Editorial: Crime and punishment

By Cavalier Daily Editorial Board

“Has there ever been a case of a student committing murder for the sake of robbery?” asked G.Z. Yeliseyev, a critic who could not believe Dostoevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment.” The jury in the murder trial of George Huguely gave an answer last night, finding the former U. Virginia student guilty of grand larceny and the second-degree murder of Yeardley Love. It was a murder ruled not premeditated, but done with malice and forethought. Huguely was also convicted for the unconnected robbery of a laptop, although there’s another thing he stole which cannot be returned.

Huguely had a history with the law, and also with Love: turbulence, fights, emails filled with threats, an alleged choking incident two years ago this month and alcohol-fueled conflicts. We know these things because of testimony offered in the court by teammates, rivals and friends. Many of them spoke during the trial, though not looking at Huguely. But where were they to speak up before? These witnesses had been this close to the defendant previously, but even then had never really looked at him.

Though the trial lasted longer than the two weeks expected, all parties now have time for reflection, longer for some. Those close to the trial may feel relieved, and rightly so: The rumors, the narratives, the media will dissipate, ourselves included. But for most the verdict changes little. Things continue, and no square-pegged punishment ever fits the hole of a crime.

No misplaced sense of vindication or cheap metaphors of “looking forward” or “back” will do justice to those charges the Huguely trial has leveled against our University. It is easy to agree with those outsiders who feign surprise at seeing abuse and smelling alcohol while touring modern campuses. They know and we know, this is still college, where physical and substance abuse goes on and things like this murder might happen.

But we also know things like this don’t just happen. With ink-stained hands, using easy rhetoric about a permissive collegiate or hook-up “culture” sells books and column inches but remains disingenuous. Because taking responsibility starts on the rhetorical level, and if we continue to barter in such stereotypes about who Huguely was and what this University is, then we will always have these cut-outs to blame, and not individuals. There never seem to be any “murderers” among us, only us, and the main significance we can grasp from events such as these is how quickly the mundane becomes murder. The daily challenge lies in using our judgment to prevent this, without having to wait for a verdict.

Read more here: http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2012/02/24/crime-and-punishment-2/
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