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Murderer With "Aggression Genes" Gets Reduced Sentence

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the blame-it-on-genetics dept.

News 507

Noiser writes "New Scientist reports: 'In 2007, Abdelmalek Bayout admitted to stabbing and killing a man and received a sentence of 9 years and 2 months. An appeal court judge in Trieste, Italy, cut Bayout's sentence by a year after finding out he has gene variants linked to aggression.'"

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MAFIA RULEZ !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979174)

I want me one of those genes !!

The Stink of Wet Panties (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979486)

The stink of wet panties.

Whoa (4, Funny)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979194)

Maybe I wouldn't have lost my job if I could have proven I have a laziness gene.

Re:Whoa (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979468)

I tried doing that once, but it was too hard and I was up late the night before.

Re:Whoa (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979720)

Maybe I wouldn't have lost my job if I could have proven I have a laziness gene.

I think some should go for Slashdot. Some of us have the Troll/Flamebait gene and just can't help trashing Apple users, Windows users, and calling Linux users commie bastards - even though we ourselves may be big time Linux fans (writing this on my Ubuntu 9.1 which is working like a charm.)

Which means, I walk around all day saying, "I'm a Linux commie bastard!" repeatedly. Maybe, I'll get hauled away and get to be put on Social Security disability and never have to work again?

Re:Whoa (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979958)

I was gonna try that but it was to much work just trying to figure out who to call.

Gattaca (1)

Bardez (915334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980012)

No, officer, it couldn't have been me; there's not a violent bone in my body (paraphrased).

Where's the... (5, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979210)

... personal responsibility? Controlling our behaviour is one of the things that differentiates us from animals.

Re:Where's the... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979362)

Well, the dude WAS from Africa.

Re:Where's the... (1, Insightful)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979424)

not at all. Organizing our behaviors is what differentiates us. We can organize good or evil with astonishing effectiveness. Look up genocide some time. Nobody controls their behavior any more than animals. In order to fit in we have to behave as though we want to fit in, it's simple feedback. Simple animal feedback. Communication and symbolism are the only things we really have going for us.

Re:Where's the... (1, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979444)

Is personal responsibility compatible with atheism? Before you break out the troll mods, I ask this in seriousness. If we are nothing more than a chemical being, then where does personal responsibility come into play? I am the raw computer I was born with, influenced by external factors beyond my control. I would never blame a computer for a programmer's error. How do we blame a person for its hardware and programming?

Re:Where's the... (5, Insightful)

CecilPL (1258010) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979522)

Yes. I hold both these beliefs. The justice system is not about blame, it's about keeping criminals safe from society and (in my mind) rehabilitating them.

You would never blame a computer for a programmer's error, but you would try to fix the bugs, and if there was a dangerous bug you couldn't fix you wouldn't use that computer.

Re:Where's the... (1)

CecilPL (1258010) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979554)

And before someone else points it out, yes I meant "keeping society safe from criminals". First cup of coffee, yadda yadda.

Re:Where's the... (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979918)

Doesn't that make the punitive aspects of the prison system (which have not been demonstrated to serve any rehabilitative goal) unconscionable?

Re:Where's the... (0, Flamebait)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979542)

Let me also respond to my own post: Is personal responsibility compatible with religion. If, after all, a god created me who is omniscient and omnipotent, where is there any room for free will, and consequently personal responsibility?

There. I've offended everyone. Mod away.

Re:Where's the... (5, Interesting)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979546)

Is personal responsibility compatible with atheism? Before you break out the troll mods, I ask this in seriousness. If we are nothing more than a chemical being, then where does personal responsibility come into play?

How is this train of thought any different for a theist? "If God's creations, enacting his will, then where does personal responsibility come into play?"

But if you go down that 'lack of free will' route, then crime was predestined, this subsequent capture was predestined, the judge was predestined to set that particular sentence too, and everything about the whole world is basically pointless.

So it's best to assume free will exists for practical purposes. Save the metaphysics for those insomniac nights (or take a philosophy degree).

Re:Where's the... (4, Insightful)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979616)

Is personal responsibility compatible with atheism?

Maybe not. That's not just an atheistic question though - it goes right to the basis of free will.

However, we can accept for the sake of argument that we're all just clockwork beings with no more control of our destiny than a computer program. My programming is telling me that if I am going to continue to achieve my primary objectives (shorthanded as "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness"), then dangers to those primary objects (including violent criminals) must be neutralized. This guy's genes may be an excuse, and an explanation for his actions. However, that certainly doesn't make him any less dangerous.

The only way I'd want him to get less time on the basis of his "aggressive genes" is if he were to undergo a chemical or genetic treatment that reduces the effects of those genes.

Re:Where's the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979780)

That's a good question.

On an unrelated note, the day the first legal document is signed saying that "people shall not be punished because they are not in control of their actions", I will show up on the door of the proposer with a chainsaw.

