unfairly to people of color, it is irrevocable even if we;ve got the wrong person, etc).
I know what Stephan takes away from this as a “lesson,” to the extent it is anything other than a meaningnless tragedy, and I know we aren’t going to agree on that “lesson.” But I wonder if there really is anything to be learned here, or if it is just enough to empathize with the suffering of the human beings involved and leave it at that? That, at least, is my tendancy, especially since I think too much policy-making is done on the basis of emotional reactions to unrepresentative events, but what do others here think?