Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Putting the Pagan Blinders On

One could almost call this post Putting the [insert minority/social group you belong to here] Blinders On.


I'm not one to point fingers at one person and say they are the one cause of anything. So let me start by saying that, while I will be discussing an article from a specific blog, this post is meant to be read and understood in a generic sense.

The Wild Hunt's article on July 6 deals with the death penalty case of a man named Irving Davis, a 27-year-old man that has been convicted of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl. In Texas, the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl is punishable by either a life sentence without parole or the death penalty. For a little bit of information, this is due to the fact that if one commits a murder during or because of the commission of another felony, that murder is elevated from the classification of Murder (19.02 TX Penal Code) to Capital Murder (19.01, if I'm not mistaken). A capital felony (12.31) can only have those two punishments.

The Wild Hunt would like to argue that, because the prosecution in the case introduced evidence that the man converted to Satanism while in prison, this means the prosecution was attempting to sway the jury using religion as a base.

To his point: The judge did make statements alluding to his distaste for the very notion of Satanism. This would seem to indicate a predisposition to distrust and fear Satanism. It - as well as much of paganism - is generally feared and obscured to the general public. Although, pagans - Satanists including - seem to like on some level having secret knowledge.

Where I take issue with the article: It seems to ignore the bottom half of the original source article from the Austin-American Statesman. Davis was previously convicted of this crime and sentenced to death back in 2007. However, the sentence was thrown out due to the judge only allowing expert witnesses to testify on the defendant's behalf and not friends and family. The guilt of this man has never been in question. Also, the Hunt's article seems to gloss over the fact that Davis' love of Satanism is a brand new thing. It is repeatedly reported that his conversion is 'new.' He was not a Satanist as of 2007, and only recently converted. He has also been making outrageous demands and complaints that he was not getting what he wanted while still in prison.

While preparing for the new penalty phase trial, prosecutors learned Davis listed his new religion as Satanism after arriving on death row. Jurors were shown, over defense objections, Davis' drawings depicting satanic symbols, books removed from his cell that included "The Satanic Bible" and a pentagram tattoo on his chest. Prosecutors also introduced a grievance form that showed Davis complaining about being denied a gong, candles, chalice, black robes, a vial of blood and other items he said were needed to practice his religion.

Asking for blood for your 'brand new religion' in prison after you've been convicted of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl?! Can we just take a step back from keeping our heads in the pagan sand and take a look at how this looks to the outside world? I'm pretty sure that it would only lend itself to the prosecution's case. While I'm not saying Satanism is evil by any means, I am saying that it is a hedonistic, left-hand religion that you might not want to advertise your new conversion to in a case such as this. And, hello.... It's Texas. Land of exceedingly right-wing Christo-Republicans. How smart of a defense are you putting up if you're advertising your Satanism?

This is an issue that I have a problem with in a general sense. With all due respect to Jason at the Wild Hunt, it highlights the problem that occurs when you become so wrapped up in your social subgroup that you forget what the rest of society sees and believes. When gay folks move to the gay ghettos in big cities, have only gay friends, go to gay establishments, read the gay newspapers...then they head out of the ghetto on a field trip to straight world and are utterly perplexed why their public displays of affection aren't well-received.

I mean... PICK A MINORITY OR SOCIAL GROUP!!! When you're so wrapped up in absorbing news from only one perspective, when your friends are only part of your group, etc. etc. etc., you lose touch with the rest of the world. This is the same thing that we, as fairly left-wing pagans, supposedly despise right-wing, conservative Christians for doing. Just like it's not ok to adopt a standpoint that Christians are automatically right, it is equally dangerous to automatically assume the best of someone just because they're claiming to be some sub-sect of pagan.

This is the very epitome of hypocritical. My minority s always discriminated against and is hardly ever in the wrong. This is a great example of in-group/out-group dynamics. Remember when we talked about those? You are naturally prone to defend your in-group and assume the worst of whom you consider part of the out-group.

What we as humans and citizens of the world need to be doing is attempting to adopt a stance of balance. Take in left media, but pepper in some right. Understand more religions than just your own. Attempt to see things from the opposite side. Sometimes, when a man rapes and murders a 15-year-old girl, and has already been sentenced to death once, it might be inevitable he's going to be sentenced to death again...despite his last-minute cry of discrimination.

Leave your thoughts on the matter with a comment, tweet, or email!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

11 comments:

  1. The point of the post was that his Satanism was improperly brought up in the new sentencing trial. I wasn't arguing that he was innocent, I'm not even arguing that he deserves life instead of the death penalty. I'm saying the prosecution was wrong to insert his newfound Satanism into the new sentencing hearing in order to prove he was a “continuing threat to society” (their words).

    Was the man stupid to embrace Satanism and demand ritual items? Of course. Should it have had any bearing on the new sentencing trial? I don't think so. Further, the comments of the judges in the sentencing appeal are well outside the rule of law and are veering into mere theological musings.

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  2. Actually, Jason, you said "the prosecution used the Church of Satan affiliation to affect the sentencing in this trial," implying that had they not admitted the discovery he would/should have been sentenced to life. The sentencing was already determined in 2007, a fact your article completely glossed over. It seems your tone and focus was on this one facet rather than the case as a whole.

    The defense gave the prosecution the documents dictating their client's change in religious status. That's called discovery. They share evidence. The prosecution just used that in conjunction with everything else. I'm pagan. I'd have done it, too. I would use it to say that he is continuing to embrace a hedonistic, do what you want and not care about the consequences to others mentality - which, if I'm not mistaken, is the left-hand philosophy in a nutshell.