Re:Where's the... (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979880)

When it really gets down to it, the question becomes irrelevant. At the end of the day, you have an individual that is a danger to the rest of society. Whether or not the murderer was 'responsible' for his actions is a debate for the philosophers -- we can only hope to do what we can to make sure that this person in question is unable to harm others again, either by keeping them away from society or rehabilitating them to the point where they will no longer pose a threat to society at large. In this respect, I would find a gene that makes individuals predisposed to violent behavior more of an argument in favor of their life imprisonment than a mitigating factor.

As for the philosophical aspect of your query -- I am assuming that you are coming at this from a theistic perspective. I would counter your argument with the same -- if God made every person exactly as he saw fit and everything is in God's plan, how can any human ever be responsible for their own actions? The theistic world view is far more deterministic than the atheistic one. Furthermore, I don't feel that our being simply chemical beings equates to us being 'programmed'. Our brains have evolved to be incredibly plastic organs - they can be rewired and reshaped very easily. Our brains have also evolved the ability to create a separate internal dialog, invoking reflection on past actions and visualization of future actions, to make better decisions in the future. Our brains DO have a sort of inherent dualism in the way they process information, but this does not necessitate anything beyond the chemical! All of these dualism we see, as well as free will is simply a result of parallel processes running in the brain and subtly affecting each other.

To sum it all up -- personal responsibility is absolutely not incompatible with atheism, and even if it didn't exist at all it would not absolve murderers of their crimes.

Re:Where's the... (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979974)

Criminal sentences are NOT about revenge. Or at least they aren't supposed to be in theory. They are about:
Rehabilitation - Attempting to train/teach the criminal the error in his thinking enabling him/her to avoid it in the future. Allowing him/her to return to be a productive member of society safely.
Deterrence - Sort of a preemptive rehabilitation, it is a punishment to deter criminals from doing it or from repeating it.
Separation - Often hard prison time is advocated over weekends or probation. This is to keep the criminal separated from 2 things. 1 - society, the con could be a danger to people around him and it makes sense to keep him/her in prison until that has been determined. 2 - all his/her friends. Getting away from bad influences is essential while learning what you did wrong.

If you look at the reasoning behind the justice system there is no reason to give this man a lessened sentence. So why?
Often in the justice system they have forgotten their directive and do things that seem natural rather than try to work towards a directive. This is often easier to illustrate in the school system. There are many times where you are learning something because you will need it for a higher grade but the whole arc is self serving and will never leave the classroom. This is because they have forgotten to keep the goal in sight. Dropped the ball if you will. And the prison/justice system is no different.

Re:Where's the... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980052)

Is personal responsibility compatible with atheism?

Is personal responsibility compatible with religion? If everything is controlled by an omnipotent, omniscient Being, then where does personal responsibility come into play? Everything happens according to God's plan. How do we blame a person for following Someone else's plan?

Re:Where's the... (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980062)

If we are nothing more than a chemical being, then where does personal responsibility come into play?

Free Will gene. Nestled between the Must Have Sex gene and the Must Listen to Wife gene. It's all there in the genome if you just take the time to look.

Re:Where's the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979558)

Appealing to "personal responsibility" is fun, and always a good rhetorical strategy; but what are you going to do if research demonstrates that it doesn't work the way you think it ought to?

There is substantial evidence in animals(differences in temperament between dog breeds, for instance) of heritable differences in personality, aggression, etc. There is no particular reason to suspect that humans are exempt from this, and research continues in the matter. The idea that humans are blank slates, with free moral agency, is simply empirically bankrupt. It would be very handy if it weren't; but "handy" and "true" just aren't the same thing.

That said, I think that the judge in this case made precisely the wrong decision. Murderers with a genetic predisposition to violence seem more dangerous than those without, and more worthy of being locked up for longer.(It is also possible, of course, that the judge is being fed a line by some "expert" hired by the defence, or some pop evolutionary psychology book he read, so the genetic evidence may or may not actually say what he thinks it does).

Re:Where's the... (3, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979606)

Controlling our behaviour is one of the things that differentiates us from animals.

Says who?

By the way, you may be surprised to learn that humans are animals. We're apes, more specifically.

Re:Where's the... (4, Funny)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979936)

Controlling our behaviour is one of the things that differentiates us from animals.

Says who?

By the way, you may be surprised to learn that humans are animals. We're apes, more specifically.

Get your logic away from me you damned dirty ape!

Re:Where's the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979634)

Exactly. Even if he can't control whether he gets feelings of aggression, he can certainly control whether those feelings put him at risk to others (by e.g. getting psychiatric help and avoiding situations where he's likely to want to hurt someone -- not to mention the decision of whether to strike someone). Society should expect nothing less.

If I had noticed that I were more predisposed to violence, I would take measures to prevent myself from attacking others. I know because I have -- turned myself into a mental health clinic long ago when the only thing stopping me from suicide was a feeling of vengeance.

But I guess what you're supposed to do these days is wait until you actually hurt someone and then get a pity party.

