Verdict Series: Innocent Bystander (May be disturbing)

Link to what I'm talking about.

So while driving back from picking something up from a friends, I came across a radio show mentioning this series. Its basically a tool for evaluating how people react to fictional cases, what people think should be the verdict, etc. Alright, that's cool I guess. I was going to leave it at that but then this specific case was mentioned.

Got me thinking.

You can watch the five minute video I linked you to for the details. The basic idea of the situation is how we should treat those who witness horrific acts and do nothing.

Should a person be convicted as an accessory to a crime if their intervention could prevent a death?

Or should they not be convicted of anything seeing as it is not against the law to fail to report a crime.

So where is the line between moral and legal responsibilities?

I'm interested to hear what you think. Please do watch the video before posting.

=y:
Link to what I'm talking about.

So while driving back from picking something up from a friends, I came across a radio show mentioning this series. Its basically a tool for evaluating how people react to fictional cases, what people think should be the verdict, etc. Alright, that's cool I guess. I was going to leave it at that but then this specific case was mentioned.

Got me thinking.

You can watch the five minute video I linked you to for the details. The basic idea of the situation is how we should treat those who witness horrific acts and do nothing.

Should a person be convicted as an accessory to a crime if their intervention could prevent a death?

Or should they not be convicted of anything seeing as it is not against the law to fail to report a crime.

So where is the line between moral and legal responsibilities?

I'm interested to hear what you think. Please do watch the video before posting.

Well, yes innocent bystanders or in this case witnesses should be held accountable.
However only to the extent of as long as the situation does not endanger their lives.
Also ties into vigilantism.

I think most western societies have this tied down in their law somehow for better or worse.

Jurisdictions have differing standards for bystanders. I don't think you can be charged with anything in my state, though I'm almost certain there are states where you are required to report to the police in certain instances. Also, the Canadian accents in that video drove me nuts, really distracting. Almost as distracting as the ridiculous Lawyer Barbies.

Personally, I don't think bystanders should be held accountable. If you see a car wreck on the road, is it really reasonable to legally require every person who sees it to identify the police until one shows up on the scene?

You have an obligation to report and no more. (the following will be working under the idea that what was in the video was a true case)

The defense attempts to link the murder of Kitty Genovese to this case. The cases are completely different. In the Genovese case a woman is calling for help and when people hear it they ignore it. In this case the janitor saw a felony in progress and did not even make an effort to report the crime. In the Genovese case the people can be said not to have understood the crime in progress. In this case the janitor obviously understood what was going on and the implications of his actions. Legally, that makes him an accessory to the crime and morally I cannot disagree with that verdict.

Well that was hilariously biased. They even made the guy out to be an apathetic asshole. I think more realistically the witness to such a crime would be traumatised or in denial about what they saw and due to their state of shock might not report the crime. They probably would want to distance themselves from the event and forget what they saw. I doubt anyone would be that bare-facedly callous, especially not if they wanted to stay out of jail. Even though the guy in the video is a cunt, convicting him would certainly set an unreasonable precedent.

There's too much wrong with the hypothetical case. Who would just carry on broom-raping a child after someone has walked in on them? Even if someone didn't report such a crime, would it really be because they were so cartoonishly callous, or is it more likely that they didn't report it because they were terrified and confused? Also, the fact that they used a child getting brutally abused and raped instead of just using a conventional murder as an example makes it obvious that they are trying to get an emotional rise out of the audience to make them ignore the implications of voting guilty. I'm not buying it. I say not guilty. You shouldn't be sent to jail just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The case is not realistic. A guy actually reacting with such apathy would have to have some serious mental health problems. And, well, Barbie lawyers, as was pointed out. The whole thing seems more about appeal and show than it is about actual facts of the case. Now, still, to answer your questions.

=y:

Should a person be convicted as an accessory to a crime if their intervention could prevent a death?

No. No mater what you say or how you spin it, you're not an "accessory to murder" by failing to intervene, because in order to be "accessory" to something, you need to take an active part in it. Yes, you could get charged with negligence, however, and most jurisdictions I know do dish out punishments for failing to provide the law enforcement with information on serious crimes. However, such punishments are nowhere near the punishment for the actual crime.

Plus, if there are circumstances like death threats if you tell anyone and the classic jazz, that's enough. If you can show there was a reasonable fear for your own well-being, the worst that should happen to you is getting called a douche for not wanting to risk your life for someone else's. And nobody should be expected to get involved into anything at the risk of their own well-being; or rather, nobody should be punished if they decide their own well-being > someone else's well-being.

Yes, even if the "someone else" is a kid. Sorry, but my life means more to me than the life of a kid who's not me.

