Murdering: It’s Not My Fault, It’s Genetic

If a doctor says it’s true, it must be true! If science says it’s so, it must be so. Except for when it isn’t. Except for when the science isn’t settled…and science is never settled.

Should a man get let off for hacking someone to pieces because he has the genetic marker called the “warrior gene”? Barbara Bradley Hagerty of NPR reports:

They’ve tested some 30 criminal defendants, most of whom were charged with murder. They were looking for a particular variant of the MAO-A gene – also known as the warrior gene because it has been associated with violence. Bernet says they found that Waldroup has the high-risk version of the gene.

“His genetic makeup, combined with his history of child abuse, together created a vulnerability that he would be a violent adult,” Bernet explains.

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Over the fierce opposition of prosecutors, the judge allowed Bernet to testify in court that these two factors help explain why Waldroup snapped that murderous night.

“We didn’t say these things made him become violent, but they certainly constituted a risk factor or a vulnerability,” Bernet says.

Bernet cited scientific studies over the past decade that found that the combination of the high-risk gene and child abuse increases one’s chances of being convicted of a violent offense by more than 400 percent. He notes that other studies have not found a connection between the MAO-A gene and violence – but he told the jury that he felt the genes and childhood abuse were a dangerous cocktail.

“A person doesn’t choose to have this particular gene or this particular genetic makeup,” Bernet says. “A person doesn’t choose to be abused as a child. So I think that should be taken into consideration when we’re talking about criminal responsibility.”

Brad Waldroup takes the stand in 2009.

Enlarge WRCB ChatanoogaA jury was asked to weigh genetic evidence in the case against Bradley Waldroup, accused of murder and attempted murder. A forensic psychiatrist testified that Waldroup carried a gene associated with violence.

A jury was asked to weigh genetic evidence in the case against Bradley Waldroup, accused of murder and attempted murder. A forensic psychiatrist testified that Waldroup carried a gene associated with violence.

Genetics, Or Smoke And Mirrors?

The genetic testing was only one piece of Waldroup’s defense. His attorneys also argued that Waldroup was depressed, suffered from “intermittent explosive disorder” and acted in the heat of passion. Still, defense co-attorney Shari Tayloe Young says the genetic evidence was critical.

Here’s the thing, there are going to be all sorts of genetic factors found. There will be women found to be not have the genetic marker for the “motherly instinct”. Will they somehow be let off the hook for depriving their child of food for days?

There will be those found for the genetic marker to have a hyper-active sex drive. Will they be considered not responsible for rape?

The fact is that everyone has their genetic proclivities–we see them all around us. Some families given to be engineers. Some seem to be particularly good mathematically. Some families churn out lawyers. I’m suspecting that they have a genetic, and not just an environmental, proclivity. But that doesn’t mean the person must be an engineer, or accountant or lawyer. In fact, someone with the gene might decide to be something else. Maybe their environment will encourage them to be….a murderer.

Will this murderer somehow deserve WORSE punishment because he doesn’t have the violence gene? He could help it, so he deserves to hang while the poor genetic guy was just doing what he was programmed to do. Furthermore, why even try the genetic guy at all?

This is just insanity. A woman has been hacked to death by this guy. No question, he snapped. No question, I’m sure he was a nice guy…right up until he snapped and hacked a person to pieces.

The result is a dead and almost dead person. He did it. The results speak for themselves. His genetic problem does not get that woman’s life back. It doesn’t get his ex-wife’s finger back. And it doesn’t get the innocence of his children back. That is all gone.

Humans have a frontal lobe, which means they have the ability to chose. Humans have many proclivities–some genetic gifts and some genetic burdens to carry. Humans have many life experiences–many humans were abused and neglected. And some people have a toxic genetic and life mixture and most of those people live good, law abiding, decent lives.

It is an insult to all the people who struggle and overcome to let the guy who uses his sad life as an excuse to take the life of another. He could have chose differently than he did. And that’s why he’s guilty of murder and should be punished as such.

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