Re:Where's the... (2, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979670)

Personal responsibility is a pure fiction in a deterministic universe.
Everything that will ever happen was decided at the time of the Big Bang.
We just don't have the instruments to predict everything yet.

As our instruments get better, we will get better at understanding and predicting human behavior.
It is already clear that we are all products of our genetics and our environment.

If we're smart, we'll realize that protecting society from dangerous people is more important than crying about who has what gene, etc.

If we're smart, we'll execute murderers not for punitive reasons, but simply as a solution to a problem.

Re:Where's the... (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979814)

Personal responsibility is a pure fiction in a deterministic universe.

Except that quantum mechanics implies that we are not in a deterministic universe. Replay the same actions twice and you won't necessarily get the same outcome.

Re:Where's the... (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979992)

However, there is no more room for "personal responsibility" in a random universe.

A fair die has a 1/6 chance of producing each of its possible outcomes(a fair D6, that is). A loaded die might have a 100% chance of producing a 6 and no chance of any of the others. One of these is random, one is deterministic, neither is free.

Aside from the fact that it is intuitively powerful, it is actually pretty hard to figure out what it would mean for something to have "free will". Imagine a die that can "chose" which face will come up. Ok, what causes it to chose one face rather than another? Is this an uncaused cause? If so, WTF? If not, then it isn't really free, is it?

Re:Where's the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29980058)

You're talking as if we can somehow choose not to give lifelong prison sentences to criminals. That is crazy talk, man. There was never any choice about it.

Re:Where's the... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979930)

If we're smart, we'll execute murderers not for punitive reasons, but simply as a solution to a problem.

If we're really super DUPER smart (per your argument) we'll execute murderers BEFORE they murder... you know, because we are smart.

Re:Where's the... (2, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979952)

Personal responsibility is a pure fiction in a deterministic universe. Everything that will ever happen was decided at the time of the Big Bang. We just don't have the instruments to predict everything yet.

There's no counter proof to this assertion. For a simple example, we can create a quantum system that can, when observed, collapse into one of two states. But we can't predict which of those two states that the system will collapse into. Even if a human were completely deterministic, all they have to do is use one of these systems to inject unpredictable randomness into their decision making.

In other words, you don't need to predict the behavior of a human being, you need to predict the behavior of this two state system. If you can't do that, then the assertion is fundamentally in error.

Re:Where's the... (1)

Viper23 (172755) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979782)

Funny, my dog thinks the same thing every time he looks at my cat. There's nothing really differentiating you from the other animals other than the fact that you are a different kind of animal. There is no more personal responsibility involved in people being put down for killing people than there is in the fact that we put down bears that kill people. Your "personal responsibility" is to survive, and that means not doing things that cause the villagers to pick up their pitchforks, torches and come visit you in your castle.

Re:Where's the... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980076)

I'm certain the judge has the gene for rectal-cranial insertion. There is a simple test for that defect, of course. Just read what a person writes. Is soon becomes obvious whether he has his head up his ass or not. In itself, the rectal-cranial insertion isn't a real problem, unless the victim has an exceedingly large skull, or an especially small orifice. The real problem, of course, is the resulting oxygen deprivation to the brain.

Backwards? (5, Insightful)

Sefert (723060) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979214)

By that logic, isn't he more dangerous, and therefore should get a longer sentence? (Until a gene therapy solution comes out, anyway).

Re:Backwards? (5, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979268)

By that logic, isn't he more dangerous, and therefore should get a longer sentence?

Only if the purpose of imprisonment is to keep dangerous people off the street.

Finding a consensus on the purpose of imprisonment is pretty much impossible.

Re:Backwards? (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979354)

To protect us from those persons who cannot recognize the validity of this statement: "No man has a right to harm another. And that is all the government should restrain him." The government's job is to restrain these persons in cages, to protect our inalienable rights.

Re:Backwards? (4, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979596)

You're confusing your own conviction, with a consensus.

Truly, there is no consensus, and there probably never will be.

Re:Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979754)

there's a good consensus, excluding idiots such as yourself

Re:Backwards? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979786)

Then there isn't a consensus. Because there are a lot more "idiots" (as you put it) than there are people who happen to have this narrow belief.

Re:Backwards? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979942)

there's a good consensus, excluding idiots such as yourself

I never revealed my own opinion (and I'm not sure I really know it). I do know that if you got 100 people into a room, you couldn't get 80 of them to agree on the precise purpose of imprisonment.

Most people would agree it's some combination of rehabilitation, incapacitation/societal protection, deterrence/prevention, restoration, retribution, education and denunciation/condemnation - but you'd get raging arguments about the balance between them. Arguments, no doubt, in which someone would fall back on calling someone else an 'idiot'.

(Categories borrowed wholesale from the Wikipedia article on punishment)

Re:Backwards? (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979748)

That statement is at best a vague intuition unless you can tell us all about what you mean by harm, what situations might change how that is to be understood, etc.

