Staddon on Law & Purpose

[John Staddon 950215.0230 GMT via Gary Cziko]

Rick: Just a brief response. I did not mention criminal "purpose" because the
definition of "responsibility" I discuss does not use it. The argument is just
this: If the chief purpose of punishment is deterrence, then all the jury needs
to know of a perpetrator is (a) did he do it (the issue of fact)? and (b) would
he have done it had he known the effect of his actions (i.e., the effect was
not inadvertent); (c) would he have persisted if he had known he would be
punished (having brought about this effect)? If the answer to all three
questions is "yes", then the verdict is "guilty."

Intention is irrelevant, except as far as it is implied by the perpetrator
understanding the link between his actions and their result. Thus, if I drop a
marble on a public street and sometime later an old lady slips on it and falls
under a bus. I am not responsible -- because I could not have foreseen the link
between my action and the injury produced. But if I roll the marble under the
feet of the old lady and the same thing happens, I am held responsible, because
I am presumed to understand the causal link between my action and the injury.
By my way of conceiving the situation, the perpetrator's intention is
irrelevant; all that matters is that individuals who find themselves in the
proximity of old ladies, with marbles ready, will not be tempted to act as the
perpetrator acted, because they will be aware of the punishment meted out to
him. One of the main points of the exercise is to get away from the idea that
the state has any interest whatever in the defendant's mental state. The legal
issue is deterrence, not psychoanalysis.