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Diatribe: If You Shoot Your Wife “Out Of Love”, Is It Still Murder?


mercy_killing_120806_620x350The message in church yesterday centered on All Saints Day, the day of the church calendar set aside to celebrate the lives of all Christians who have died in a state of grace.  The pastor’s sermon was a very loving discussion about, among other things, how loved ones that are lost remain with us always in our memories.  At one point in the service members of the congregation were invited to place a flower into a wreath as they announced the name of a loved one that had passed in the last year.  I believe the plan was to hang the wreath in the church’s prayer garden.

Obviously, losing a loved one is never easy … but intentionally taking their life is not only a sin it is a crime.


John Wise

Jury selection in the case accusing John Wise of aggravated murder starts today.  On August 4, 2012, Wise, 68, of Massillon, Ohio, calmly walked into the neuroscience intensive care unit at Akron General Medical Center and shot his wife of forty-five years in the head.  His wife, who had suffered triple cerebral aneurysms that left her unable to speak, died the next day.  If convicted, Wise could face life in prison.

Wise has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney says he shot his wife “out of love” and intends to tell jurors that his client was mentally impaired at the time.  Apparently, he will ask for the jury’s understanding, not their sympathy.  Press accounts of the killing have described Wise as a loving husband who killed his wife out of mercy and the case has raised questions about how much punishment he should receive for such an act.  Mercy, however, is not a legal defense in Ohio so his attorneys will argue an insanity defense based on severe depression.

“Our burden there is to establish that he was suffering from some severe mental disease or defect at the time he committed the offense, and as a result he didn’t understand the wrongfulness of what he did,  Now he did it out of love, but he wasn’t thinking rationally when he did it.” – Defense Attorney Paul Adamson.

Prosecutors have declined to discuss the case.

I think it will be interesting to see how this case ends.  It seems to me that this is, clearly, a case of premeditated murder.  After all, wise brought his gun to the hospital room for the purpose of ending his wife’s life.  A friend and co-worker of John Wise allegedly said that he believed the couple had made a pact not to let each other suffer if either had a serious medical emergency.  My spouse and I have a similar pact … we’ve each signed a Living Will.  They achieve a similar result but they’re neither a sin nor a crime.

What do you think?  Should wise be sentenced to life in prison?


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From → Diatribes

  1. Not so sure about life, but he needs prison time because, no matter his wife’s outlook, he killed her.

    That’s a crime.

    Plus, if they let it go, give him a light sentence, how many nutjobs will try that same defense.

    Murder is murder.


  2. This is a difficult question. As someone with chronic illness, I am truly terrified of being in this wife’s position. I would want to die. Let me go.

    As someone strongly opposed to guns, however, Oh Lord, not that way!

    Euthanasia is something we as a society need to address. Three months ago, my husband, son and I had to euthanize our much loved dog. He died peacefully, surrounded by the people who loved him.

    Why are we kinder to our pets than to ourselves?


    • I see your point … I do … but until euthanasia is ultimately addressed by society we don’t get to shoot each other in the head.

      Three states in the U.S. have enacted Death with Dignity laws that allow mentally competent, terminally-ill adult residents to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death. And the legal struggle involving the prolonged life support of Terri Schiavo from 1990 to 2005 before she was ultimately removed from mechanical life support brought the need for Living Wills to the forefront of American healthcare law.

      He shot his wife in the head and killed her. Can there really be an “Oh, but she was sick anyway” defense?


  3. Barneysday permalink

    There is a much larger question here, and that is how we approach quality of life and end of life decisions. Our mindset of keeping everyone alive, no matter how terrible their quality of life is, is wrong. Just because medical science can keep a vegetive body alive through machines, is not a reason to do so. “Just because we can, does not mean we should.”


  4. I think it’s a shame he had to resort to shooting his wife to help her die. If she hadn’t been so sick to need a hospital to live, then she could have been at home where he could have helped her to die more peacefully. Hubby & I also have a living will & neither of us would want to be kept alive by machines.


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