Law cannot be reduced to such sparse statements.

Re:Backwards? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979722)

Finding a consensus on the purpose of imprisonment is pretty much impossible.

Which is, in my opinion, the problem. If prison is about punishment; fine, take away the cable TV, education, and job training. If prison is about rehabilitation; fine, then prison should be like a combination full time thearapy and education system (and incidently, the same kinds of facilities should be open to non-criminals). If prison is about keeping dangerous people off the streets; fine, then sentences should be based off of scientifically valid recidivism rates combined with the dangerousness of their type of crime.

Re:Backwards? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980046)

It's about all three. A system that releases people should probably analyze recidivism when designing sentencing and work on rehabilitation though (in order to be 'sane').

Re:Backwards? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979968)

If the purpose is to keep him off the street and the rest of us safe, he should get more time.

If the purpose is so he can learn he did wrong (penance), then he can't fix this, so he should be locked up permanently because he can't learn to control this. After all, it's not his fault.

Or if he can learn to control it, it's harder to control, so he should be in for more time since he'll have a harder time learning to be in control as much as a "normal" felon,

Look at that. it doesn't matter what the purpose is, he should be in jail longer.

Re:Backwards? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979284)

Depends on how you look at it.

If prison exists as a punishment, then he is less to blame for his actions, and therefore should have the shorter sentence.

If prison exists as an example to others, then this ruling doesn't even make any sense, as a person cannot change their gene structure.

If prison exists to keep the dangerous elements of society away from everyone else, then the whole idea of prison "terms" seems illogical to me. Everyone should go to prison until such time as they are evaluated to no longer be a threat to society (which in this case might be never).

Re:Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979528)

If it was my family member, this guy wouldn't even have made it to prison.
He'd be in my basement with a blunt hacksaw, shacked to the wall with high carbon steel chains.

Re:Backwards? (2, Funny)

bluesatin (1350681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979622)

Why would you use him as an actor in an amateur remake of Saw?

Re:Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979726)

yay internet tough guy

Re:Backwards? (3, Funny)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980032)

Is that specific to this guy's case or do you treat all your relatives like this? It is hard to tell the way you said it.

Why can it only be one? (5, Insightful)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979844)

Prisons serve all three roles. Their existance is ment to be a deterrent to those that have not broken the law, punishment for those that have already broken the law, and protection of the rest of society from those who've demonstrated a willingness to break the law. The nature of the crime will effect to what extent the sentencing is intended to act as a punshment or protective role.

Sentencing of Blue and White colar criminals are going to be aimed at punishment and a warning to others that may be tempted to perpetrate similar acts (embezlement, breaking and entering, etc.). The ancillary effects of incarceration (loss of job, being ostrasized by friends/family, difficulty finding a job post incarceration) are as much part of the punishement as the actuall time spent in prison.

The sentencing of violent offenders is going to be targeted more at punishing the perpetrator and protecting the innocent. That's why they tend to have longer sentences and are locked up in higher security facilities than their blue collar compatriots. Rehabilitation is more important, but less successful with certain groups of violent criminals and thus they serve longer sentences and are occationally euthanized by the state (depending on where they are incarcerated).

The death penalty is the ultimate in both punishment of the criminal and protection of society, and IMO not to be used lightly. It should never be used for those that have not proven themselves to be violently dangerous to the rest of society (ie tax fraud doesn't deserve a needle, but repeated homocides does).

Re:Backwards? (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979854)

And if prison exists for the purpose of reforming prisoners then his sentence should be longer because it's more effort to reform someone who has a genetic disposition towards violence.

Re:Backwards? (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979320)

Thats what i though when i saw this.

Prisons serve as place to corret behavior and redeem criminals where it makes no sense to keep someone ucorrectable longer.

But at same time they also serve as means of preventing further offenses and insulating society from criminals.

Basically, it makes more sense to jail person with innate violent tendencies for longer period, not shorter.

Even better, just make no difference at all and it will be fine.

Also, WTB, personal responsibility.

Re:Backwards? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979410)

That is what I thought.

Maybe, after he gets out of prison, he should be kept in some other institution? An institution designed, not to punish, but to keep dangerous people off the streets.

Liberal europe (0, Troll)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979514)

Unfortunately here in a number of countries in europe the judiciary has swallowed the liberal rehabilitation BS hook line and sinker. They and the politicians seem to believe that criminals are all just misunderstood little angels who if only given a chance would shine and all become rocket scientists or whatever pathetic fucking fantasy they have in mind this week. Punishment is seen as a dirty word by this liberal elite and so we get these sorts of absurd situations and if they can blame the scums behaviour on his genetics then even more reason not to give him some nasty punishment. Its not his fault after all, right?

Its a prime example of the state completely ignoring the wishes of the people.

Re:Backwards? (1)

Poruchik (1004331) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979852)

That depends on the purpose of the imprisonment, is it 'corrective' or 'preventive'. If it's corrective (punishment for committed deeds), then leniency is in order. If it's preventive (you are in prison so you cannot do this is again) the sentence should be longer.
I subscribe to latter point of view.