Or should they not be convicted of anything seeing as it is not against the law to fail to report a crime.

Again, in most jurisdictions I know, it actually is against the law not to report a serious crime as long as you do not endanger yourself in doing so.

So where is the line between moral and legal responsibilities?

A line very thin and blurred. I, for example, once reported a suspected car theft (the car ran through read with its alarm system still flashing and making obnoxious sounds, so I reported it, for example), and if I have a reasonable chance to break up a crime in progress; or solve a crime; without making myself an additional victim, I'll do so.

But when my back is against the wall, I'm going to say "Fuck this, I have my own ass to worry about right now. Once that's covered, I'll do what I can for you, cross my heart."

I'm sure there are laws in the Netherlands that state you have to help other persons when they are in big danger and you can easily help them.

If that person entered that room, saw man and girl and just didn't care, okay.

The defense of that guy was just silly. "A psycho-social phenomenon documented as the 'bystander-effect', look here news in China". Because there is nothing wrong with the people who did that in China and it was in the news because it was so normal. Yeah, right.

Well, this guy couldn't have fallen to "Bystander effect" because that thing is more about "Oh, someone is going to do something so I don't have to." If you're the only person there, you really can't claim that, now can you.

(And in the end, Everybody was upset because Nobody did what Anybody could have done.)

Seeing as you're supposed to report certain diseases on potatos to the ministry of defense in the UK, I get the feeling that it's probably against the law to just not say anything. I assume that if your life is in danger then that is a fair exemption, but otherwise you're deliberately obstructing the course of justice for no good reason.

Danyal:
The defense of that guy was just silly. "A psycho-social phenomenon documented as the 'bystander-effect', look here news in China". Because there is nothing wrong with the people who did that in China and it was in the news because it was so normal. Yeah, right.

It's still a valid defense though, sometimes not preventing a conviction, but often leading to a blanc sentence. For instance the infamous French anti-semitic torture case, where someone was literally tortured to death over the course of weeks while others knew, did nothing, and weren't convicted.

And what of the robbery-murder by two Polish gypsies on Joe Van Holsbeeck? They stabbed him right in the middle of a crowded metro station without provocation. Nobody did anything. Nobody even followed the perpetrators. I've never even heard of any action against those present. Why? Confronting two gypsy scumbags who may turn their random violence on you next is more than can be expected, but apparently it also excuses bystanders from doing nothing at all.

And Eddy Wind. Crazy Moroccan walks into his boss' bicycle shop, demanding his scooter be fixed right now. Doesn't like being told there's no time, stabs the boss. Eddy Wind tries to stop the perpetrator, and is stabbed to death. Psychiatric evaluation of the perpetrator spoke of a severe anti-social personality disorder, complete lack of conscience and grave risk of re-offending. The perpetrator received an extremely lenient sentence, no judicial psychiatric treatment and was released from prison less than 7 years later.

And those were just extreme cases. The passive bystander ussually gets off easier. I've often seen fights breaking out between clients. Nobody ever does anything. In a rare case a colleague or other client may make a half attempt to calm the situation after I intervene and stop the violence.

And I remember a headline that pissed me off where a busdriver here in Utrecht took far too much off the tickets of a boy and girl who got on the bus, and when asked to rectify that (for which they have correcting patches readily available) he punched the girl, then the boy. The girl struck back once, knocking the apparently not so hardcore busdriver out. Guess who got arrested? Not the perpetrator, not the girl who struck back, but the boy, the only one who didn't threw a punch was arrested and spent a day in a cell. Because police are so conditioned to hearing bus drivers being the subject of attacks, they go completely blind to other possibilities. I've also personally seen that happen several times where the perpetrator is standing right next to them, and they're being tough towards victims or passerby's who help out.


So, to summarize, the bystander effect is indeed big, and it is real. Not only that, but untill the VVD changed the law in 2010, the bystander also often ended up being punished, or at least treated very poorly by the police.

So if I can give any advice, if you want to help out anywhere, be a girl or a Moroccan or something, because otherwise you're the one who ends up looking guilty to whatever happened. ^_^
Be extremely correct about it. Always warn before you attack, even in an emergency situation where someone else is taking a beating, and don't get into anything you're not certain you can win. If you intervene, be decisive and incapacitate whoever is causing the situation to occur because if you don't, you're the new target. Afterwards, ask any passerby who witnessed what they saw. If they saw you being in the right, ask for their details, whether police is already present or not. If it comes to taking statements, dramaqueen horribly about how violent it was and how little you could do about it and how terrified you felt, no matter the circumstance. If you happen to ever have gained any form of fighting experience in sports or otherwise, do not under any circumstance share that with the responding police, downplay it if asked directly about it when you're regarded as a witness, lie about it if you feel like you're being treated as a suspect.
It may sound a bit paranoid and may not always be needed, but do it and save yourself hours of hassle just in case.

