Comment of the Day

From Ddes on this thread:

We know about thousands of rapes that happened centuries ago. For one thing there’s documented evidence that many if not most slave owners were rapists. We don’t go after them or their descendants. Why? If you want to argue that their children aren’t the people they are, I would reply that I’m not the person I was ten years ago either, and in 30 years time I’ll certainly be more different from me at 25 than me at 25 is from my father at 25.

I really need to start doing drugs.


  1. It’s actually a very valid philosophical point – much the same one as the one used by some anti-capital-punishment advocates. Punishing someone for doing something decades ago is arguably much less about the preservation of order in society and much more simply about revenge.

  2. The arrest warrant was ISSUED decades ago, and Polanski cut and ran. The only reason he hasn’t been arrested since then is because whatever country he’s been in has not bothered to do it – until now.

  3. @Vasya,

    Too bad your entire point is invalid since we’re not talking about a capital case.

    But you can probably make a nice scarecrow with that straw man.

  4. Steven, it’s a parallel argument. I would guess from your response to me that you have no idea what I’m talking about :).

    And yes, the warrant was issued decades ago, and what he did was wrong. More importantly, we don’t make this distinction legally, so the point is purely philosophical. However, the poster makes a very good point – the person you are at 25 and the person you are at 50 are arguably much more different than two 25 year-olds.

  5. Vasya,

    No, you’re argument was tangental, not parallel.

    And the poster first tried to say that blood relatives should be held accountable for the crimes of their ancestors because it is equivalent of personal changes which is just silly.

    Your point at trying to clarify his dumb comment leads to further questions. You’re saying that Polanski shouldn’t be held accountable for something he PLED guilty to 30 years ago? Where exactly is the statute of limitations in your mind? After 15 years should he be let free? 7 1/2?

    Plenty of people get away with murder for decades before being found guilty. Should we just let them go because they’re not the “same people” that they were then? Puh-lease.

  6. Polanski has been on the lam for 30 years. Every moment after he broke bond is a moment in which he was violating the law. Even if we thought Ddes’ argument was at all valid, it doesn’t apply in this case.

  7. The arrest warrant was ISSUED decades ago

    So was the conviction. Polanski was already found guilty of the crime and fled before sentencing. That kind of heat doesn’t go away, no matter how much of a better person you are now.

  8. Steven, you’re exactly right – those are the kinds of problems that make it nearly impossible to actually put an argument like this into law. However, it doesn’t stop it from being an interesting fact that the person that you’re prosecuting for committing a crime decades ago is a significantly different being. How different is obviously really hard to pinpoint, which is probably why the law doesn’t take this sort of thing into account.

    Moreover, you should stop antagonizing me. I’m pointing out an argument about the concept of identity as a person ages. Your trying to shove words in my mouth about how murderers should go free. Cut it out :).

    Finally, it’s “your” not “you’re” when it comes to the second person possessive pronoun.

  9. Yeah, that could have been worded better. I wasn’t arguing that we should go after blood relatives for crimes (though we do, in many cases – if I still a million dollars and my children inherit it, they can get it taken away). I was arguing that we shouldn’t and don’t.

    And yeah, what Vasya said is what I was trying to say, with more readability and stuff:

  10. That’s a kind of semi-interesting metaphysical argument… about which the law cares not. He’s the same legal entity that committed the crime 30 years ago, barring some kind of science fiction scenario.

  11. “about which the law cares not.”

    Not only does the law not care, it shouldn’t care — and if it did care, it would cease to have any meaningful resemblance to law.

  12. I think that something that gives the law power and that should be considered by criminals (but rarely is) is that the punishments applied by law will affect the ‘different people’ that a person becomes if sentencing is long or in this case consequences are deferred (at the hand of the defendant).

    In the UK a big issue at present is the release of prisoners who are serving long sentences and who develop terminal illnesses asking to be freed at that point. The consequences of losing your liberty as a punishment should, in my opinion, be that you have to face the milestones of your life in that context. You grow old, you miss your children growing up, your relatives die and you may eventually become ill and die all without the freedom of movement that would make these things easier, it’s a potent part of the punishment and doesn’t take a genius to pre-empt before commiting a crime.

    The deferral of punishment to the ‘New’ Polanski, the nice-guy who hasn’t been caught giving a child drugs and having sex with them for ‘aaaages’ is something he’s controlled each day that he hasn’t turned himself in. In fact, by running away in the first place, the old (young)Paedo Polanski, by deferring the sentence, has arranged to not be punished for what HE did and make sure that the elder statesman of art takes the punishment instead.

    It’s like being Marty Mcfly.

  13. This is why 30 minute crime dramas are so gripping. The audience gets to flash back to the scene of the crime when it was fresh, making them want justice even though lots of time has passed. Fortunately on shows like Cold Case, even the criminals in their reformed, jolly, elderly states admit to everything with the angry passion they had the day they committed the crime. Fat chance of that happening in real life. Plus some shows make you feel sorry for the accused. Curse you, Dog the Bounty Hunter!

    New thread: if anyone here were violated, would you still want justice after 25 years, or would you be ready to let it go?

  14. This remind me a story I saw on tv about a man who was arrested and convicted for a robbery he had commited decades ago when he was a ill-minded junkie who would do anything to get his daily fix. When he was arrested and put in jail he had been clean for decades , had a stable life, wife and kids and a normal job. Yet he had some “crime to pay”.
    Was the same man the junkie that commited the crime and the family man that had a normal honest life some years after? Not from the social point of view, not from the psychological point of view and funnily enough not even from the biological point of view as body cells are renewed every 7-10 years (and not even from the genetical point of view as mutations and telomere shortening take place!).

    The point here is that the purpose of imprisonment is:
    – Confine dangerous criminals that are a threat to society: Polanski has not commited any other crime for the last 30 years, I don’t think he could be considered a threat
    – Punishment for the crimes, retribution to the victims: the victim doesn’t want him to be prosecuted and thinks that “He made a terrible mistake but he’s paid for it.”
    – Reformation of the criminals: given that Polanski has not commited a crime for the last 30 years one would say he’s refformed.

    Of course I am not defending what he did, I’m just defending Ddes comment.

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