One of the major problems that societies have experienced for numerous decades is crime. Time and again, violent crimes are brought about by being delimited by a violent environment. In The Ghetto Made Me Do It, Francis Flaherty puts forth that if individuals develop delimited by intense violence, then they ought to be given a lighter verdict in case they commit a misdemeanor in the future. Flaherty bases his argument on the fact that such persons have undergone a lot while growing up (Adams, 2009). Environmental factors are the basis of violence. These encompass suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dire neighborhoods, as well as lack of guidance. Individuals go through different experiences and that which is normal to some people may be abnormal to others. Specific actions in one zone may appear abnormal in others. This is the case of Morgan’s neighborhood that was characterized with regular violence, and she acclimatized to fracas, gun shots as well as police sirens. This paper discusses the statement “Lisa was a victim and product of her environment and was not responsible for her own actions”.
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The book explicates Felicia Lisa Morgan’s violent and traumatic childhood. She endured various experiences while growing up and this can be said to have made her what she was in her later life. During her defense, Robin Shellow, Morgan’s attorney said that Morgan’s mother who was a drug addict shot her father and her boyfriend, while two of her uncles were murdered. Morgan’s brother and her sister’s boyfriend were shot and the latter was left paralyzed (Flaherty, 2003). In the duration of seventeen minutes, Morgan committed one planned murder and six robberies in October 1991. She was also raped at a tender age of twelve years (Flaherty, 2003). Theoretically, Shellow defended her putting forth medical problem. According to her, Morgan is affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other mental disorders that stems from her lasting experience of violence (Flaherty, 2003). Shellow argued that in Morgan’s family and neighborhood, violence is a custom. It is a regular incidence that Morgan was exposed to while she was growing up and it can be argued that this rendered her not accountable for her deeds. Her childhood in a ghetto plainly exemplifies the dreadful impacts of ubiquitous urban violence. In court, she was found normal and culpable meaning that the ghetto defense was futile. Alex Kotlowitz puts forth that the employment of PTSD to defend Morgan just because she was brought up in the ghetto was exasperating and unpleasant. Kotlowitz spent eighteen months in a battle zone and he says that there are considerable differences between the two neighborhoods (Flaherty, 2003).
Individuals who are brought up in violence become accustomed to it, thus carrying a weapon, stealing, or committing other crimes is not a major concern. Furthermore, persons who lack guidance fail to be acquainted with moral values; as a result violence might appear proper. In our case, Morgan lacked parental guidance and she was constantly abused. According to Flaherty, her mother who was believed to be her guardian was actually her enemy, and this can be evidenced when she threatened to exterminate Morgan by putting a knife to her throat. Persons who grow up in similar families or neighborhood as Morgan’s know no better and would take the path of violence. They grow up with the knowledge that the only methods of communication are violence and crime. They are not exposed to honest ways of living; however, anger, fear and blood are the characteristics of their lives. Growing up surrounded by violence and other immoral behaviors renders persons vulnerable and they have a high probability of committing crimes in the future. It is perhaps true to say that they should not be blamed entirely as their surrounding environment is what made them what they are. This is the case of Morgan as it is clear from the writings that the environment she was exposed to whilst growing up is what influenced her life and actions in their later years. As a result, they should be given a lighter verdict in case they commit offenses in future (Adams, 2009).
If persons are brought up with the trepidation of being murdered, they become insecure concerning themselves in future. The fear obtained from violence during childhood changes to fury and they become annoyed at everything including the society as they were not able to escape from what the society offered (violence). In their adult life, they attempt to revenge for entirely everything they went through during their childhood and consequently commit crimes either to defend themselves or for revenge (Brandon & Brandon, 2012). Such persons do not trust anyone including their relatives. Flaherty has put forth that whilst Morgan’s parents were taking their meals, they sat down with guns with an aim of protecting themselves from each other (2003). Having been exposed to all these violent behaviors, insecurity and living a miserable life made Morgan become a violent person, and thus she should be understood on this basis.
People whose lives have been exposed to violence suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. As the disorder is a result of the stress the children undergo through and it builds up as they grow. Children develop the disorder from the beatings and deaths they witnessed as they grew up. When children suffer the PTSD, they are unable to control their behaviors. This can be reiterated by Flaherty writings “Morgan belongs to a very small group of inner-city residents with (tremendous intra-familial violence), only some of whom might experience PTSD” (2003). The author feels that such individuals do not deserve to be jailed for this disorder as they are not to blame for being thieves and murderers. Such people see it as a normal thing as in their childhood years. They need to see therapists and attend special programs to help or better yet visit mental hospitals if the problem is beyond them. People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder should be retained in special hospitals and only released after they have changed their behaviors. Additionally, they should face a lesser jail term than that given to a sane person. It is the hope of many that people suffering from PTSD will change and become better citizens and part of the society.
If for certain reasons a battered spouse or veteran can employ the PTSD as a defense mechanism, then what prevents a brutalized ghetto product such as Morgan employ the same? To answer this question, it should be noted that the veteran uses this mechanism only under certain conditions. Therefore, it is inappropriate to even contemplate using the same in a case like Morgan’s. Besides, Morgan comes from the ghetto which is her home and a war zone is not any ones home. In a home setting, it is hard to experience PTSD, only the daily fears, stresses and worries of life. It is argued that everyone has had bad experiences and memories when growing up. As such, this should not excuse anyone from his/her actions. This means that one should be responsible for their actions irrespective of what influences them. It is said that everything else is different in a ghetto and a war zone, and that the only common thing is a gun.
The defense by Shellow is medical. She considers that Morgan suffers the PTSD, and other mental disorders resulting from her exposure to violence. Shellow, like other lawyers understands that the law detests applicable excuses. As such she stresses the narrowness of her argument that Morgan comes from an environment surrounded by violence.
Further, she emphasizes the unrevolutionary state of the defense legally and medically. According to her, post traumatic stress disorder is recognized as a sickness in standard diagnostic tests for a long time and it has been used to defend the veterans and people suffering from trauma. Shellow attempted to prove that her defense was appropriate. Nonetheless, the case continued ringing loud alarms. It is apparent that the strategies she used in the case brought out an equation amid criminal exculpation and inner city conditions. The argument was that if a person born and bred in a poor and violent background can commit a crime and be excused for it, so should a ghetto person be too.
Other correlations that make ghetto defense appear legitimately exist. For example, other than the old self defense ideologies, a battered wife under some authority can kill her husband and go scot free. This is because of the psychological torture of violence and fear she has suffered in her life. Morgan should not be an exception (Brandon & Brandon, 2012). Her life was full of fear and violence. These claims give lawyers hope of the future of the pioneering strategy of Shellow. However, some lawyers do not think this will ever happen, for instance lawyer William Kunstler.
In an attempt to explain how deep the wounds from the ghetto would be, Shellow used two incidents in Morgan’s life. First, when Felicia was 11, her mother threatened to kill her by putting a knife to her throat. She escaped and hid in the basement where her mother could not see her. Secondly, when she was 12, she was attacked by the landlord. She struggled with him in an attempt to escape but the landlord subdued her and raped her. The society puts no efforts to save this child. As such the responsibility of one’s actions here do not apply. The question should be the responsibility of a society to save such a child as Morgan.
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