A Prophet from God
The human race is capable of some truly sickening things, and it seems to be particularly shocking when the person or people claim to be guided by an “all loving God” when the do these things. Well this story has a peculiar twist.
It goes like this. A man named Daniel Hall sexually molested his 6 month old daughter, while his wife took photos, and they were both subsequently arrested after he was found in possession of child pornography (the result of a tip-off from a third party).
He is facing first-degree criminal sexual assault and child pornography charges, which could mean a maximum penalty of life in prison. A forensic examiner found him mentally competent to stand trial. Most people will immediately label this man and his wife “monsters” for perpetuating this kind of terrible crime upon their own infant child.
None of us doubt that a man who not only sexualises a child of 6 months, but who is also his own daughter, is mentally ill and should be treated as such. But when he appeared at the court to determine his mental capacity to serve trial, he suddenly claimed to be “a prophet of God”, and claims his time in jail is for divine purposes. The video accompanying the story shows him saying his name is Balthazar, although he pronounced it “Balthashazar”. It’s an unconvincing act, he can’t even pronounce his own supposed name. (In case you were wondering, Balthazar the name of one of the 3 wise men in the “birth of Jesus” story.)
Isn’t it interesting that Hall is suddenly claiming to be a “prophet of God” in the vain hopes of being found mentally incompetent to serve trial? I mean to look at the guy, I’d say he’s a few chromosomes short of a full picnic, but is it an obvious attempt at convincing the court he has a religious delusion, or is it something more telling than it may seem on the surface? Could it be that people relate religiousness and mental illness to be similar?
It is possible that this man, after coming to terms with how horrible his crimes are, has had a “revelation” of sorts stemming from a deep seated guilt and self loathing. Sure I guess it’s possible, but even more possible is that he’s a psychopathic pedophile with a penchant for small children, and that he sees the “insanity defence” as the only way out of serving a life sentence in prison.
In situations like this, where a crime is so horrific that it’s beyond our comprehension, we often hear that the offender “must have been abused as a child”. Sam Harris brings up this idea in his book “Free Will”, where he posits that no matter who we are we are at the whim of our genes, our chromosomes, and the factors leading up to the present including our upbringing and environmental factors all beyond our control. Could we change our mind about this man, if we found he had been repeatedly raped by his own father from a similar age as his own daughter? Or suppose we find that Hall has a massive brain tumour in his pre-frontal cortex which could be the explanation for his psychopathic behaviour? Given this, isn’t it possible to not blame him for his actions? After all he is a victim of circumstance or ill health right?
Add to this, if in fact he were compelled by God to do these terrible things to this poor child, he would equally be at the whim of circumstance, being a puppet for the supreme being. The justification for this could be “God’s plan” or his “mysterious ways”.
Either way, something brought him to this place, but does that mean he is not to blame? Of course he and his wife are guilty of inflicting this atrocity against their daughter, unless God himself did it. Unfortunately for us, the only way to deal with a “monster” like this is to lock them away, not with the hopes of rehabilitating them, but to prevent them from doing the same to others. As you can see, I am opposed to the death penalty, I see it as too final for any person, and the whole “eye for an eye” attitude makes me a little queasy.
How do we deal with such cases? Does it matter if the man has been abused, is mentally ill, has a brain tumour, or is “guided by God”? The outcome is the same in any case, and I think the only thing we can do is keep him and his wife in a place away from any possibility of doing further harm.
“Free Will” by Sam Harris is available from my bookstore.