Monday, March 30, 2009

The Psychology of Sororicide

Kerby Revelus had been in a little trouble with police over the years, all having to do with assault, including a stint in jail for carrying an unlicensed gun. He was shot to death by police when one saw him decapitate his sister with a knife. Now, all three family members will be laid to rest at the same time.

While the reports discussing the brutal crime insist that Revelus' record bore "no indication" of such brutality, I disagree. I mean, the guy had already been arrested for punching his sister in the face because she owed him money on a phone bill. He was again cited for a fight involving several other teenagers. And let us not forget the gun incident.

Double sororicide and decapitation is a few steps beyond, I freely grant, but I think Revelus' record clearly suggests a violent, young man. That Revelus was black compounds the matter, not explains it; "angry black, American male" is more than just a stereotype and is celebrated in the sub-culture through incredibly violent lyrics. The culture glorifies excessive violence and we Americans have come to accept that; I believe officials - who, again, are used to such extremes - saw something within Kerby Revelus which suggested he was capable of great violence.

While statisticians like to decry how black Americans are more likely to be imprisoned, or even arrested, than whites, they fail to include the celebration of violence which has become inherent in the culture. However, IRL, we Americans are largely anesthetized to it. In fact, violence in general is rather inherent to the American culture and killing one's siblings is an idea many of us have considered... often. Kerby Revelus had to have exhibited some traits others saw which led them to believe he was an exception to the general rule (that rule being that violence between siblings, and things like young, black Americans carrying guns, are not immediate grounds for arrest or conviction).

All of this is unfortunately subject to an even simpler factor which cannot be ignored: money. The American justice system is thoroughly corrupt and many people are cited for "crimes" which are not really indicative of criminal behavior; laws have had to be put into place to limit these legal abuses - such as issuing traffic tickets to those who exceed the posted speed limit by as few as 2-3 MPH. It's a sad fact that once a person "catches papers" (has a record), the law goes into a holding pattern which is hard to get out of.

But Revelus was only 23!

The truth is that his first arrest for punching his sister occurred when he was barely of majority age. Kerby Revelus was probably a violent juvenile (and I'm thinking juvenile offender). I mean, there are plenty of exceptions, but most cops will let similar family disputes go - white or black. At worst, the case goes to court, where it is dismissed with prejudice (meaning court costs are assessed), which solves the city's getting its money; to press charges in such a case leads me to believe there were factors pulling in the "this kid could snap" direction.

Decapitating a human being is definitely extreme behavior, but cases involving familial disputes usually involve extreme violence. Even a cursory familiarity with primetime "crime shows" teaches you that cases involving "overkill" almost always involve someone who knew the victim well; overkill is the hallmark of an attack by someone who knew the victim, generally speaking.

The decapitation does not surprise me. What surprises me is Revelus' rather extensive (for a 23-year old) record of assault and etc., and the insistence that there was "no indication" of his capacity for violence. Separate the decapitation from this account and it's barely newsworthy in this day and age.

Still, for as often as I thought about, or even expressed, murdering a sibling, I never seriously considered acting on such thoughts and I think this is safe to assume of most people. Something about Kerby Revelus made officials think he just might.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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