Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Keep Greyhound killer behind the fence: Conservatives

Manitoba's main opposition party is calling on the government to transfer Vince Li to a fenced-in facility outside the province.
Li, 41, was found not criminally responsible last year for stabbing and beheading fellow passenger Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in 2008.
He was in a Winnipeg courtroom Monday for a mandatory annual review of his detention at a mental-health facility in Selkirk, north of Winnipeg.
At the hearing, Li's doctors asked the board to consider allowing Li 15-minute escorted walks on the grounds of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
He's currently being held in a secure part of the facility. The Crown and McLean's family are opposed to the move.
Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen is also opposed to giving Li more freedom to move because the area where the walks would take place is not fenced in.
He wants the government to send Li to a hospital in another province where he would remain fenced-in when outdoors.
"We are asking for a policy to be put in place that somebody who's committed such an incredibly terrible violent act such a short time ago would not be in a position that they are able to get into the community with relative ease," he told CBC News.
Attorney General Andrew Swan rejected that idea because decisions about Li's custody and similar cases are made by the Criminal Code Review Board — an independent body that operates under federal guidelines — not the province.

If allowed 15 min walks, Li would be supervised at all times by two guards! We do not need to transfer him to another facility, costing even more money! Plus, we should not deny him the basic human right of sunshine and fresh air, which he should have been receiving to begin with. He deserves to have rights and should not be treated worse than a prisoner, because legally, he is not a criminal. His actions were not intentional and not rational and he did not understand the nature of his actions due to his mental illness. He was unable to appreciate the nature of his actions. 

A psychotic person can be fooled in an analogous matter by their own brain. They might really and truly believe that a diety is instructing them to kill people. Or they might be delusional and believe that some people around them are actually space aliens who are trying to infiltrate the human race and they are the only person who can see and stop the aliens. If they act on those delusions and BELIEVE that they're eliminating evil, infiltrating aliens then their interpretation of events is that they're SAVING the human race, not murdering people.

Such things are possible. Psychotic patients do hallucinate, have delusions, disorganized thoughts, etc. Are you unaware of the existence of psychosis? Have you ever heard of a delusion?

We need to acknowledge that people can do horrible things without really understanding what they're doing. They shouldn't be treated as criminals, because they're not. They should be treated as mentally ill patients who are very dangerous.

I think it's obvious to everyone that what's going on in a person's mind is absolutely essential to interpreting the meaning of their actions. Shooting someone in the head to steal their wallet is cold blooded murder. Shooting someone because they're charging at you with a knife and you think they're going to hurt you is self-defense. I shouldn't have to explain that the meaning of one's actions largely depend on that person's understanding of the situation and thus their intention when responding.

For whatever reason, some forget that psychotic illnesses can dramatically disrupt a person's ability to understand reality.

"The narrowest definition of psychotic is restricted to delusions or prominent hallucinations, with the hallucinations occurring in the absence of insight into their pathological nature. A slightly less restrictive definition would also include prominent hallucinations that the individual realizes are hallucinatory experiences." (p. 297 of the DSM-IV-TR)

Psychotic people can lose contact with reality, to greater or lesser degrees. To use mental illness as a defence, the burden of proof lies with the defence to show that the accused didn't understand the nature of their actions. If the judge was convinced, then I think it's time to move forward and treat Li as a mental patient until it can be certain that he is no longer a danger to anyone else.

A psychotic person may not necessarily fully appreciate the nature of their actions. Psychotic patients can and do lose contact with reality. It is possible for them to hurt other people and not understand that what they're doing is hurting an innocent person. To deny that possibility is very ignorant.

> What he did - reagardless of the reason is unforgivable <

So the reason for a person doing something doesn't matter? Suppose he really, genuinely believed that God told him to do it? I think that would be forgiveable. That's an entirely different matter than advocating for his release.

A psychotic person might not appreciate the meaning of their actions. How difficult is that to understand?

Suppose you went to a friend's house and he asked you to turn on the television. You press the power button. What you DID NOT know was that the power button was wired to set off a nuclear weapon in a crowded city half-way across the world. Your action has just killed millions of people. You are NOT criminally responsible because you were unable to appreciate the nature of your actions.

> We know this guy is absoulutely unable to stop killing people <

BS. How do you "know" that he is unable to stop killing people. If he was unable to stop killing people, don't you think that he would have killed more than 1 person in his 41 years on the planet? Don't you think he would have tried to kill others since his incarceration?

There is clearly a good reason to believe that he is dangerous and we should error on the side of caution, but that doesn't mean that you should just make up whatever you want about the guy.

> there is no cure for his disease. <

There are effective treatments for the symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. It's the symptoms of his illness that interfere with his ability to fully understand reality. While his psychotic symptoms can be effectively treated, the treatment is only effective if he takes his medication.

I do think Li is very dangerous and it would be a mistake to risk anyone's safety just so that he can go for a walk. I think that if he wants more freedoms that the burden of proof now lies on him and those representing him to show that he's not dangerous. How that's demonstrated is not something that I know about, but saying that you can't ever demonstrate that he's no longer a risk may not be correct.

