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Death By Spirit

Back in May of 2008, in Handsworth, Birmingham, England, seven-year-old Kyra Ishaq died from starvation, suffered at the handling of her mother, Angela Gordon, and the mother’s domestic partner Junaid Abuhamza. In addition, authorities found Kyra’s five siblings, all alive, yet each of them suffering from malnutrition. One authority was quoted as saying; “All the children were close to death and lined up on a mattress when the officers arrived.” The couple was charged with “neglect” and “reprimanded into custody” at the time.

Today in June of 2009, the trial of Gordon and Abuhamza is underway. Abuhamaza has already pleaded guilty for five counts of “cruelty”. Gordon (the mother) has pleaded not guilty to the cruelty charges. Murder charges for these two are at stake for the death of Kyra. And as horrible as the story was at the time of its reporting, the developments from last week’s trial have now opened the worlds of anti-science and magical thinking into consideration of this couple’s guilt.

According to the BBC:

A mother accused of starving her seven-year-old daughter to death had claimed the child was possessed by an evil spirit, a court has heard.

Birmingham Crown Court was shown police footage of a boy, aged 13, who was in the couple’s care when Khyra died last May. The boy said Ms Gordon told him the spirit was controlling Khyra’s body after she “accepted it as a friend.”

In an interview with officers the day after Khyra’s death, the boy, known in court as Child A, said that on 15 May 2008 the seven-year-old was lying asleep in her mother’s lap in a bedroom. He said Ms Gordon told him Khyra had “dropped down” as she walked after a spirit “got into her body”.

This is a significant piece of evidence, and one that I hope does not wind up working in the favor of the accused. I could see a judge or a jury turning on a sympathetic node of their own brains at the ‘sadness’ or ‘trouble’ of the minds of the accused upon learning that they believe in spirits, and that they were, perhaps, only acting in accordance with their cultural or religious beliefs. I have no idea how the British court system works, but I could see (or rather fear) a scenario where this fact, that the accused believed in spirits, winds up torpedoing any chance that these two would be sentenced as harshly as the law will allow.

The line that infuriated me the most was the testimony from the boy that his mother, effectively, told him that it was his sister’s own fault because Kyra accepted the spirit as a friend. In this one utterance, it would seem that the mother has effectively proclaimed herself innocent due to the freewill of her daughter allowing the spirit in, and once that happened, there was nothing she could do to stop the spirit from killing Kyra.

As much as I hate being constantly reminded, I will continue to yell it from the rooftops for as long as I live …

Medieval beliefs yield medieval results!

Kyra Ishaq is dead as a direct result of Gordon’s and Abuhamza’s actions and inactions. In my opinion, their beliefs should be “beside the point” when judgment is rendered. Despite their adherence to pseudoscience, they are responsible and justice needs to be satisfied.

At the same time, something must be said of the wielding of the weight of nonsense and superstition in court proceedings. Let me be the first to officially do so in defense of Kyra.

2 comments to Death By Spirit

  • The Blind Watchmaker

    “In my opinion, their beliefs should be “beside the point” when judgment is rendered.”

    I agree. What is to stop anyone from justifying a crime on the basis of a belief system. I realize that this is a “slippery slope” argument, but in this type of case, I think it is valid, not fallacious.

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