Re:Backwards? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979998)

Until a gene therapy solution comes out, anyway

There are other therapies, such as drugs or anger-management classes. You may be genetically predisposed to cancer, but rather than "genetic cancer therapy" you'll get radiation and chemo.

8 years? Hate to be ethnocentric but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979216)

Even his original sentence of 9 years, 2 months seems a little light for murdering someone - "aggressive genes" or not. If you look at prison as removing someone from society, does this just increase the risk that he will harm someone else? If you look at prison as a means to force rehabilitation or reconstruction of personal development, wouldn't he require more time than the average murderer (given his disposition)?

I feel bad for the victim's family.

Backwards? (4, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979252)

Seems a little bit backwards there.

If I'm actually genetically predisposed to violence, keeping me in society might not be the best course of action.

Seems to me, those that are _not_ predisposed to violence have a better chance of rehabilitating than those that aren't. Shouldn't they need less time in the slammer to rehabilitate?

Predisposed to violence = more time in?

Not Predisposed = less time in?

Re:Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979384)

Seems to me, those that are _not_ predisposed to violence have a better chance of rehabilitating than those that aren't. Shouldn't they need less time in the slammer to rehabilitate?

Predisposed to violence = more time in?

Not Predisposed = less time in?

You seem to be under the impression that time in jail helps rehabilitation...

Re:Backwards? (1)

falckon (1015637) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979724)

Seems to me, those that are _not_ predisposed to violence have a better chance of rehabilitating than those that aren't. Shouldn't they need less time in the slammer to rehabilitate?

Assuming that time in jail does rehabilitate, someone who is not predisposed to violence and has in spite of that committed a violent act is probably in need of more rehabilitation than someone who let slip their violent nature. Nevertheless, I believe all sentences should be equal, and exceptions like these allow for a corrupt system.

Eschewing responsibility? (1)

spineboy (22918) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979274)

Honestly - do people refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, or lack of actions anymore?
The purpose of jail isn't really to punish anyone, but rather to keep them off the playground until they can "play nice". If law is going to say that genes controll the way we behave, then will Italian courts start locking people up for having certain genes because they will tend to be violent?

Re:Eschewing responsibility? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979882)

What do you mean 'any more'? 'My genes made me do it' is the new version of 'the devil made me do it'.

Good to know... (0, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979294)

Look out RIAA's CEO

Right... (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979300)

I can understand that it doesn't seem right to punish someone for things out of their control, but part of the purpose of putting murderers in prison is to make it harder for them to kill more people (at least that's my impression). They could maybe put him in a nicer prison, but if anything having the gene implies he's more dangerous than most people, so there is more reason to keep him in prison longer- not less. Hopefully they can help him overcome his genetic aggression, but it makes no sense to put him back on the streets if he is higher risk than most people.

Re:Right... (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980014)

I can understand that it doesn't seem right to punish someone for things out of their control

I can't, because I can't understand the idea of "punishment" at all. I understand the idea of conditioning, and the notion that imposing a negative consequence on someone because they have violated some behavioural norm may in some cases reduce the rate of such violations.

But when people talk about "punishment" they seem to have something quite different in mind. In particular, people who talk about "punishment" often attempt to justify it by claiming it is "deserved", but I've never been able to get anyone to tell me what it means to "deserve" something other than, "I would personally feel really good if I saw that happen to that person."

So when someone says, "A murderer deserves life imprisonment" what they mean is "I would feel better if that person was put in prison for life." I don't really see why people's feelings should be the basis for the criminal law system.

On that basis, while investigation into motives remains important for the purposes of conditioning individuals--both the particular individual involved in the crime and everyone else who is aware the crime has been committed and is aware of the negative conditioning consequent upon it--it doesn't seem to me that how we feel about someone being treated a particular way ought to come into sentencing. The only guideline ought to be the effect of the negative conditioning on the likelihood that similar crimes will be committed again, either by the same person or by others.

Letting people out of jail time based on their genetic makeup just doesn't make any sense in this view, any more than it would make sense to give an average person who had committed a violent crime even more jail-time simply because they had taken an anger-management course at some point and therefore might be expected to be able to have a greater-than-average degree of control over their violent impulses.

Overlooking the fact (1)

quatin (1589389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979316)

That he got only 9 years for murder? That will rehabilitate him? People have gotten longer sentences for stealing cars. I suggest when the guy is released from prison, he be given residence next to the judges house.

Re:Overlooking the fact (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979772)

That he got only 9 years for murder? That will rehabilitate him? People have gotten longer sentences for stealing cars. I suggest when the guy is released from prison, he be given residence next to the judges house.

Eh, it's Europe, they tend to give light sentences over there.