> ... he is likely to kill again given the chance to. He has already proved that. <


> We would be completely irresponsible to let that happen. <

I agree. The point I'm trying to make is that he shouldn't be treated like a criminal because he's not. He's mentally ill and very dangerous. We can't ask for a 100% guarantee that he's not a danger, but we should error on the side of caution. It's not worth risking a life just so he can go for a walk.

"Not criminally responsible" means that he could not appreciate the difference between right and wrong at the time.

In any criminal case, the police, lawyers, judge, etc. use facts in order to try inferring the accused's understanding of their own actions. That's why the law makes a distinction between 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, manslaughter or justifiable homicide. They all involve homicide, but what's important in determining criminal guilt is what the accused was trying to accomplish: carrying out a murder that was staged to appear accidental for insurance money indicates that the accused knew what they were doing was wrong (because they tried to hide it) and they did it for selfish reasons. With manslaughter, the accused did not intend to kill the victim. In justifiable homicide, the killer BELIEVED that they were acting in self-defence.

In justifiable homicide, whether or not the killer was actually in danger is not the issue. The issue is whether or not they had a good reason to fear for their life.

I should NOT have to explain this, but OBVIOUSLY what a person thinks they're doing when they kill somebody is essential to the meaning of their actions. For some reason, there are some people who don't realize that mentally ill people, such as a psychotic person, might not think that what they're doing is wrong. Some people really do think they hear a diety ordering them to kill someone.

If you're going to claim to know that Li is criminally responsible for his actions, then I ask that you offer an explanation for that claim. Please explain how you know what Li thought he was doing.

IMO, if the judge came to decide that Li's not criminally responsible (because he's psychotic) then he should be treated as a mental patient, not a criminal.

"Life for Life, oh no but the bleeding heart canadians say lets keep him alive for the next 45to 50 years, we'll feed him , entertain him ( give him tv), medicate him, and give him quality of life, while his victim is dead, the victim's daughter grows up without a daddy, oh but , lets not make him pay for his crime , thats too harsh. BS its too harsh, he killed someone. stupid."

Tim McClean was the killed by a disease not by Vince Li. For comparison sake, lets say that someone, Destiny 1972 for example, goes on a visit to Madagascar and while there catches a case of Malaria. Destiny knew there was malaria in that country but decided not to take any meds, perhaps because only bleeding hearts catch Malaria. On Destiny's return it is discovered that he is sick, but not before he infects five other people, two of whom die from the illness, although he manages to make a full recovery. Now here is the question: Is Destiny guilty of the murder of those two people? According to the statement above we should make him pay for those two deaths because "He killed someone. stupid.[sic]" Nonsense. Schizophrenia is a disease the same as malaria is a disease; Vince Li did not kill Tim McClean, Schizophrenia did. If we followed the above logic we would need to go into the hospital and arrest every sick person as a potential killer.

Understanding what the word psychosis means does not make someone a bleeding heart.

"Copped out on the "insanity" plea,plain and simple".


So shutupandlisten? You think he is faking insanity? What about the fact that he had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic before he attacked Tim McLean? There is no cure for schizophrenia, so he was schizophrenic when he boarded the bus, and is still schizophrenic........... but you think he was faking it in court? With respect, it does not seem that your comment is very well thought out, does it?

If you are still convinced he is faking it, why do you think he cut off a man's head and ate part of the dead body in front of a bus load of people? Bad day? Boredom? What is your theory? Seems pretty darn crazy behavior to me...absolute *INSANITY* in fact, would you not agree?

There are obviously an large number of people who don't even understand the meaning of the simple word "insane", or the phrase "not criminally responsible". Neither do they have even a basic understanding of mental illness. The amount of ignorance on the threads about this subject is frankly, astounding.

Mr. Li needs to be treated not killed or tortured in some way for revenge. Please note that "treated" does not equal being set free. I think it would be a good idea to have him in a fenced facility so that the public can have peace of mind, including the family of Tim McLean.

Li is clearly a man in need of desperate psychological help. No stable human being would have, or COULD have done something like this. Of course, he should probably never be allowed to go completely free in society, but why not allow him the chance to see the sun again? Might help normalize him in the long run.

It isn`t the 17th century.

Li was diagnosed with a disease----a mental disease----- which I am sure he never wished upon himself. But for a stroke of luck and some good fortune any one of us could have been the recipient of this unfortunate gene combination. It is so easy to lump the mentally disadvantaged into the same cess pool occupied by the people who deliberately choose to murder, steal, rape, pillage and plunder. It is so hard to recognize mental illness as an afflication that has nothing to do with choice----and to treat someone with this unfortunate disease no differently than someone that has cancer or a broken leg---with understanding and compassion. However; having this unpopular opinion should not in any way,, should not, in any way, be linked to a lessening of sympathy deserved by the family and friends of the victims

They say with SARS that once you've had the virus, even if you've overcome it once, it always stays in your system with the possibility of re-occurring. Now let's suppose a person who's had SARS, and caused several people to die by unknowingly infecting them, gets over it himself. Should he be held responsible for the other peoples' deaths and should he be incarcerated "in case" the virus re-occurs in him?

