Jewish World Review Sept. 26, 2001 / 9 Tishrei, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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Love those killers! -- MOST of us were horrified to learn that Andrea Yates had killed five of her own children by drowning them -- one at a time -- in a bathtub. But that may be because we are not among the morally anointed. Big-time celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell and Today Show hostess Katie Couric apparently see things differently.

"I felt such overwhelming empathy for her of what it must have been like for her to do that," said Rosie O'Donnell. "When you've been on the edge you can understand what it's like to go over."

Katie Couric on the Today Show seemed likewise to think the big issue was Mrs. Yates' psyche. She said: "Mrs. Yates, after you drowned your five children, how did that make you feel?"

The Today Show put on the screen information showing where to send donations to the legal defense fund for Andrea Yates. In Houston, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women formed something called "The Andrea Yates Support Coalition" and is planning to raise money for her defense.

This has apparently become a so-called woman's issue because the claim is being made that Mrs. Yates suffered from postpartum depression and that either that or the drugs she had to take caused her to kill her children. But of course the reason we hold trials is to find out which claims by either side can stand up in court.

The judge has slapped a gag order on the attorneys in this case, in order to prevent pre-trial publicity from biasing the jury. But, in reality, that just means that the public will hear only Andrea Yates' side of the story before the trial. We will of course never hear the children's side of the story.

Unfortunately, the vogue of leaping to the defense of killers is not limited to women or even to the United States. Just this summer, two teenage boys who had sadistically murdered a two-year old toddler in Britain when they were ten years old were released from prison -- and given new identities, so that they would not suffer any bad consequences from members of the public who were not as much in tune with current non-judgmental fashions.

What other people might suffer from these young killers in the course of another half century or more of their lives did not seem to raise nearly as much concern. Shrinks said that they were no danger to others -- which is what shrinks said about some of the American teenagers who later killed their schoolmates in shooting sprees.

At a cost of about $2 million to the British taxpayers, the young British killers and their families have been set up in three-bedroom homes. They have even been given spending money, with which one of the parents has bought a car.

Even before being released from "imprisonment" -- in facilities without bars but with TV and other amenities, including karate lessons and spending money for Christmas -- the young killers were allowed out on supervised furlough to see sports events and even visit shopping malls. It was at a shopping mall that they had lured the little toddler away and then tortured him to death.

The foreman of the jury that convicted them recalls seeing the terrible pictures of the little toddler's body and then catching the eye of one of the young killers -- who smirked in the courtroom. However, the politically correct line in Britain, as in the United States, is that expressed by a "penal reform" advocate, who said: "If children do something wrong, they should be dealt with through the care system and not the criminal justice system."

Meanwhile, the liberal media in England has vilified the mother of the murdered child, who has protested these boys' early release and the posh life provided for them and their families. The media "compared her unfavourably with more forgiving mothers," according The Guardian newspaper. Apparently all mothers should be non-judgmental about their babies' sadistic young killers.

Back in the 1960s, it was considered eccentric, at least, when Norman Mailer took up the cause of a convicted murderer and managed to get him released from behind bars. It was no doubt considered somewhat more than eccentric by a man that the ex-con killed after being released. But today, what was once considered eccentric is par for the course in certain elite circles. Outcries of outrage from the public only confirm the anointed in their own smug sense of being special -- nobler and wiser than the common herd.

What a price to pay so that some people can feel more non-judgmental than thou or simply affirm within their own little coterie that they are one of Us instead of one of Them.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate