I’m following Omar Khadr’s sentencing hearing via Carol Rosenberg’s tweets. She’s a Miami journalist who has covered Guantanamo longer than any other reporter. The “jury” of U.S. military officers is engaged in the business determining the appropriate sentence for Mr. Khadr, who has pleaded guilty to five serious offences in this… curious process.
As of half an hour ago, a forensic psychiatrist, Michael Weiner is on the stand testifying as to whether Khadr is dangerous as “a violent jihadist.” The witness claims to have worked for 500-600 hours on the Khadr case, hired by the U.S. Department of Defence. According to Rosenberg:
Welner is telling jury about “risk assessment and future dangerousness,” explaining that he designed the Depravity Standard, sliding scale.
I don’t believe the DS will be applied to Mr. Khadr — it was raised, it would seem, as part of the process of qualifying Dr. Weiner as an expert.
Weiner runs a website and a blog called The Depravity Scale, where you can learn about this device. Evidently his efforts were sparked by the variety of terms used in U.S. criminal laws to designate certain acts as particularly worthy of condemnation. He says:
In efforts to minimize the arbitrariness of how courts define the worst of crimes, and to eliminate potential bias in capital and other criminal sentencing, the Depravity Scale research aims to distinguish the specific evidence – that is, the intents, actions, and attitudes of a given crime – that warrants the most severe sentences. The project will develop the Depravity Standard, which distinguishes not who is depraved, but rather, the degree of depravity of a specific crime. This research, therefore, will provide an instrument to the court that is race, gender, and socio-economic blind, and will lead to an objective, evidence-based instrument.
In Phase B and Phase C of this project, all members of the general public are urged to include your personal input on features of potentially “depraved” crimes that we are studying, in order to arrive ncorporating [sic] a public consensus. As such, this is the first project ever developed that invites citizen input to shape a future science instrument for courts, and the first project ever developed in which citizens shape future criminal sentencing standards.
Science is truly a wonderful thing, especially when prayed in aid of justice.