That's just the same as what those of you are proposing on here and it's outrageous because no one should be incarcerated for what they "might" do, if
the probability that they "might" do it is very unlikely. At some point we have to stop the paranoia although I just know that now we'll hear the "if it can save just one life" it's worth it. That being the case, people should avoid crossing the road because the probability of getting hit by a car is much greater!

Canadians need to put aside their emotions and understand "not criminally responsible" means he is NOT a criminal. He is a very sick man and he needs our help. We are trying to rehabilitate Li. My hear goes out the Maclean family but everyone needs to understand that we are helping LI not punishing him.

I see that the Manitoba Tories are as spiteful and mean-spirited as their federal counterparts.
Shame on them for trying to make political hay on such a sick individual whose doctors are trying to get him better by giving him a little sunshine and fresh air.
"Where your logic fails miserably is where we are now. If you know someone has malaria and you know they are so irresponsible as to go and give it to others, you are making a grave mistake letting him do it. Either cure him of the malaria or keep him away from the rest of us. We already prosecute (as we should) HIV positive folks who infect others without disclosure."

Where your logic fails is you assume he was aware he would do this which of course he wasn't!

"We know this guy is absoulutely unable to stop killing people and there is no cure for his disease. We know he is likely to kill again given the chance to. He has already proved that. We would be completely irresponsible to let that happen."

You speak nonsensical drivel. We know nothing of the sort. Your statement here is completely without merit as the doctors have determined the opposite. I know it riles you but the ignorant often struggle and get angry with what they don't understand.

"Put a fence around him until you can prove to me he is cured - which you can't."

Happily, we don't need to prove anything to YOU. You aren't knowledgeable enough to matter!!!

in our society we don't punish the mentally or physically ill. Your comment is absurd and immature hogwash! You have no credibility when you make such ridiculous statements

I think Li should have some time out (supervised, of course) in order to assess his psychological well-being and potential recovery.

"Hate the sin, not the sinner" is one of the great statements that I use in dealing with individuals.
For heaven's sake. He's not being taken to the mall, he's going on the grounds with two attendents for 15 minutes. As the headline clearly states, he's just going outside the WARD. He remains in a locked-down mental health facility, which has housed many violent people with mental illnesses. The staff there can handle taking him outdoors for a few minutes. I presume his doctors would not put their staff and the other patients in a position where they would be at risk. Let these people do their jobs - they are not lawyers or cops, and if Li is able to handle the outdoors, it's an indication that they are doing their jobs very well.
It's still not clear to me whether he'd taken the medication for very long. It sure sounds like it wasn't long enough for it to have any effect on his schizophrenia. I take exception hearing so many people blame him for the murder because he stopped taking his meds, as though it was a selfish and deliberate choice on his part and he did it knowing what the consequences would be. He must have been very sick at that point and not rational.

"I believe those who choose to kill are also mentally ill. How can you kill and be of sound mind? Why aren't all murderers put into a psychiatric ward? To me it doesn't matter what kind of sickness it is - there is no excuse for crime. Especially one this heinous. The justice system is supporting Li when they should be supporting the Mcleans."

Murderous sociopaths are technically mentally ill but, unlike Vince Li, they are well aware that they are committing murder and they know it's wrong. They really don't care. Everything is a game to them. Before Vince Li became seriously ill, he attended church and worked there and was known as a hard worker in the jobs he held. I don't believe he didn't care about Tim McLean; his madness had consumed his rational mind at that point. Imagine coming out of the fog of insanity and finding out you'd committed unspeakable acts after killing someone. Unpopular as it may be, I feel sorry for him.
The suggestion that Li should only be allowed outside within a fenced perimeter is perfect, and sensible. The public deserves to be protected. However, I am disturbed by the vengeance in the hearts of the previous commenters, and their supporters, who feel that someone who is mentally ill should be locked in a box forever, never to benefit from fresh air or sunlight. How mentally stable do you need to be to benefit from these two things? Ask your doctor who should go without sunlight or fresh air, and see what he or she says.

The fact is that the courts ruled that Li was not criminally responsible. Do people not understand what that means? Do people not understand what it means when someone is mentally ill, or, to put it less delicately, insane? When someone understands that something and wrong, and does it anyway, we are rightfully angry. However the mentally ill do not think right. They are, or were during the action, incapable of UNDERSTANDING what they did was wrong. The court has seen the evidence, which likely most of these commenters have not seen, and decided that this applies to Li.

No one is denying this was horrific. No one is denying the public must be protected from his man. The problem is when you start behaving spitefully, as if he evaluated the moral question like a normal person and chose to be a monster anyway.

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