Blablahb:

Danyal:
The defense of that guy was just silly. "A psycho-social phenomenon documented as the 'bystander-effect', look here news in China". Because there is nothing wrong with the people who did that in China and it was in the news because it was so normal. Yeah, right.

It's still a valid defense though, sometimes not preventing a conviction, but often leading to a blanc sentence. For instance the infamous French anti-semitic torture case, where someone was literally tortured to death over the course of weeks while others knew, did nothing, and weren't convicted.

Well, of course I believer in the bystander-effect. But just two things.
1. Do you[1] really think you're innocent because those people in China didn't help that child? Why would you want to identify with those people? It's not helping you. It's like "Why did you help those criminals?! - Well, there were a lot of Dutch collaborators during WWII too!". It's not really helping your case.
2. I thought the bystander effect was way more 'effective' when you were one of a lot of bystanders. I was lying on a scaffold on my own property, and an elderly women who was cycling on a road 20 meters away from me still yelled at me and asked me whether I was dead/unconscious/had fallen.

Blablahb:
And what of the robbery-murder by two Polish gypsies on Joe Van Holsbeeck? They stabbed him right in the middle of a crowded metro station without provocation. Nobody did anything. Nobody even followed the perpetrators. I've never even heard of any action against those present. Why? Confronting two gypsy scumbags who may turn their random violence on you next is more than can be expected, but apparently it also excuses bystanders from doing nothing at all.

And Eddy Wind. Crazy Moroccan walks into his boss' bicycle shop, demanding his scooter be fixed right now. Doesn't like being told there's no time, stabs the boss. Eddy Wind tries to stop the perpetrator, and is stabbed to death. Psychiatric evaluation of the perpetrator spoke of a severe anti-social personality disorder, complete lack of conscience and grave risk of re-offending. The perpetrator received an extremely lenient sentence, no judicial psychiatric treatment and was released from prison less than 7 years later.

And those were just extreme cases. The passive bystander ussually gets off easier. I've often seen fights breaking out between clients. Nobody ever does anything. In a rare case a colleague or other client may make a half attempt to calm the situation after I intervene and stop the violence.

And I remember a headline that pissed me off where a busdriver here in Utrecht took far too much off the tickets of a boy and girl who got on the bus, and when asked to rectify that (for which they have correcting patches readily available) he punched the girl, then the boy. The girl struck back once, knocking the apparently not so hardcore busdriver out. Guess who got arrested? Not the perpetrator, not the girl who struck back, but the boy, the only one who didn't threw a punch was arrested and spent a day in a cell. Because police are so conditioned to hearing bus drivers being the subject of attacks, they go completely blind to other possibilities. I've also personally seen that happen several times where the perpetrator is standing right next to them, and they're being tough towards victims or passerby's who help out.

So, to summarize, the bystander effect is indeed big, and it is real. Not only that, but untill the VVD changed the law in 2010, the bystander also often ended up being punished, or at least treated very poorly by the police.

So if I can give any advice, if you want to help out anywhere, be a girl or a Moroccan or something, because otherwise you're the one who ends up looking guilty to whatever happened. ^_^

This isn't really helping my "faith in humanity" :/

Blablahb:
Be extremely correct about it. Always warn before you attack, even in an emergency situation where someone else is taking a beating, and don't get into anything you're not certain you can win. If you intervene, be decisive and incapacitate whoever is causing the situation to occur because if you don't, you're the new target. Afterwards, ask any passerby who witnessed what they saw. If they saw you being in the right, ask for their details, whether police is already present or not. If it comes to taking statements, dramaqueen horribly about how violent it was and how little you could do about it and how terrified you felt, no matter the circumstance. If you happen to ever have gained any form of fighting experience in sports or otherwise, do not under any circumstance share that with the responding police, downplay it if asked directly about it when you're regarded as a witness, lie about it if you feel like you're being treated as a suspect.
It may sound a bit paranoid and may not always be needed, but do it and save yourself hours of hassle just in case.

Thanks for the hints... Well, while I do think I would try to help others, I'm not really a fighter. So I'd help by alerting other bystanders or finding help in an other way - something that I probably won't be punished for. But that's why I think the guy in the video is guilty. I didn't expect him to go in there and fight the rapist - but he could have at least alerted someone, if he truly saw someone getting raped and murdered.

[1] The guy in the video

 

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