An eye for an eye will only blind us all

 The public outrage over the murder of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch is entirely understandable. 

Such a horrific incident arouses fears in other parents about what might happen to their own children, and hatred and loathing for the individual who can commit such a terrible act is a natural response.

This does not excuse, however, the threats made toward the accused by members of the public and, according to his lawyer, one police officer. The stepfather of the murdered child, Dwayne Lewis, appeared in court on Monday, and was confronted by a hostile crowd who, to quote one onlooker, came “to see the man who could do something like that”.

It is facile to note that Mr Lewis remains innocent until proven guilty. The people who came to the court had already decided that he was a “beast”, “devil” and “evil”. But this is exactly why persons who are accused of crimes are tried in a court, and not by a mob or even by public opinion. A mob never considers either evidence or moral principle in its reactions to wrongdoing.

This was clearly shown by onlookers who threatened to castrate, maim and torture Lewis. While all of that is just old talk, such comments reveal a mindset which, ironically, mirrors the very violence which these same persons are reviling. This is the principle of an eye for an eye which, as Mahatma Gandhi once noted, “leaves the whole world blind”. 

Indeed, it is that cycle which drives the continual murders in our country, since revenge killings account for many homicides.Apart from expressing their wish to have the accused tortured, some persons were even incensed at Mr Lewis being given a psychiatric evaluation. This is presumably because they think that, if he is found to be insane, he will escape the consequences of his alleged actions. But have these people really thought through their position?

 First, mentally ill persons who pose a danger to others are incarcerated, so there are consequences.

 Second, everybody who dismisses insanity as a relevant factor is saying that, if the heinous act of child-killing does happen, they prefer that it be committed by a person of sound mind. Put another way, they prefer that a child be murdered by a person who knows right from wrong, since this is the legal definition of “sound mind”. 

It is up to the court to decide on these matters, and this will happen in the fullness of time. But focusing only on this latest incident, and wishing various cruelties on the alleged perpetrator, does nothing to solve the larger problem—how do we save other Akiel Chambers, Amy Annamunthodos, Sean Lukes and other Keyanas? 

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