    By the way, you do know that a judge's ruling is technically called an 'opinion,' right? You hear phrases like, "It is the opinion of the court," etc. Judges give their opinion. We elect them to their offices, because we trust their opinions and feel they reflect our own. So, he is actually entitled to opine on the evidence presented during sentencing. In this case that's the defendant's religion. Don't like their opinions? Don't elect them.

    FL

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  3. I agree, Fire Lyte, that too often people step over fact and outside observations in an attempt to promote and "make good" their own sub-group. It just seems to be human nature but, in my eyes, a person is, first and foremost, a human being. Not a Pagan, Christian, Jew, Black, White etc.
    The law, I imagine, is supposed to do similar.
    However, the law is not a computer that factors in only the facts surrounding the crime. The law is the elected judge. They're the voice of the law and, being a human being, can allow what is not fact to interfere. Hence, 'It is the opinion of the court'.

    Awesome article.
    xx Aria

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  4. I have the opposite problem from the "persecution complex"--When I discovered Paganism, it seemed so natural and normal to me (moreso than the Southern Protestant/Catholic blend that I grew up in) that I immediately forgot how "weird" we look to other people. To this day, I'm baffled when people act as if there were something...wrong about us.

    When I "came out" to my mother, she asked me not to use the "P" word to identify myself in public. (As if I'd EVER made a habit of screaming my faith out to all and sundry...) She said she didn't want people to think I had "weird beliefs." I was so completely bemused by that statement, and by what people could possibly consider weird about Wicca, that I didn't even think to ask what she was talking about.

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  5. "...implying that had they not admitted the discovery he would/should have been sentenced to life."

    I implied no such thing. Here's the full quote from my post:

    "Tempting as it may be to simply say good riddance to this monster, it does seem that the prosecution used the Church of Satan affiliation to affect the sentencing in this trial."

    That isn't my opinion. That's the opinion of the prosecution. Quote from the article:

    "Prosecutor Lily Stroud said the evidence was meant to show that Davis had chosen to affiliate with an organization that condones and encourages human sacrifice and other illegal acts.”

    Except that the Church of Satan doesn't condone human sacrifice or "other illegal acts". The prosecution presented an imaginary Church of Satan as evidence in the new sentencing trial.

    It's very likely the outcome would have been completely the same, no matter if Satanism had been brought up or not, but the fact that it was brought up in the context it was is troubling, and that's the entirely of my point.

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  6. I find nothing troubling about it at all. It was not the cornerstone of their case in which all other data was built from. The man's guilt was beyond repute and this second sentencing hearing was merely a formality. He was sentenced to die in the first place, and I doubt the prosecution would go for any less a second time around.

    Are court systems perfect? Absolutely not. Do peoples' opinions and influence sway votes? That's....that's sort of the point. Or, at least, part of it when it comes to sentencing. I'd also like to point out that while your quote came from the article, it is not a direct quote from Stroud. We don't know exactly what she said or how she worded her response.

    But, would listing Satanism as your religious preference...in Texas...during a rape and murder sentencing hearing for the second time...affect the outcome? Yes. Absolutely. And here's the thing it: the defendant didn't list what kind of Satanism. He just said Satanism and then asked for blood and black robes in jail. I'm thinking he was more into the self-indulgent, hedonistic type of Satanism - the flashier, more attention-grabbing kind. Or, at least, I would be if the defense did little more than cry 'persecution' when his religion is brought up.

    Such hedonistic viewpoints would be in-line with claiming the man was a continuing threat to society. It was merely brought up along with all of the rest of the evidence, which is part of the Totality of the Circumstances, looking at the man and case as a whole. I doubt it helped, but I am not sure it would have ended any other way. Looks to me like the guy was looking for some attention and got it in a bad way.

    FL

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  7. Good reading, you guys should sell tickets to BNP debates =P

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  8. And here's the thing it: the defendant didn't list what kind of Satanism. He just said Satanism and then asked for blood and black robes in jail.

    From the Austin-American Statesman article: "Prosecutors counter that allegiance to the Church of Satan was relevant information for jurors, who had to determine whether Davis should be put to death as a continuing threat to society." Seems to me the defendant did list a specific kind of Satanism.

    That aside, I'd hesitate to accuse Jason of promoting in-group/out-group dynamics simply because he focuses his blog on news and issues relevant to the Pagan community. Writing from a minority perspective ain't quite the same thing as burying one's head in the sand.

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  9. Evn, I would actually take more issue with the author of the Statesman article on this particular point that with Jason's reporting. One the one hand, the author says that Davis considered himself a member of the Church of Satan, while on the other he said this:

    'While preparing for the new penalty phase trial, prosecutors learned Davis listed his new religion as Satanism after arriving on death row.'

    Listing 'Satanism' as your religion doesn't nail down what type, just like listing Islam as your religion doesn't automatically make you a militant jihadist.

    Also, I have no problem writing from a minority perspective - I do it, too - but I take issue with nearly always assuming the pagan in the matter has more of a case or basis for being right than he or she actually does. Again, I am not saying this is an issue with the Wild Hunt, exclusively. I was merely using this particular article to illustrate a point. You are completely right in saying that a minority perspective doesn't necessarily equate to having one's head in the sand.

    FL

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  10. He was found guilty in 2007 & my tax dollars are still paying for this monstrosity to use electricity & food & water? WTF is taking so long to flip that switch? There is a crime!

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  11. It seems so cut and dried this time doesn't it. How about next time? When the person being sentenced is a Wiccan, and that is used to suggest that they are a continuing threat to society? Ultimately the persons religion should have been left out of it. Period. And if excuse the fact that it wasn't this time because we like neither the person nor the religion, then we have no room to complain when the next time we happen to feel differently.

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