I was afraid it would come to this. Norm Maleng, Seattle’s prosecuting attorney is not known for showing mercy to criminals, not even to mentally ill criminals. I guess it’s not in his job description. And he hasn’t departed from this record this time either in charging Naveed Haq:
King County prosecutors today charged Naveed Haq with aggravated first-degree murder and five counts of first-degree attempted murder in last week’s shooting at the Jewish Federation offices in downtown Seattle.
Haq is accused of killing Pamela Waechter, 58, and injuring five other women after forcing his way into the federation’s office just after 4 p.m. Friday and randomly shooting employees.
Aggravated first-degree murder is punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of release.
Haq, 30, has also been charged with first-degree kidnapping for holding a gun to the back of a 14-year-old girl to force his way into the building; one charge of first-degree burglary and malicious harassment, the felony charge for a hate crime.
…After Haq’s arraignment, prosecutor Norm Maleng will have 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty. Maleng said there appears to be premeditation.
“The world has gotten to be a smaller place,” said Maleng at a news conference this morning. “There’s no place in our community for hate crimes.”
I am disappointed that Maleng exhibited no awareness of Haq’s mental condition. He chose to focus solely on the hate crime aspect of the case and the issue of premeditation. But I want to remind Maleng that Seattle is not Texas or Richmond, VA (the legal venue of choice for the Bush Administration when it tries Muslim terrorists) which might bay for blood in retribution for the heinous act Haq committed. Seattleites, even Jewish ones, believe that while the criminal mentally ill should be judged, they should be judged differently than the mentally competent. It’s no accident that Maleng is a Republican. He appears to be following the Bush Administration’s general line in trying to label this as a form of Muslim extremist hate.
I am not saying that Haq doesn’t deserve justice because he does. But he also deserves the treatment for his illness that he apparently did not receive prior to his crime. If he had received such treatment, he likely would not have gone on his rampage. I say this because I know people with bipolar disorder who are being treated with lithium. It works. Wouldn’t it be better to force Haq into a treatment facility where he will be medicated and not released until he is found not to be a danger to others?
While I can sympathize with the following Maleng comments, I believe he vastly overstates and overdramatizes the true meaning of the crime:
“The attack on these women was an attack on the Jewish community, not only in Seattle, but throughout our nation and the world,” Maleng said.
“The victims were killed and injured, not because of who they were as individuals, but because the defendant wanted to use them as symbols, to strike at members of the Jewish faith everywhere,” Maleng said.
Haq’s crime has little, if anything to do with “the Jewish community throughout our nation and the world.” For God’s sake, the man was deranged. His hate came from his insanity, not from a cool, level-headed anti-Semitic analysis of world affairs. This is not Al Qaeda. This is not Islamic extremism. This is a lone gunman disgruntled at the world for imagined slights and injuries.
Though I understand why the Jewish Federation might make the following statement, I am disappointed that it couldn’t have at least acknowledged that there might be extenuating circumstances worth considering before deciding whether to seek the death penalty. There is nothing wrong with tempering justice with mercy when it is warranted.
At a news conference following the announcement of charges, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle said the organization supported the charges filed against Haq. When asked if members of the organization supported seeking the death penalty, Robin Boehler, chairwoman of the Jewish Federation’s board, said, “We don’t have a position on the death penalty. Our community is very diverse and there’s no consensus so we won’t be taking a position.”
Thankfully, the family of one of the most seriously injured victims is willing to speak out courageously for tolerance and understanding:
“She [Layla Bush] probably would not be angry at the individual (who did this,)” Kathryn Bush [her mother] said. “If anything, she’d be angry at the causes, perhaps not enough funding for the mentally ill.”
“It would take somebody who was mentally ill to do this,” her father said. “But the world situation probably pushed him (the suspect) over the edge.”
“I don’t feel any blame or anger toward him (the shooter,)” her mother said. Both parents called for tolerance.
“I don’t want to put any prejudice, or harassment of the Muslim community here, especially of the family of the shooter,” her father said. “They (the suspect’s family) must be going through hell right now.”
Can’t we all try to emulate such merciful feelings? Even if we can’t muster the Bushes’ serenity, can’t we at least try to do so?