Judge James M. Fitzgerald had stepped up to the precipice and tried to stare into the soul of Robert Chris Hansen. That’s a difficult task even in the best of circumstances. How best to see what evil lurks, what schemes are hatching, what violent act are lingering? As was often the case, Hansen was mute, or nearly so. Ever the cipher, ever the deep well of rage, Bob Hansen quietly pretended all was well. Fitzgerald would soldier on, hoping the bright light of psychotherapy would help illuminate this man and the monsters that dwelled within.
THE COURT: I think the basis… I think that this all follows from a mental condition and if he’s treated, in other words, if a psychiatrist can assure us that he’s not going to be any danger to the community or to others, I think he should be released. But unless he is I really feel that it would be a tragedy because I don’t think that in these… in a sort of state that the doctor identified as a diffused state, that he might not perform a very serious act, and the reason I have given him this sentence is because I want to be certain that…
I can’t tell now how long it’s going to take, it may be short, it may be long, but I want to be certain that it’s given to him, that treatment is given to him, and that if it does take a long time, that he will be compelled to accept it and continue the treatment and that’s what I am concerned about. Mr. Ripley [Asst. District Attorney] is there any legal flaw in my sentence?
MR. RIPLEY: Not that I observed, Your Honor, thank you.
It is perhaps unfair to parse the remarks of Judge Fitzgerald from the distance of more perfect knowledge. As it is, they stand as a warning, as a premonition, not a harbinger of a better outcome. The difficult idea lands toward the end of this passage: “compelled to accept [treatment].” How does that work?
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2020). All rights reserved.
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