John Delling’s Mens Rea

11 months ago I made a post about John Delling. Take a look at that post for the story. I went to high school with John Delling. Over a year ago he went on a rampage and murdered two people, and attempted to murder a third. One of the victims was Dave Boss, who I went to elementary, junior high, and high school with. Delling had a lot of problems and Dave was one of the few people who cared about him, and Delling shot him for it.

The courts have spent a year deciding if Delling was fit to stand trial (see my previous post for details). They have finally decided that he is fit, so things are slowly proceeding. Now, Delling’s attorney is trying for the insanity plea, even though you can’t use the insanity defense in Idaho.

That didn’t stop Delling’s attorney, public defender Gus Cahill, from filing a motion last week telling 4th District Judge Deborah Bail that he planned to put on psychological evidence during the upcoming trial that “Delling was incapable of forming mens rea” at the time of Morse’s murder.

Mens rea is a legal term for malice aforethought – the thoughts and intentions behind a wrongful act, including knowledge that the act is illegal, according to a legal definition provided by Princeton University. In Latin, mens rea is literally “guilty mind.”

How could John Delling not have a guilty mind? Sin. The effect of sin on the mind is extensive. We are all born totally depraved.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now, Delling might very well think he is innocent of the blood on his hands. Does that mean that he is in fact innocent? No. Consider, if you will, your guilt. Many of you, no doubt, believe you are innocent of your guilt before a holy God because, quite simply, you do not believe there is a God. You have no mens rea. Yet the same reason that Delling is guilty and deserves justice at the hands of the state is exactly the same reason you are guilty and deserve justice before God’s throne:

the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1)

Note that envy and murder are of equal offense before God. My covetousness, my jealousy of you and the things you have, is an affront to a holy God who has shown me the wickedness of such thoughts. Can you read that list and come away with a clean conscience? If not, then you are damned, just as John Delling is. No one may use the excuse that they do not know such things are wrong, because “God has shown it to them.”  You “show that the work of the law is written on [your] heart, while [your] conscience also bears witness, and [your] conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse [you] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:15-16)

Though this law is written on the heart of every man, not every man acknowledges it. Rather, you and John Delling suppress that truth in unrighteousness. Far from proving your innocence, your lack of conscience is proof of your guilt: Since you did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave you up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. And if you object that you do have a conscience, that you do believe such things are wrong, then you have condemned yourself, for if they are wrong, why do you do them?

Now you, John Delling, and myself must face the judgment of God. It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We will face an eternal sentence for our crime. But that time is not yet. The Idaho courts are not the throne of God. The judges dispensing justice are not God. What then are they to do? How are they to judge Delling?

After God saw that the thoughts of man were only evil continually, and God destroyed the earth through a flood, saving only Noah and 7 others, God made a covenant with Noah. As we are all descendents of these 8 people, the covenant remains binding on us. Part of it reads:

…For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

Delling deserves death because he murdered Dave Boss. The sentence is not primarily concerned with the criminal, it is primarily concerned with upholding the image of God in creation. Delling deserves death, not because Dave was an innocent human being (before God he was not), but because Dave bore the image of God and Delling sought to destroy that image.

To prove this point, make note that God requires a reckoning from every man and from every beast. In Exodus 21, as God laid out his law for Israel, he commanded that “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned.” Delling’s attorney, if he were representing such an ox, would likely argue that the ox “was incapable of forming mens rea.” Yet such a plea would go unheard. For the command is clear:

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

Just as Delling must be killed in order to satisfy the injustice of murdering Dave Boss, an image bearer of God, so too must you be destroyed eternally in order to satisfy the injustice of your rebellion against a holy God.

2 thoughts on “John Delling’s Mens Rea

  1. Phlorence henderson

    I also went to Jr. High and High School with John and you need to pull your head out of your ass. I agree what John did was not right, but you cannot just throw him to the lions without understanding the extreme mental episodes he had to endure. Shame on you for being so insensitive to someone with such a disability, and for bringing up god or any other religious figure. Him and the familys’ of the victims are hurting so much, maybe you should start reading a psychology book and stop filling your head with the misconstrued, falsified writings of the bible.


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