23 October 2013
The Defence for the Moor
My client has been accused of murder in the first degree in the death of Desdemona, daughter of Brabantio. He does not deny his part in her death but he did not do the crime while fully able to understand his actions; he was driven insane by Iago and as a result cannot be held accountable for his actions. Between the curses of epilepsy, the stress of his position and the artful manipulations of Iago, Othello was brought into a dark place within himself and killed his wife. We must feel Othello's pain and recognize his guilt while giving him the help he needs to recover from the vial deed he committed as part of an elaborate scheme he had no knowledge of nor the desire to aid in. We must not send him to prison where his already weak mental state may fracture irreparably but must show compassion and give him over to a mental health institution where he can receive the treatment he needs.
Epilepsy is a condition that causes seizures that often changes the mental and emotional state of the sufferer and this has clearly been at play in my client's actions. One of the areas in the brain that is affected by seizures is also the one that allows a person to control their emotional reactions. My client has been known to have seizures and was reported to have had at least two incidents in the days leading up to the murder: "My lord is fall'n into an epilepsy. This is his second fit; he had one yesterday." These fits would have inhibited Othello's ability to deal with the situation rationally and led him to respond rashly. He has no control over these seizures and would not have been aware of the effect they are having on his ability to think clearly. I am sure that the court would agree that to convict a person for something that is out of human control would be against the principles of justice. We have a duty to help Othello deal with this condition and he will not receive this help while locked away.
Even without having to deal with a health condition many leaders find the stress of their job affects their mental state. Othello is no different and the stress of being a great military commander has put enormous pressure on him to maintain his reputation. My client was being faced with a strategic challenge in the defense of Cyprus and was holding the lives of many thousands of people in his hands. The weight of his decisions was undoubtedly bothering him; he did not have the strength to deal with conflict in both is private and public life, forcing him to prioritize. Othello was always one to follow through on his commitments and continued to be a great military leader even through the lies that were all around him. He made the difficult decisions that needed to be made: "Cassio, I love thee; but never more be officer of mine." Othello was left with little faith in the virtue of humanity and was feeling emotionally drained, pulling him into a state of depression, causing him to kill his wife. Depression has been shown to have a big effect on the way a person acts and this mental instability caused Othello to do things he normally wouldn't; he needs professional help not a prison cell.
Othello believed fully in his wife's loyalty and was a loving husband; many would attest to this fact, as he was once heard saying "My life upon her faith". He truly believed that she was honest and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. It was Iago that brought the evil thoughts into his mind, taking advantage of the love Othello had for him, twisting words and actions to create a fictitious affair all while convincing Othello of their friendship: "I hope that you will consider what is spoke comes from my love. But I do see that y' are moved. I am to pray you not to strain my speech to grosser issues nor to longer reach, than to suspicion." Iago knows even as he says this that Desdemona would never think of cheating on Othello and does not have any kind of proof but is laying doubts in Othello's mind while reinforcing them with words of his love. This kind of manipulation would confuse anyone and Othello was no different. When considering the false information Iago was giving Othello, it is clear that Othello was being used and that he was quickly falling into insanity. Thus he cannot be asked to stand for his actions.
We can conclude that Othello was not really responsible for his actions because they resulted from his position, those around him and a dangerous condition he had no control over. If Othello is sent to prison for the murder of Desdemona we are treating him as less than human by denying him help. I do not believe that he should walk free but he does deserve help to get over the trauma of manipulation, murder and to bring him to accept the condition he lives with so that he can better deal with its limitations. Thus I call on the court to do what is right and give this man the same treatment we would all expect if facing the challenges Othello did.