The article written by Lisa McIntyre discusses the case of Hernando Washington who was convicted of rape and murder. The author looks at the actions of this individual from a sociological perspective. Moreover, she discusses the work of defense attorneys who are often blamed for protecting people who are supposedly guilty of serious crime such as homicide.
The article gives a detailed account of the case and the outcome of Hernando Washington’s trial. Lisa McIntyre does not attempt to justify the actions of Hernando Washington; instead she is more concerned with the factors that could eventually contribute to the tragedy.
One of the main arguments Lisa McIntyre puts forward is that this individual grew up in an environment in which illegal activities were almost turned into a routine, and it was very difficult to receive any justice from governmental institutions. It should be noted that Hernando’s sister was also raped but no actions were taken by the police.
Furthermore, the writer discusses the opinions of psychiatrists who examined Hernando Washington. In their view, Hernando could not always understand the ethical implications of his actions. The key argument expressed by the author is that policy-makers will not be able to prevent such crimes, provided that they do not understand the social factors that affect people’s behavior and their attitude toward violence or deviancy.
Judging from the case description, Hernando’s victim Sarah Gould had several chances to run away from him. For instance, she could it when Hernando left her in order to register a room or when he had to check out of the hotel. Thus, the question arises why she did not do it because such a decision may seem plausible to many people.
There are several reasons why Sarah Gould did not try to escape, even though she had several opportunities. To understand this issue one can apply Max Weber’s notion of empathetic understanding. First of all, it should be taken into account that Sarah could simply be paralyzed by fear. At such moments, it is difficult for a person to think rationally or take sensible decisions.
Moreover, she could believe that Hernando would either beat or even kill her if she tried to run away. This is one of the possible explanations. Additionally, one should note that the victims of rape feel humiliated and ashamed. In many cases, they do not want to talk to anyone. They do not even want to be seen by other people. This is one of the reasons why many of such crimes go unreported.
So, Sarah did not live the room when Hernando had to check out. Certainly, these explanations are just conjectures, and they can hardly be proven. Sarah’s behavior may seem irrational to a person who reads this case. However, people should not disregard Sarah’s emotional state when discussing her actions. It is not permissible to evaluate them according to the standards of rationality.
If I had been a sociologist who acts as an investigator for Hernando’s defense team, my task would have been to examine the influence of Hernando’s social environment on his behavior and his values. First, I would interview Hernando’s relatives and ask if any member of his family had ever fallen victim of a serious crime, especially rape.
Again, one should take into account that Hernando’s sister was also raped, but police did not even try to investigate the case properly. Secondly, I would talk to police officers and ask how many rapes and murders are committed or reported in the South Side of Chicago. Thirdly, I would ask in how many of these cases, the perpetrator is prosecuted in the court.
There are several rationales for these questions. First of all, the responses of interviewees may show that Hernando lived in an environment in which sexual crimes were regularly committed, and in many cases a victim’s rights were not restored.
Thus, Hernando’s social environment could affect his ethical principles, especially his perception of sexual crimes and their permissibility. The results of my research will not serve a moral excuse for Hernando’s crime; yet, they can explain how the character of this individual was formed.
Apart from that, I would ask the psychiatrists whether Hernando can understand the principle the rights of other people should not be violated. I would like to know whether he could properly assess the consequences of his actions. Hernando could believe that he lived in a hostile world in which a person could be either a victim or a perpetrator.
Thus, the life of another person could not be of great value to him. Certainly, these arguments cannot be used as an ethical justification of murder or rape. Yet, they have to show that a person’s character is shaped by a variety of external forces. Crimes committed in South Side of Chicago cannot be explained only by individual decisions. These felonies may take their origins in the failure of many state institutions such as police.