May be a slippery slope? (1)

arbiterveritas (1617099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979330)

I find this a bit ridiculous. I really don't care if you have a genetic predisposition to being aggressive. I don't even care if the voices in your head are telling you to cut people into little strips and make belts out of them. The key is that when you *act* on those things and violate the rules society has, you are going to be punished. Then again, this happened in Italy. As a citizen of the US, I'm not terribly worried.

Not a good way to handle predisposition (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979336)

When we have inherent individual faults of some kind, it would be better to have society expect us to strive to overcome them. A mens rea is a big part of crime, but the effects of this kind of biological difference threaten to make grey a matter that the law (and society) relies on being reasonably clear - whether people are to be judged responsible for their actions. If people are drugged through no fault of their own, are insane, or are in a situation where they have little other choice, we may be lenient or forgive certain acts, and if crimes are part of a culture of abuse (gang violence, racial violence) we may judge them more harshly than normal, but accepting genetic inclinations to violence is going too far and is not something we should accept.

Either he requires meds and is responsible for not having had them, he should've been the ward of the state all along, or he's fully responsible.

Fat Gene? (2, Interesting)

Caviller (1420685) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979366)

I have the fat gene....can i get a discount from McDonald's then since the gene is causing me to spend more money on food then i can afford?

Ah... do you smell that? (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979388)

It's the smell of free will going out the window, courtesy of people thinking that gene==unable to overcome that impulse. And with free will out the window, there's no liability. And with no liability... well, the court system we have is completely unworkable.

I was wondering when that issue was going to crop up. Thankfully, Italy seems bound to test just how much of a disaster that road will be.

The only solution to this is to ignore genetic predisposition when judging a convicted criminal.

Or, to put it differently: we have no choice but to believe in free will. Our society depends on it.

Re:Ah... do you smell that? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979792)

Is making an empirically questionable premise, taken on faith, the foundation of your society really a good idea?

Beyond that, it isn't even the "only solution". Just as, today, our justice system is extremely interested in parsing out "intent"(premeditated vs. non-premeditated, accidental vs. negligent vs. willfully negligent, etc.) you could easily enough imagine a system based instead on parsing out behavioral disposition. We already take some classes of mitigating factors and aggravating factors into account in sentencing(and parole hearings are more or less explicitly about judging potential danger/disposition).

The notion that, if we don't cling to the moral agency model, all society will fall apart in a maelstrom of liberal depravity is rhetorically powerful; but it is also nonsense. A system based on an empirical understanding of human psychology, rather than an ill-codified mass of folk psychology and emotive moralizing should, in fact, work even better.

Now, I think that the judge did the wrong thing. A murderer with an aggression problem is more dangerous, not less guilty, but the idea of just sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring what genetic study has to tell us is pathetic.

Re:Ah... do you smell that? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980064)

No, you misunderstood. The problem isn't liberal depravity. The problem is that this approach removes intent, and replaces it with "genes did it". Yes, it's an exaggeration, and even the Italian judge didn't go all the way on this.

Here's the problem with this approach: it is possible to tie a genetic predisposition to pretty much anything these days. And from what I know about the cognitive sciences area, more and more genes are found to influence more and more behaviors. The end game here is that pretty much any illegal action can at some point be tied to a genetic predisposition. This has two consequences:

1) it reduces a person's liability. As you correctly pointed, our legal system is big on intent. But with genes controlling your behavior, you are less and less responsible for your behavior, and are less and less able to form an intent that is independent of their influence. I.e., loss of free will, and loss of legal liability.

2) it also means that pre-crime becomes a natural extension of the legal system. If you know someone is predisposed to violence, shouldn't something be done beforehand? If you get a gene that codes for sociopathy and aggressive behavior, should these people be locked up before they commit a crime? Because after they commit a crime, they can point to their genes and say "Really, I had no choice." If they had no choice when they committed the crime, they shouldn't be allowed to be in a situation where they will be exposed to an opportunity to commit that crime. I.e., pre-emptive lock-up.

You're right, just assuming free will isn't the only solution. But allowing for genetic predispositions to temper liability is a very dangerous path to go down, and the simple alternative - assuming free will as an axiom - is already built-in into western society.

Implications for gay marriage? (1)

Late Adopter (1492849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979870)

There are those who suggest that homosexuality isn't a choice, but a strong genetic predisposition. If one can choose not to be homosexual, they are at core the same as everyone else, and then gay marriage laws aren't discriminating against people, but behavior. Granted the behavior discriminated on is a silly and unnecessary distinction when judging marriages (homosexual couples have demonstrated they can raise children, have stable households, contribute positively to society), but it's no longer a civil rights issue.

Is this a road we want to go down? Surely there must be some consideration for genetic predispositions.

Re:Ah... do you smell that? (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980074)

While I agree with the general idea behind your statement, it's not as clear as just overcoming impulses. If it were, you could just tell people with clinical depression to "just cheer up!" or schizophrenics "just stop listening to those voices in your head!" Or, as a particularly horrible example, people with Tay-Sachs disease [wikipedia.org] who have been known to beg to be tied back up so they will stop chewing off their own fingers, and go back to just chewing off their own lips. They are absolutely unable to control their own impulses.

