Monday, 3 September 2012

The Remorseless Day

There is an interesting judgement on the States Legal information Board about an application by Advocate Gollop on behalf of Damian Rzeszowski to exclude certain evidence which the Prosecution wished to lead.  It was mostly dismissed, and the evidence was put forward. It's worth considering:

On 31st August, Damian Rzeszowski was visited in the prison by his Polish parents.  The parents were brought to the prison by PC Harasymowicz and DC Szejko, the former in her capacity as a point of contact for the defendant's family.  Both officers are Polish speaking. This is the report of what took case:

5. It would seem that, when the defendant was brought into the visitors' room to see his parents, PC Harasymowicz was in the room and was introduced to the defendant as a police officer by the defendant's father.  She then stood just outside the room with DC Szejko.  The door remained wide open and they could hear the conversation between the defendant and his parents.

6. The Prosecution seek to adduce evidence from PC Harasymowicz on two aspects of the conversation between the defendant and his parents.

(i) At paragraph 5 of her statement, the officer states that, when describing the journey back from Poland to Jersey shortly before the incident, the defendant said that there were "signs" he should not go back to Jersey but did not, according to the officer, say anything about hearing voices, whereas he told Dr Eastman, the expert appearing for the Defence, that he heard voices during the journey back to Jersey.  The Prosecution will seek to rely on this as part of their case that the defendant is making up things in relation to the hearing of voices.

(ii) Paragraph 6 of the officer's statement records that, during the conversation with his parents, the defendant was very particular about his financial arrangements.  The Prosecution will argue that this is relevant for the Jurats when deciding if the defendant was a remorseful man driven to do something terrible by his depression. (1)

There was another meeting the next day at the Prison between the defendant and his parents.  Again it was at the prison.  On this occasion the same two police officers, who had brought the parents to the prison, sat in the room with the defendant and his parents.  The defendant apparently said "good morning" to them in Polish when he was brought into the room. Before this visit, PC Harasymowicz had asked the parents to ask the defendant for permission for the bodies of his wife and two children to be embalmed and about his wishes for their funeral, in particular whether their bodies should be buried or cremated:

9. The parents duly asked these questions of the defendant who gave his response. During the visit the defendant stated to his parents that he did not remember what had happened on 14th August but was able to say that Marta de la Haye and her daughter Julia were at his address for a visit.  The key matter which the Prosecution seek to rely upon in relation to this conversation is that, at some point, the defendant's mother asked him if the incident occurred before or after the barbecue.  He replied that the barbecue was long finished when "it happened".

10. The Prosecution wish to adduce this evidence as showing that, contrary to what he has since apparently said to medical experts, he does have some memory of the incident and they further rely upon it as showing that there was a gap between an argument with his wife and the killings.

The judgement by Michael Birt was as follows:

In my judgment, subject to consideration of the second part of Advocate Gollop's submission, the circumstances in which the evidence about the conversation between the parents and the defendant was obtained do not render it unfair to admit that evidence.  I would mention in particular the following considerations:-

(i) There was no subterfuge or trick employed by the police.  Nothing was said to the defendant to suggest that what he said to his parents was confidential or could not be relied upon. 

(ii) On the contrary, the defendant was aware that the police were able to listen to all that he said.  In the first conversation, he knew that they were just outside the door and could hear what was going on; in the second conversation they were actually in the room with him and his parents. 

(iii) This was not an interview.  The police asked no questions about the incident.  Anything that was said in relation to the incident came about as a result of voluntary discussions between the defendant and his parents. 

(iv) Anything which the defendant said was entirely voluntary on his part and was not induced by anything said or done by the police. 

(v)  On the basis of the English cases referred to, the evidence could properly have been admitted even if the police had covertly tape-recorded the conversation between the defendant and his parents.  In those circumstances, it could not possibly be unfair for a police officer to provide an account of what was said when the defendant knew that the police were listening to the conversation.

