Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Culture Made Me Do It!

Law School leftists and their friends in the defense bar are unceasing in their efforts to remove common sense and equal justice from  criminal law. The latest is USC law professor Alison Dundes Rentein's theory, as expressed in "Multicultural Jurisprudence: Comparative Perspectives on the Cultural Defense," is that criminal courts should hear evidence regarding a defendant's "native culture" and how it may have contributed the their criminal acts (to read an article about this, go here and then scroll down).

“Cultural differences deserve to be considered in litigation because enculturation shapes individuals’ perceptions and influences their actions,” she writes in the book. She is calling for formal acceptance in the legal community of a cultural defense in which legal systems acknowledge “the influence of cultural imperatives” in illegal acts.

I did not realize that "enculturation" is a real word. Anyway, Rentein helpfully provides some case studies that are intended to support her view, but really don't:

1. A Mexican was convicted for shooting a fellow poker player (hmmm. he seems to have picked up some aspects of American culture, at least). The guy's defense was provocation; the deceased "used an expression considered the worst possible insult to someone's mother in Mexico."

2. An Albanian Muslim was accused of sexual abuse after "touching his daughter's genitals." He was acquitted, but lost his parental rights on other grounds. A lot of info is left out of this: how old was the daughter? Was he changing her diapers? Giving her a bath? Or, was he prepping her for an arranged marriage to the imam? Inquiring minds would like to know.

3. a Thai man received the death penalty (horrors!) for killing two people. He showed "no remorse or other emotion," which is really really important in Thai culture, but no other. Has Rentein ever heard of Omerta? He also would not name the "real killer" because Thai culture teaches the importance of not expanding the "circle of shame." Right, or maybe there is no "real killer" because the Thai was the guy.

All of the above show how silly this all is. And, they also show that Rentein not only lives in an Ivory Tower, but was also raised by churchmice. I mean, come on, does she honestly believe that Mexican  "culture" is unique in having obscene words meant to insult someone's mother? Also, at least in the cases of the Mexican and the Albanian, the court DID consider the cultural argument, and rejected it. So, what Rentein really objects to is the result, wherein "cultural difference" was insufficient to free a criminal from his richly deserved punishment. 

(just to get a flavor of the snotty preachiness you have to put up with from California progressives, note where she says, in discussing the possibility that the public might not appreciate her insights,  Rentein says "'when legislatures deal with culture on a policy level, they tend to ban the custom. Just after Hawaii had the first case on same-sex marriage, we ended up with a law. It's called the Defense of Marriage Act." Um, I thought we were talking about criminal defendants. Also, did DOMA "ban" the custom of marriage? No it did not.)

I think it is appropriate that Renstein's co-editor is from Belgium, as experience has taught me that Belgians - along with Afrikaaners, Palestinians, SS Guards, Hutus, and New Yorkers - tend to fall back on the "it's my culture" excuse when someone calls them on their jerk-off behavior. "Cultural differences" is really just another way of saying "I intend to act like an asshole, but refuse to be called on it." That might work on their girlfriends, but should not be relevant in court. 

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