“Evil”, “depraved”, “heinous”. These are all terms typically associated with crimes such a torture, murder, and rape. Chances are, unless you’re an English major or you’re the type of person that has a compulsion to look up common words, these terms all mean roughly the same thing. When a person is being tried for a terrible crime, often the prosecutor’s testimony is peppered with these specific words in order to emphasis the severity of the crime.
A proper testimony is not unlike marketing, but instead of selling a product or service, the attorney is attempting to sell an idea. Like marketing, there are certain buzzwords that are used in order to sway the jury’s opinion. “Evil”, “depraved”, and “heinous” are just a few of such buzzwords. These words vary in severity by standard definition, but are often used interchangeably. The more one analyzes the litigation process, the more one begins to realize that the outcome of some cases is not based solely on facts surrounding the crime, but savvy vocabulary and the misconception that certain terms are created equal.
Dr. Michael Welner also came to the realization that specific definitions were necessary if certain terms were to be legally admissible. Welner and his team of experts intend to develop a system which will allow judges and juries to determine; on a scale of Skeletor to Jeoffry Baratheon, just how evil a person’s crime is.
Coined “The Depravity Standard”, the scale will assist in determining a punishment for various terrible crimes. By adding scientifically sound methodology to commonly used legal terms, Welner hopes to eliminated unfair bias in the sentencing process. What the scale will not do is determine whether or not a person should be placed in a padded room and fitted for their very own hug jacket. The scale will simply examine the facts in a case and will not judge a person by the content of their character nor will it consider any circumstances outside of the crime itself. To better illustrate the process of the Depravity Standard I will use several characters from popular horror films — Jason Vorheese, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Meyers.
If Jason Vorheese and Freddy Krueger were to stand trial for the systematic stalking and murder of innocent teenagers, and if both were found guilty, the sentence would be the same in both cases. The scale would not take into account that Jason Vorheese was teased as a child ultimately leading to his untimely death, nor that he was encouraged to murder people by his mother. The scale would also not take into account that Freddy is the disembodied demon spirit of a high school custodian burned to death in the school’s boiler room. The fact is that both killers stalked (in physical or metaphysical realities), tormented, and slaughtered their victims with no remorse. Both killers would still be subject to psychological examination and other facts involved in the individual cases may be considered by the jury. The crimes would then be judged as “evil”, “depraved”, or “heinous” based on specific criteria and a sentence would be determined using the Depravity Standard as a guideline.
In Michael Meyers’ case, being that he was already found criminally insane, he would probably be re-evaluated and placed into a higher security institution. Although his crimes also involved stalking and murdering teenagers, since he has been deemed criminally insane in previous trials, he would not be forced to stand trial nor would his case be placed under the scrutiny of the Depravity Standard.
Having clearly defined terminology within the court room assures that justice is served as fairly as possible. As explained in the examples above, Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorheese would have equal sentencing at their trials. Bias such as “Jason’s got a really cool hockey mask, so I think he should receive a lighter sentence” or “Freddy’s covered in hideous burns, clearly he deserves harsher penalties for his crimes” would not come into play. The cases would also not be dependent upon slick maneuvering of the English language by prosecuting attorneys, since terms used to emphasis the severity of the crimes committed would be forced to conformed to a pre-determined set of criteria. The Depravity Standard will take some of the “gut feelings” out of the litigation process and see to it that punishments will fit the crime.