32. However, the evidence must be relevant in order to be admissible.  I do not consider that the point made by the prosecution at paragraph 6(ii) has any validity.  The suggestion that, merely because the defendant, who on any view was expecting to be in prison for some time, was discussing financial arrangements with his parents, this indicates that he was not remorseful, is so tenuous as not to be relevant and therefore admissible.

33. Subject to excluding those parts of the both conversations which deal with financial matters I therefore rejected the defendant's application.

In a state of shock, perhaps Damian Rzeszowski would be too numbed, and perhaps too medicated, to feel much emotion. But remorse comes up again and again in cases of murder. Here are a few examples:

Handing down the sentence in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Megan Latham said Mariam had "not expressed the slightest remorse for the death of Mr Knight".

A Dorset man accused strangling his girlfriend in a jealous rage has been accused in court of not showing remorse over her death.

No remorse as 'road-rage fantasy' killer is set free: Victim's family grieve... but Tracie Andrews cites human right to a new life One of Britain's most notorious murderers walks free from jail this week after serving her sentence for a crime which robbed a family of a much-loved son.
But Tracie Andrews refuses to apologise for the brutal stabbing of her fiancé Lee Harvey. Andrews, 41, insists it is now her 'human right' to get on with her life.

The parents of murdered teenager Emily Longley say they want a sign of remorse from the people who tried to cover up the killing.

Remorse, as Rowan Williams has pointed out in "Lost icons" is a disappearing icon, and that in our society, our sense of the need for remorse has become dulled. Remorse means "taking responsibility for how my actions have shaped both that others story and my own". It is often cited as a means of mitigating a sentence, but it can, of course, be feigned. Yet there is something very strange, and very alarming about its absence in a case of brutal, violent murders. There is also no mention of grief, either, over what had occured. There's an interesting study on different ways in which remorse or feelings of guilt can manifest themselves:

Remorse can apparently take a variety of forms. Tangney, Steuwig, and Mashek (2007) identified two types of remorse: shame and guilt. Shame is conceptualized as an egocentric response to wrong-doing. It involves a pervasive sense that the offender is bad, rather than the narrower notion that the offender has done something bad. Persons dealing with shame feel there is little hope and that they are unable to change their behavior because that behavior simply flows from who they are. This emotional experience often leads to hiding behaviors, procrastination, blaming others, and anger (Tangney et al., 2007; Fee & Tangney, 2000). Shame is predictive of low self-esteem and depression (Tangney et al., 2007). Thomas and Parker (2004) have suggested the primordial account of shame can be found in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned against God. Following the offense, they realized they were naked and they were "ashamed" (Genesis 3:7). They hid from God in the Garden (Genesis 3:10) and when God confronted them with their misbehavior they deflected the blame (Genesis 3:12-13).

Guilt is conceptualized as a more adaptive response (Tangney, 1991, 1995) and is probably more developmentally mature (Thomas & Parker, 2004). The focus of this emotion is less egocentric and more upon the specific misbehavior and how that behavior may have harmed others. This emotion typically produces a desire for reparative action and efforts to seek reconciliation. (2)

Who can know what another person feels, or what is going on inside their head? We try to reach the other person, and in the case of Damian, we ask to see reflected what we ourselves would feel - remorse, guilt, grief. That he shows none of these may not be entirely his fault. Many societies often reject expression in men as "unmanly", the ability to conceal grief, to hide tears, is very strongly inculcated in most boy's upbringing. "Don't be a cry baby", "Be a man" etc. Darwin, in his ground breaking "Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals" knew that this wasn't true of all cultures; it was a learned behaviour. So perhaps we should not read too much in the expression of feeling, but, as yet, there is nothing said which seems to indicate remorse or any feeling of guilt. Perhaps it will come in time. Let us hope so.

(2) Feeling Bad: The Different Colors of Remorse, Bassett, Rodney L.; Pearson, Elizabeth et al., Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Spring 2011

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