It's easy to say "just learn to control your impulses." The point with this guy is he is genetically less able to "just control his impulses" than other people, so if we presume that at some threshhold, every person will act impulsively rather than rationally, this guy hits that threshhold before most other people do.

So then we get to the meat of the question: what's the purpose of prison? A lot of people believe it's to punish wrongdoers, some people believe it's to rehabilitate wrongdoers, and some people believe it's to keep wrongdoers off the street so they can't do wrong again. If you're in the 'punishment' camp, you'll come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter whether the guy has the gene or not, just what he did. If you're a rehabilitation person, you'll probably assume that he's less guilty, because he's less able to resist impulse, and as such should be rehabilitated and let out. If you're a keep-wrongdoers-locked-up, you'll decide this guy should be locked up for as long as possible, for exactly the same reason the rehabilitation people think he should be let out more quickly.

In some countries like Latvia people go to jail (2, Insightful)

HollyMolly-1122 (1480249) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979398)

In some countries like Latvia people go to jail if they are caught driving with relatively small amount of alchohol in their blood. That's called prevention measures against car accidents. Isn't that a good prevention measure to find those with higher aggression level in their genes ? Let's say: force those parents to stay in jail who born such a child ? In nowedays it can be definitely true measured! All this recalls me a good movie I saw some years ago about what would we see in near future: GATTACA (1997) music - Michael Nyman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9fcHHOCBDg [youtube.com]

Practical Usage (2, Insightful)

Lueseiseki (1189513) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979414)

Both of my grandpas are terribly addicted alcoholics, and my father is a regular drinker. I've been charged with underaged drinking before, so does this mean I couldn't really help it? ;)

Re:Practical Usage (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979456)

Of course - it also means that if you happen to kill someone while drinking and driving - you will receive a reduced sentence due to the fact you are pre-disposed to the condition. You will likely get a pat on the back from MADD for *only* killing 1 person instead of 10.

Congratulations - you have a free pass.

Re:Practical Usage (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979520)

Actually yeah, you could use that to get your sentence/penalty reduced or commuted, though it would likely be at the inverse change to amount of court mandated therapy.

Oh, I see. (1)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979512)

Have a propensity for murder? Get released earlier!

I wonder (0, Troll)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979534)

What a single round of .45 ACP JHP in the back of the head would do to his genetic makeup?

Junk science! The judge should have read this 1st (1)

jcwren (166164) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979578)

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/11/04/love-of-shopping-is.html [boingboing.net]

And I agree with a previous comment that he should have gotten an INCREASED sentence, since clearly we can't allow someone who has no control over themselves loose in public.

Huh... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979630)

So if we can explain why you are who you are, then you are no longer responsible for being who you are? Neat.

Makes sense, sort of (1)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979632)

Given punishments for crimes where judgment is impaired, this makes sense. I don't know that I can agree though. For example, if your are driving drunk in a car and kill someone, that carries a different sentence than being sober and killing someone, in or out of the car. Circumstances dictate different sentences, which they should. In theory, genetic dispositions are not something you can control so could actually require more consideration than drinking. I do think personal judgment should override that however. You can't just get angry and start murdering people because you have an excuse in your genes.

Legal system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979638)

The legal system shouldn't reduce sentences on account of inevitability or propensity or genetic disposition.

I'm ok with this ... (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979662)

I'm ok with this, so long as the genes are removed from the pool.

How about, "You have bad genes and we're so empathetic that we're lowering your punishment. And because we don't want anyone else to suffer like you do, we're preventing you from procreating."

I think I could get behind that.

Re:I'm ok with this ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979766)

The bottom line of this is that people assume that gene's ultimately drive an individual. I know this isn't the case as you are free to make choice's and this person made a choice no matter his pre-disposition.

Re:I'm ok with this ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29979982)

I'm ok with this, so long as the genes are removed from the pool.

How about, "You have bad genes and we're so empathetic that we're lowering your punishment. And because we don't want anyone else to suffer like you do, we're preventing you from procreating."

I think I could get behind that.

that is genius, give them the choice of full punishment or reduced punishment and a vasectomy

Behavior is often linked to biology (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979764)

As often as we try to "cut the heads off of people" by separating the mind/brain from the rest of the body, we really can't. They are inseparable. We have an abundance of evidence that shows, for example, that homosexuality is not the "choice" that many assert it is and occurs among animals other than humans as well. Some people are quite naturally more aggressive than others and that, in fact, it can be modified through various chemical means.

It would be much more convenient if we could simple blame people for their behvior, their desires and their inclinations, but reality shows undeniable links between biology and behavior and it needs to be factored in. We do not "blame" wild animals for their behaviors because we accept wild animals for what they are. Humans are still animals. While we have enhanced capability to manage our behavior through conscious decision making, our ability to control ourselves is not 100% and certainly varies from person to person with links to inherited genetic traits. Failure to acknowledge and factor in these facts is foolish, in my opinion.

