Evolved Compassion

Two things have changed since 1997: 1) an evolution in our understanding of the juvenile brain; and 2) an evolution in our compassion.

Just 40 years ago, marital rape did not exist as a legal concept, although it certainly existed in practice. A battered spouse who killed his or her abuser during a bout of domestic violence had no legal recourse if there was no imminent threat they would die. Thankfully, every state now recognizes marital rape as a crime, and every state now permits a justification defense for a battered spouse being abused in the course of a pattern of domestic or sexual violence.

Next, in the 2000s, the Supreme Court of the United States entered a series of opinions redefining the 8th Amendment as it applied to juvenile offenders based on our new understanding of the juvenile and adolescent brain, and how it makes juveniles less culpable than adults for the same acts.

A few years later, we have Cyntoia Brown’s clemency and the NY Domestic Violence Survivors Act, acknowledging the effects of abuse and how it mitigates the survivor’s criminal conduct against the abuser.

And now we have Heath’s case. We now understand how the years of horrific sexual abuse affected his juvenile and adolescent psyche, and can finally establish a causal connection between the abuse manifested in crimes against his family rather than against his abuser. Heath’s case is just the next level in our understanding of this deeply complex and highly stigmatized issue. His case tests the bounds of this evolved compassion.

Please consider signing Heath’s Petition regarding his Application for Commutation on Change.org

Michael Kaiser, attorney for Heath Stocks

Lassiter & Cassinelli

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