One of the side issues being raised by the Andrea Yates re-trial involves the concept of ‘depravity’. What makes a crime ‘depraved’? Are the circumstances of crime ‘A’ more or less depraved than the circumstances of crime ‘B’? Why?

Sounds kind of obvious, but nothing in law is ever obvious.

Establishing a ‘reasonable man’ threshold for depravity is going to have to happen. There are too many sentencing guidelines throughout the United States that utilize ‘depravity’ as a modifier to sentencing, without actually telling those folks doing the sentencing what depravity is.

Sooner or later, some critter (or his lawyer) is going to get his nose out of joint because he caught extra legal smackdown due to the jury deciding his crime was ‘depraved’, while the critter two cellblocks over who pulled the exact same crime got standard sentencing because his jury had a higher ‘depravity’ tolerance.

He’ll sue, and the definition of ‘depravity’ will wind up being defined by nine folks in black robes who haven’t exactly thrilled me with their assessment of legal issues.

Kelo v. New London, anyone?


One of the mental health care professionals who was involved in the Andrea Yates case is attempting to determine some kind of threshold for what society defines as ‘depraved’ by using real people, rather than judges and lawyers.

I don’t know what will come of his attempt. I do know that gifting him with five minutes of your time and your answers to some questions is — considering the scope and seriousness of what he’s attempting — cheap.

I’d take it kindly if some of my readers would consider popping over to his web-site and giving the man a hand.

Can’t hurt. Might help.


Spice weasels
Brainwash, rinse, repeat.

6 thoughts on “Depravity”

  1. Hello LawDog,

    I’m one of the LE fringe, Firearms Lab, guys that likes to peruse your blog on a regular basis. I enjoy your take on things, and absolutely love your childhood flashbacks.

    I’m heading over to that website on depravity, to give a little time, but it brought to mind a question I’ve discussed with my fellow lab rats, and that I’d love to hear your opinion on. To whit, at what point in a person’s life, do they decrease in value?

    For example, a female victim, sexually assaulted, beaten, and left for dead, maybe even actually dead. People are upset, angry even, they want something done about it, the man should be caught, and brought to justice. Now, tell those same people, that the female victim was a child, and the outrage meter goes off the scale. The concept of justice, now goes from standing in front of a judge and jury, to a bloody, broken body, swinging from a tree.

    So, at what point, age-wise, does a person, or their life, decrease in value. At what point do they go from an outrageous crime against God and man, to another unfortunate example of what the world has become?

    Yeah, yeah, I know, wonderful fluffy thoughts to leave you with, but a question I’d love to know the answer to.

    Screw it, time for a beer.


  2. I can’t believe that nitwit got off because she was “insane”. I don’t care!! All the more reason to rub her in McCormick’s Spices from a spice weasel, and fry her butt! I am so sick and tired of murderers playing “poor me, I’m the victim”, and getting off with no punishment.

  3. Interesting surveys. I took the C and then the B part, and I think I got a better idea on what I’d consider depraved (though I still don’t have what I’d consider a tight definition that could, for instance, separate what’s depraved from what’s merely vicious or mentally sick.)

  4. The test is interesting and will, I suspect lead to a very interesting paper. The difficulty will be getting the legal system and the public to accept a standard set of descriptors for depravity.
    The Lab guy commentor who wonders about age as a factor of individual value has a point, but in the case of children the outrage is not about value but is more about taking away of future value and opportunity.

  5. I question whether the concept of “depravity” is even valid.

    Crimes that are worse than “normal” because the perpetrator has an abnormal disregard for life (i.e. is depraved) should be more harshly punished because the actions themselves were more evil, not because the perp has a “more evil” state of mind.

  6. depravity is irrelevant.

    if there is malice, alone, ie the crime is intentional.. that’s ENOUGH.

    the harm, the intent, is adequate for punishment.

    now WHAT punishment? if the crime is capital, death.

    i don’t want any murderers or home invaders or carjackers or child rapists alive.

    if you do, let em live with you.

    depraved? who cares? kill them who flunk human 101. it doesn’t matter how BADLY they flunk. we can assimilate em into society or we can’t. it’s not terribly difficult to find out who will and who won’t change, just look at the track records.

    12 felony arrests, 3 violent crimes, one capital crime.. ? kill em.

    mentally unstable, killed 5 kids? kill em.

    argue depraved if you please. society needs the ones who flunk human 101 dead. society needs 0 people serving life sentences.

    either kill em or reform em.

    i’m certainly willing to reform ANY of em. once.

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