I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the current state of affairs in the United States, and I think I have finally figured out when things started changing for the worse in our culture. It's the moment that we let "Why" matter.
Let me explain.
Up through World War II, if you committed a crime and were caught, you were sentenced and did your time. That was it. There was only one crime where "Why" mattered, and that was murder. If you killed someone in self-defense, it was considered justifiable homicide.
Starting in the late 1950's and going through the 1960's, however, motive started playing more of a part in judgment. Due to a rise in the visibility of mental disorders due to "shell shock" from WW2 veterans, an additional defense was brought into general use: Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity. If you weren't in control of yourself due to mental illness, you were sent to a hospital until you got "better" instead of being sent to jail.
From there, it was a simple step to emotional distress: the wonderful "Temporary Insanity" plea. Then, a criminal's past came into play. "You see, Your Honor, my client was fondled by an ice cream salesman as a child, so when the victim bought a Rocky Road ice cream cone and walked by my client, he was actually taunting my client, so my client had no choice but to drag him into his basement and chop off his head with a dull hacksaw, refrigerate the remains and slowly devour them over a three-week period in order to protect himself."
We spend so much time trying to discover why people do what they do that the rights of the victims are forgotten. When looters are let off the hook because they weren't aware that looting wasn't wrong, we're robbing the store owners all over again. When we let murderers off the hook because the only reason that they killed was because they had low blood sugar, we're slaughtering their victims all over again.
I think that there is a simple solution to this, but it's one that judges (especially in the 9th Circuit) are unlikely to do. For each charge, tell the jury to disregard motive. Simply ask, "Did they do it? Yes or no?"
If the jury decides that they did the crime, if it is a crime that has multiple levels, such as homicide, where motive does matter, the judge should be able to make a judgment call based off of the facts presented in the case.
Finally, I think that Texas has the right idea. If you kill someone (not in self-defense) and three or more credible witnesses see you do what you did, forget years of endless appeals. You've got a date with a lethal injection. Don't be late.