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Frankenstein's monster must answer for his crimes

Published October 30, 2013 9:05 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Note: This is the second post in a two-part series in which Tribune reporters Michael McFall and Jim Dalrymple II debate the mental competency of Frankenstein's monster. McFall's post argued that the monster is incompetent and shouldn't stand trial. Dalrymple's rebuttal is below. For a list of the monster's crimes, read McFall's rap sheet from earlier this week.

Frankenstein's monster must answer for his crimes.

He is competent. He is capable of understanding. And it would be an utter miscarriage of justice to let this monster — and I used that term intentionally despite the protestations of my esteemed colleague Mr. McFall — escape penalty for the most heinous act known to mankind, namely murder.

Mr. McFall argues first this monster, or "defendant" as he prefers to be called, is incompetent because his brain was, at one time in the past, dead.

Truly this is an unusual circumstance — though perhaps less unusual than it may immediately seem. After all, how many people have technically died, then been revived by doctors? In fact this is not uncommon at all; should therefore all individuals who have been, through the miracle of modern science, suddenly spared from death be immune from prosecution?

I think not! Life and death is not a spectrum. If you are alive, you are constrained by the law. And clearly, as Baron Frankenstein unequivocally attested, "It's alive!"

Mr. McFall also argues that the monster's brain was transplanted into his cranium, in the midst of great trauma, which should for some reason exempt him from prosecution. But this is, essentially, a transplant operation — albeit one more advanced than our current technology allows us to perform.

Does my esteemed colleague Mr. McFall mean to suggest that all transplant recipients are somehow less than human? Or that the strictures of civil society somehow do not apply to those who have received transplants?

I shudder to think! A brain must answer for its crimes, irrespective of the cranium in which it resides and the duration of that residency.

As for the trauma of the transplant — which included, apparently, one or more lightning strikes — that is sad indeed. But what criminal is not also a victim? To excuse horrific crimes because the perpetrator has suffered past injustices would be to invalidate the entirety of our criminal justice system.

As to the monster's rational understanding, it is clear that he possesses it in spades. First, when he callously tosses the young Maria into the lake, he is immediately distraught. And then he flees.

From these actions, we know that the monster knew his actions were wrong. Moreover he clearly anticipated negative repercussions and took steps to avoid those repercussions. He attempted to disassociate himself from the crime.

These are not the actions of a beast or a witless victim. They are the actions of a bloodthirsty killer who knew exactly what he had done.

If there were any doubt, the monster's next decision is even more telling: he shows up at the Frankenstein castle. Are we supposed to believe that by chance he wandered from a distant windmill to young Maria's home and then finally, after only a short time, randomly ended up at the home of his creator? And at a time when, due to Dr. Frankenstein's wedding, the home was presumably under intense scrutiny?

No such string of coincidences is even remotely plausible.

I offer an alternative explanation: this monster came seeking revenge against his creator. His actions were calculated. Premeditated. Evil.

Clearly, he understood exactly what he was doing.

Finally, my esteemed colleague points out, rightly, that the defendant struggles with speech. Again, this is unfortunate. But the monster clearly understands speech. Consider, for example, when Dr. Frankenstein asks the monster to sit in a chair. The monster complies. Later, young Maria — before her brutal murder — also speaks calmly to the monster, and he responds with apparent understanding.

These moments are unique because they are among the few times anyone actually bothers speaking, calmly and with the hope of actual communication, to the defendant. It is unfortunate that future communications were mostly limited to screaming and waving of burning torches, but clearly the defendant has the capacity to communicate with others — including his attorneys.

Indeed, the monster may be said to have a very severe speech impediment, but that is hardly grounds for letting him escape justice. If there are any lingering concerns, I'm sure a speech specialist can be contracted to facilitate better communication between the defendant and his counsel.

Our legal code is clear as to what defines competency: an understanding of the alleged crimes and the ability to communicate with an attorney. This defendant handily meets both of those requirements and the question of his guilt or innocence absolutely must go to a jury.

The life of this defendant, this monster, this man, was tragic, to be sure. But our justice system does not exist to give a pass to those who have difficult lives. Nay, it exists to hold monsters of all kinds accountable for their atrocities.

We must try Frankenstein's monster.

— Jim Dalrymple II






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