Discussion 1 to Meditation 1051
Letting Crazed Killers Go Free
by: Paul Sharkey
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Though “pastor” Clark will probably never see the inside of a court room, let alone a prison, he is, in my view, just as guilty -- legally guilty -- of the deaths of these children as their parents.
This is unfortunately not an isolated case. I once had the privilege of being a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to represent children in court when they had been removed from their parent’s custody because of abuse or neglect. One always hopes that it will be possible to reunite families -- that parents will learn to change their ways. Sometimes, however, this is simply not possible. Some parents just never learn -- or don’t want to. Some just flat out refuse. This is unfortunately especially true when the abuse or neglect is based upon some “religious” view or doctrine they have adopted and even more especially true when those views are taught by some charismatic leader and reinforced by a “community.” In my view, not only the parents but also those responsible for preaching such views should be held legally accountable for any harm that comes to a child as a result. Extreme?
Consider the case of Charles Manson -- convicted on seven counts of murder in California.1 At his trial, there was never a claim made that he had actually participated in carrying out any of the murders himself. He was convicted on the principle of shared or joint responsibility and as a co-conspirator was found as guilty of those murders as those who had actually committed them. His “participation” consisted of preaching to his followers to carry them out based upon his delusional2 world view which has come to be known as “Helter Skelter.”3
“Pastor” Nelson Clark is no different than Charles Manson. Nor is he any more remorseful. Even after the death of the Schaible’s second child, Clark has continued to teach and maintain that “trust in medicine and doctors is idolatry,” that “only true faith in the divine power of God heals,” and that Mr. Schaibles “knows he has to obey God rather than man.” Of course, the man who is claiming to speak for God is none other than Nelson Clark.
At least one attorney commenting on the Schaible’s case is reputed to have said he isn’t sure that courts have the means to prevent these kinds of problems because “such people don’t fear legal punishment, only judgment day.” But legal punishment isn’t the only reason we send people to prison. We also send them there to remove them from society and to prevent them from further inflicting their harm on others.
According to news reports, the Schaibles will return to court on July 3rd to be arraigned on charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and conspiracy. Why, may I ask, is Nelson Clark not also being arraigned on the same charges? What material difference is there between his participation in and culpability for the deaths of these (and other) children and that of Charles Manson for the deaths for which he was convicted?
We are told that Clark and his attorney are claiming that the Schaibles are being religiously persecuted. But pray tell what is the material legal difference between the delusional belief system promoted by Charles Manson that lead his followers to cause the deaths of their victims and the delusional belief system of Nelson Clark and his followers which has resulted in the deaths of perhaps over a dozen children -- and at the very least, the Schaible‘s two sons? If the Schaibles can be arraigned on charges of murder and conspiracy, then why not Clark? He was and is the central and lead figure of the conspiracy. If the Schiables can be held criminally liable, then why not Clark?
I do not believe people should be punished for their beliefs. I do, however, believe that they are responsible for the consequences of those beliefs if acted upon. If those consequences are tantamount to a criminal act, then they should be held criminally liable. Claiming ”persecution,” religious or otherwise, is no defense whether you are Charles Manson, the Schaibles or Nelson Clark.
It is with my sincere hope and earnest urging that I call upon Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to charge and hold Nelson Clark as responsible for the deaths of these children as their parents. Anything less is like letting Charles Manson go free.4
- The Trial of Charles Manson
- I do not use the term “delusional” here as a mere pejorative but rather as a technically descriptive term -- “a persistent belief or belief system held in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” Not all delusions are necessarily harmful, still less criminal. However, when such beliefs become a proximate cause for potential harm to oneself or others, then the law not only allows but requires that such individuals be taken into custody for such time as they pose such a threat.
- Mental Health Professionals’ Duty to Protect/Warn
3.Helter Skelter (Manson scenario)
4. Serial killer Charles Manson refused parole, again
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