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In the legal system, there is a phrase used to identify an attitude toward wrong doing that words seem inadequate to describe it. That phrase is “depraved indifference to human life.”

Here is the way the criminal justice system understands “depraved indifference”: To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant’s conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime. Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant’s conduct, not the injuries actually resulting. The other term used for depraved indifference is “depraved heart.” Think about this for a moment with me. Even if a person does not actually commit a physical crime, he can be guilty of it due to “depraved indifference” as a person who has a “depraved heart.”

As I reflect on the Aurora massacre, that phrase kept repeating itself in my mind. What led an otherwise, apparently smart and successful young man, to stockpile thousands of rounds of ammunition for a variety of weapons, rig his apartment to explode in a fireball, and then enter a theater and kill and wound so many? Depraved indifference to human life, that’s what. We will hear raging debates about gun control and “if only” there had been the right rule, or regulation, or control in place, this would not happened. And to that I simply say, “Maybe, maybe not, but I highly doubt it.” Why? Because the issue here is the young man’s depraved indifference to human life. The acting out on that impulse was where the crime originated. *….

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