When Is Murder Manslaughter?

Apparently deliberately stabbing a man in the heart with a carving knife does not require murderous intent. Well, that is what a jury in New Zealand decided recently.

Nothing says “you only wanted to somehow shake your deeply depressed husband out of his funk and make him realise just how ‘desperate’ your lives had become” like stabbing him in the heart with a carving knife.

The case of Lucille Scollay seems relatively straightforward. The “seems relatively” in the last sentence should be removed, it is straightforward. As Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh said, “After spending a night out drinking with Greg Van Dyk, whom she’d become close to, she walked up the long drive to the house and decided to kill her husband. She took him by the shoulder as he lay sleeping on his side, rolled him on to his back and straddled him, brought the knife up and stabbed him in the chest, a deep wound that penetrated his heart.”

Lucille admitted stabbing her husband, Guy Scollay, as he slept. Lucille told police she had decided to stab Guy while walking home. Her defence lawyer denied Lucille had murderous intent that night. “It was not a wilful, deliberate act,” he contested, “and her immediate horror afterwards bore that out.” Further, “No punishment the court imposes could make up for what her, and her family, has lost,” he said.

Murderous intent—how do you determine that someone has murderous intent? Well, you could ask them, but the problem is that the guilty will often say the same things as the innocent. The best way to determine murderous intent is to look at their actions.

There are some things that all people know will kill another human being. Cutting their throat, stabbing them in the heart, and shooting them in the head come to mind. Knowing this, those are the sort of actions you do not take if your intent is to highlight the problems in your relationship. If instead your intent is to kill another human being, you do take those actions.

“… her immediate horror afterwards” says nothing about intent. As I said above, the guilty will often say the same things as the innocent. Also, the guilty will often act like the innocent. Murderers can be horrified by their actions; not all murderers are psychopaths or sociopaths. Killing another human being is a revelatory experience; some people are horrified by what they have done and others aren’t. Being horrified does not make you innocent of premeditation or make it a less deliberate act.

“No punishment the court imposes could make up for what her, and her family, has lost.” The bullshit is strong with this one. Her family did not lose anyone, she killed Guy, Guy’s family is suffering, she is responsible for his family’s suffering. Because she is responsible, she should be punished—not to make up for what she has done but because she deserves punishment. There is a reason the word “reparations” is in the English language; it is because true justice should have both punishment and reparations. The criminal should be punished, and the victims should have reparations. Her lawyer portrayed her as a victim of her own crime—maybe she is—but that should not change the fact that she is also the perpetrator of the crime and should be punished. Her reparations as a “victim” should not be to get off a murder charge, it should not be for a reduced sentence. She should get counselling if she is a victim, but criminals should not profit from their crimes, even if their crimes make them a victim.

I do not understand why the jury decided she was not guilty of murder. I do not get it. The facts show she planned and executed a wilful and deliberate act that she knew would end in her husband’s death. The judge who sentenced her to six years for the manslaughter said, “It was implicitly an act of dangerous violence, involving a lethal weapon.” And, “It is inescapable that you meant Mr Scollay serious harm, he being the source of your great unhappiness.” In other words, the judge who sentenced her, who could not find her guilty (as that was the jury’s decision, not his), knew that she had premeditation. He knew that she intended to kill Guy Scollay, and yet when manslaughter has a maximum sentence of life in prison, he gives her six years. She could be out on parole in two. Even the judge values her life more than Guy’s death.

When is murder manslaughter? When the helpless victim is a male and the perpetrator is a woman who is portrayed as a victim of an unhappy marriage.

What do you think, AVfM Nation? Why do you think she was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder? Or are you as perplexed as I am?




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