When managing society, failing to account for the reality of who/what humans are misses the opportunity to build the best balance and management systems possible. Without question, society needs to be able to protect itself from dangerous individuals. Dangerous individuals, however, also deserve to be aware of their weakness or deficiency so that they can take compensatory measures so that he may better co-exist with society.

In a conflict between ideology and nature, I have observed that nature wins 100% of the time. You can't will nature into changing to meet ideology, after all.

imagine sentence for leaving light on overnight (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979850)

And adding a couple extra pounds of carbon to the air. Probably worse than this if you believe all the climate hysteria on the other side of the ocean.

Not Fair (3, Informative)

donnacha (161610) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979864)

I have a gene variant linked to tickling policemen and, yet, they throw the book at me every time.

Italian justice (1)

bored_lurker (788136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979886)

I am not sure this isn't because of the odd Italian justice system. If you want to get a better understanding of the justice system in Italy read the Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. It is a fascinating read on a serial killer that ran wild from the 60s to the 80s.

What you will learn is that the Italian system is no where near what you would expect a civilized country to have. The prosecutor discarded the idea that it was a single serial killer killing couple and mutilating them for the notion that a Satanic cult was doing it. Anyone who tried to prove otherwise soon became accused of being part of the Satanic cult making the whole event look like the Salem Witch Trials. Preston himself got accused, even though he did not arrive in Italy until the 90s.

The worst part - the judge bought that non-sense. And as an interesting side note the same judge became involved with the Amanda Knox case (the American accused of murdering her room mate). What did they come up with in that case? That the victim died as part of "some kind of Satanic rite, with Amanda allegedly first touching Meredith with the point of a knife, then slitting her throat." It would be funny if it wasn't a court of law.

In the end it made me understand that what would never stand up in court in other western courts can happen in Italy - it just does not surprise me.

More Time, Not Less (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979892)

OK, let's say that this is true and it isn't this guy's fault that he's more likely to hurt/kill people (note: pure bunk).

So that means that he is more dangerous than the average felon, because he can control himself less.

Does that mean he should be put away for more time to protect society from his increased danger?

"Agression Genes": Because more dangerous genes means you need to be able to get to commit crimes you can't stop yourself from doing sooner!

Vi! (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979924)

So remember emacs users, it's really not your fault!

Ducks...

Not surprising... (2, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29979986)

Society has been on a tear lately always looking to avoid personal responsibility and blame someone (or in this case, something else). For example,

--Kids aren't hyperactive or have too much energy. They have ADD and require Ritalin.
--Why isn't my kid cut out to do Algebra in 2nd grade? It's not that he/she might have a disposition for the arts, but that I need to blame the school and the teachers.
--"The Man" is holding me down. I find it odd that at my Fortune 500 company the "White male" is not the majority of VPs.
--I'm not fat, it's just that I have a genetic disposition to eat tons of crappy food and avoid exercise. My genes make me buy ice cream and not even take a 10minute walk around the neighborhood every day.
--I can't get a date b/c I have a genetic disposition to be single, and not because I want to date Hawaiian Tropic models and I look like Bill Gates and dress like a slob.

Damnit people, take a bit of responsibility, there's millions of cases out there of people finding their niche and succeeding or overcoming their obstacles to obtain greatness. I don't recall all the immigrants that came through Ellis Island in the early 1900s saying, "I can't be anything" and blamed everyone else.

There used to be an expression, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." I think to many people this now has become, "When the going gets tough, blame someone else."

But... (3, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980000)

...don't we need to keep him locked up *longer*, since he's more likely to do it again?

Following that line of reasoning... (3, Insightful)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980020)

The alcholic who was drunk driving and killed someone should get a reduced sentence?

gene's or family history (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29980028)

I'm just posing the question - does having the gene predispose you to violence or does the gene mean your from a family where violence is the norm and the behavior is learned from generation to generation?

Imagine two families one with the "violent gene" and one with out. Studying them you find one family is normally not violent and very lawfull(except, of course, for the few exceptions), while the other family is violent and ruthless(once again except for the few exceptions). Isn't it a case that perhaps it is not the gene but the learned behaviour that causes the trend, and that it is the family that ties it together not the gene.

Do studies take this into consideration when finding this "violent gene"?

Wrong way? (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29980070)

An appeal court judge in Trieste, Italy, cut Bayout's sentence by a year after finding out he has gene variants linked to aggression.'"

So the fact it has been proven he has gene expressions linked to aggression, shouldn't that mean his sentence should be RAISED?

This is a man who proved to others his genes make him dangerous to everyone around him.
That is exactly what prisons are for. To keep such animals away from human beings.

Does this mean if he runs at someone, and gets shot for doing so, it is not murder or manslaughter but just 'putting down a rabid dog' which also can't help itself?

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