Tuesday, January 5, 2010

14 Years in Prison for Wilful Murder!

As with most legal terms, the definition of murder varies between jurisdictions. But all jurisdictions agree that it's the most serious crime worthy of the harshest punishment. In common law, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another human being with intent. It is worth mentioning that murder is different from homicide. The difference lies in the state of mind of the accused at the time of the offence. Where "intent" is established by the prosecution, it's murder! The absence of intent qualifies unlawful killing as homicide. Most societies, both modern and ancient, have considered murder the most serious crime because it deprives the victim of existence and inflicts grief upon the individuals close to the victim. Courts typically, slam murderers with life imprison (I like it with no parole) or the death penalty. Apparently, a Swedish court disagrees! A man in Sweden was given 14 years in prison for wilful murder.

Justice served?

A 37-year-old Swedish man wilfully murdered his ex-girlfriend and has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. On August 23 2009, the man - Martin Hensvold lost a custody battle with his ex-girlfriend - Frida Stenberg, over the couple's two children. Three hours after being awarded custody, Frida drove to a farm owned by Martin's parents, in a village in Luleå, north of Sweden. Before leaving with her kids, Martin returned from his car with some requested items and a bolt pistol (normally used for anaesthetizing livestock). He placed the bolt pistol against his ex-girlfriend's neck and fired a fatal shot! It's worth mentioning that the event unfolded in the presence of the couple's two children (2-year-old son and 4-month old daughter). The children looked on as dad murdered their mom. How traumatizing!

A prosecutor - Karin Hansson urged the district court in Luleå to sentence Henvold to life in prisonment (harshest punishment in Swedish law). She argued that the murderer had time to collect his thoughts when he went to his car to get the pistol. Hence, it was wilful murder. Do you agree?

There's a twist to the case - a psychiatric evaluation during the investigation revealed that the murderer wasn't suffering from any mental illness at the time of the killing. But a later examination showed that following the crime, the murderer started to suffer from deep depression with symptoms of psychosis.

With all these in consideration, the Luleå District Court sentenced the muderer to 14 years in prison, rather than time in a psychiatric care facility.

What does the "lawyer" in you think? Was justice served?

Looking at the facts, I respectfully disagree with the court's decision. Justice has not been served! Murder is the most serious crime and should be treated as such. It's worthy of the most severe punishment in the land. In my mind, the killing of Frida in the presence of her two children was premeditated. The murderer was in a sound state of mind at the time of the killing and as the prosecution rightly pointed out, he had time to think about his action when he went to his car to get the bolt pistol. The murderer had the intent to kill or to inflict grievous bodily harm resulting to death. In other words, the murderer's act (actus reus) coincided with his state of mind (mens rea). It's murder! What could be worst?

I'm not an advocate for the death penalty, but I favor a life sentence without perole. Make no mistake about it, I'm mindful of the Martin's state of mind after the killing and I sympathize with him. However, life imprisonment would have been the most appropriate punishment for him in this case. I'm confident that his mental health needs can be met within the Swedish prison.


  1. I am for the death penalty from a financial standpoint. Tax payers pay for the upkeep of inmates in jail (at least in most countries). I understand that sometimes the justice system is wrong and the wrong person goes to prison. However, in the cases where the accused fully confesses to a crime of murder, I say haul him to the death penalty.

  2. Mon Petite Niche, unfortunately, many people share that view, but I don't. I think life is secret and no one - not even the State should deprive an individual of the right to life. The right to life is an absolute right!


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