11 October, 2007

One's homeland as a mitigating circumstance

...and I thought the Italian Supreme Court was bad!*

The accused was a immigrant from a region of Italy known as Sardinia.** He suspected his Lithuanian girlfriend of cheating on him, so he kidnapped her, held her hostage for several days, and committed crimes that I refuse to translate. Read it yourself, if you wish.

The crime occurred in Germany. The judge reduced the sentence from 6 years to at most 4. His justification managed to offend both the victim of a crime and the ethnic group to which the perpetrator belongs. From the decision:

One must take into consideration the cultural and ethnic impressions of the accused. He is Sardinian. The image in his homeland of the roles of men and women is certainly not an excuse, but it must be held in consideration as mitigating.
One strains to imagine what precise aspect of Sardinian culture the judge means. Admittedly, modern travel guides warn tourists not to wander too far into the mountains of Sardinia, as bandits have a habit of taking hostages for ransom. However, this is not the way they treat their women. If only the accused had asked for money in this circumstance—if only!

Despite their reputation, most Sardinians apparently didn't get the memo, and retain a sense of cultural pride that does not tolerate violence. Here's what some leading Sardinians had to say about the matter.
If the judges' motivations are as reported, this is horrifying. Sardinia has no culture of segregating and committing violence of a gratuitous perversion on women. This matter is an episode of violence and, as such, should be condemned. —Giacomo Spissu

Imbeciles exist. —Renato Soru
I had a Sardinian pen pal once. He was, to put it lightly, a spoiled brat. His father had bought him an Alfa Romeo. In his emails he mocked me for living a gray, boring life of a Christian and a mathematician. Nothing he wrote ever suggested that Sardinians think it's okay to kidnap and beat women.

Hmm. I live in the United States, and I'm originally from Virginia.*** If I go to Germany and commit murder with a handgun, will my provenance be considered a mitigating circumstance?

*The Italian Supreme Court is known, among other things, for judging a few years ago that a man could not have raped a woman because she was wearing jeans, and (not a direct quote) "everyone knows that it is impossible to tear jeans off an unwilling woman."

**Sardinia is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea north-west of Sicily. The House of Savoy got its start in Sardinia, then abandoned it for Piedmont and, later, the rest of Italy.

***Virginia gets a lot of blame for the handgun violence in New York City. I'll spare you the details.

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