Friday, March 20, 2009

Josef Fritzl Sentenced to Life

CNN reports on the sentencing of Josef Fritzl.

It was the maximum sentence for the most serious charge Fritzl faced: one count of murder, for allowing one of the babies he fathered with his daughter to die shortly after birth.

The eight-member jury returned a unanimous verdict on all counts. Fritzl, dressed in a gray suit, blue shirt and dark tie, stared blankly ahead and showed no emotion as the jury delivered its verdict.

The 73-year-old had pleaded guilty to all charges on Wednesday, but Austrian law requires a jury to return a verdict as well.

Fritzl will soon be moved to a detention facility for mentally abnormal offenders, where psychiatrists will evaluate him and decide on therapy. Until then, he will remain in a two-person cell in St. Poelten.

"Mentally abnormal" is right, but does this mean he's in effect sentenced to the psychiatric hospital? Do we do this in the States too, sentence people to the hospital?

One thing that stands out in this case is the speedy resolution they achieve in Austria. A high profile case in America takes longer, am I right?

I'm still curious about the wife and other relatives and friends. Not much has been written to explain their complicity except that he was an archetypical patriarch who invited no debate. Does that explain it to you? What do you think?

Under Austrian law, he'll be eligible for parole in 15 years at age 88. Does that sound right to you? Or, do you think it'll be like Charles Manson, whose picture we saw recently. Even though they are eligible, no parole board in the world would grant it, which makes it the same as life without the possibility of parole. What do you think?


  1. Mike,

    Does it sound right that he will be eligible for parole in 15 years? Heck No, not even if he is 88. I think it sends an absolute horrible message to killers...a life sentence can be as short as 15 years.

    Manson doesn't get parole because he is unrepentant of his acts. Killers as bad or worse then him have been paroled....usually to kill again.

    Now, I have a question. I don't mean to sound flippant, that isn't my intention but I can't think of any way to phrase it that it doesn't. Please keep that in mind, this is a serious question.

    Some of these people you judge to be "mentally abnormal" and seek to have them get help to regain their sanity, right? You've stated that you could see them being sentenced to life in a psychiatric hospital. That was the preface, now for the question.

    Why? Why do you want these people, who are sentenced to life to get help to regain their sanity?

    What difference does it make if they are never going to get out of their confinement?

    I'm not talking about the all out insane person who doesn't know right from wrong. I'm talking about the people like Fritzl, who functioned in society for decades, whose "mental abnormality" isn't completely separating them from society. If he knows what he did was wrong, what purpose does treatment serve?

  2. Bob, I've never suggested that we should be soft on criminals or lenient on killers. I say we should consider their circumstances and any mitigating factors. To determine the mental incapacity, as you once pointed out to me, I'm no psychiatrist, but what I say is people suffering from schizophrenia or clinical depression need to be hospitalized and treated for those diseases not locked up in a cell. That doesn't mean they get out in a year or so after committing murder. I never said that. What I do say is society needs to be protected from them and they need to be treated humanely.

  3. Mike,

    Are you saying that prisoners in the Department of Corrections aren't being treated humanely?

    What I do say is society needs to be protected from them and they need to be treated humanely.

    Sorry but I'm having a hard time buying that. The prisoners are treated humanely, are treated with dignity, are provided with opportunities for counseling, group and individual, are provided with opportunities to learn.

    That doesn't mean they get out in a year or so after committing murder. I never said that.

    You may have never said that, but that is what can and does happen when people are committed to psychiatric care instead of prison.
    It is against the law for the most part to hold someone in a mental institution after the doctors pronounce them cured. So, regardless of what you say --what you advocate would have that affect.

    I say we should consider their circumstances and any mitigating factors.

    And that happens during the guilty/innocent phase of the trial and during the sentencing phase...don't you ever watch Law & Order?

    Those factors are already a consideration...sometimes unfairly in my humble opinion.

    2 people are walking down the street, both pull out guns and kill 1 person each. Both grew up in the same city, same income level, same education, same church etc....only difference is one had a father that beat him/her occasionally.

    Are you saying the one with child abuse should get a lighter sentence?
    Be sentence to a mental institution but for the exact same act the other goes to jail?

    Now, to get back to the question you didn't answer.

    You agree that Fritzl should be locked away for life, right?

    My question is what is the point of treatment? He isn't and shouldn't be released when or if he is ever "cured".

    So, why expend the money, energy, effort, time to get mental treatment for people who should never be released back into society?

  4. Bob, You're right, they do sometimes get out in a year of so when committed to psychiatric treatment. But that's as much a breakdown of the system as overly harsh sentencing is. It's not black and white, there's a big gray area where guilt and punishment is concerned.

  5. Mike,

    How about answering the question.

    If the people are to be sentenced to life imprisonment, either in a prison or a mental institution; what difference does it make if they get treatment?

    What good comes of treating people for the mental illnesses they may have?

  6. Mike,

    Having trouble answering the question?

    I'm surprised that you can't articulate your reasoning.

    I once took a philosophy class in college, the professor was great- he allowed any argument, any point to be made or discussed in class.

    There was only one catch; you had to be able to defend that position with more then "I said so" type of argument or "That is what I think".

    His belief was that you didn't have a position, didn't have a real opinion until you could defend it with more then those types of arguments.

    I'm trying to understand the purpose of treating everyone with any abnormality while they are looked away.

    The vast majority of people have some form of mental abnormality and most, the vast majority are functioning adults.

    The legal definition of insanity is the inability to know right from wrong (paraphrased and boiled down). Do you think the vast majority of criminals, even the horrendous cases meet that definition?

    If someone is going to be locked away forever because they can't be trusted in society, isn't it cruel to treat make them realize the depths of their horrendous crime?

    I'm wondering why you won't or can't answer this question.

  7. Sorry Bob, I've been meaning to get back to this one.

    I say prisoners should be treated humanely. That means when they suffer from an ailment, whether it's physical or mental, they should be treated for it like anyone else. In many cases that doesn't need to have as it's end result making them whole and fit for society but rather just giving them the medicines they need to live their lives in prison.

  8. Mike,

    I can understand that to a degree.

    Where do we draw the line?

    Someone in prison, sentenced to life in prison, has a bad heart.

    (This is taken from a true life story that I read. I'll try to find the link...not sure if it was heart or lung or liver....but the idea remains.)

    Should the tax payers, you and I, have to pay for a heart transplant operation?