Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The civil rights of the uncivilized

Canada's most notorious female criminal, Karla Homolka, was released from prison yesterday. She granted a rare interview to the press in Quebec, trying to reassure the public that she is no longer a menace and deserves to live a life free of harassment.

For those outside of the country who have not heard of Karla, she and her husband Paul Bernardo kidnapped, sexually tortured and murdered several teenagers back in the nineties. Karla also "gave" her younger sister Tammy to Paul because Paul wanted to take Tammy's virginity. In addition, he took her life.

Fortunately, Bernardo was given a life sentence. However, Homolka led the court to believe that she was a battered woman who was under Bernardo's influence, and that she only went along with the kidnappings because she was afraid for her own safety. Right after Karla signed a sweetheart deal with the Crown, videotapes that showed Homolka's active participation in the killings surfaced. But it was too late. Karla was sentenced to 12 years in prison. She served her time and now she's out. Rumor has it that she has been corresponding with an inmate who has a history of manslaughter, and that the two of them have a romantic relationship. What reason do we have to believe that Homolka has changed?

She was an exemplary prisoner, she claims, and served as a counselor to help other women. She wants to live in Quebec because she believes that the media there presented less sensational coverage of her story, so there may be a chance for her to establish a second life.

Meanwhile, Homolka has been receiving death threats. People on the Internet have been talking about her like she is the lowest form of humanity. And she is, but the question remains: How do we treat people who have served their time? Does Homolka deserve police protection if her life is in danger? Should we care about Karla Homolka or should we turn our backs and hope that someone takes care of her the way that someone took care of Jeffrey Dahmer in the slammer?

This is a no-brainer for me. I despise what the woman did although I recognize that to some extent she was a victim of Bernardo's. (Handsome, charismatic Paul Bernardo was also the Scarborough Rapist before he graduated to murdering high school girls in St. Catherine's, Ontario. He was a tyrannical and domineering partner to Karla.) But being under his thumb does not make her any less culpable in my eyes. Kristen French, Leslie Mahaffy and Tammy Homolka would be alive today if it weren't for the sick, codependent, "I'll Do Anything to Please My Man" attitude of selfish, sociopathic Karla Homolka.

Having said that, two wrongs don't make a right. The only time vigilante justice is cool and exciting to watch is on old movies like Billy Jack and Walking Tall. In real life, we make a decision as to whether or not we are a humane and just society. If we are, then we must concede that through a legal loophole, Karla served her time. No matter how despicable her actions were, she needs police protection if her life is in danger.

Homolka is still young. She may live among us for many more decades. Harassing and persecuting her will only creates stress that may cause her to become alcoholic, drug addicted or to re-offend by becoming involved with another male criminal. She's out. Let's leave her alone.

Sigrid Macdonald

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