Pathological Hate

At the moment there is a trial going on in Ireland. Joe Hefferman is alleged to have murdered Eoin Ryan.

Because Eoin was gay.

The motive for killing a gay student in Clare two years ago was the issue of homosexuality, according to a Central Criminal Court prosecutor.

“He made a pass at me and I’m no queer. He’s the devil,” the accused had said.

As Mr Heffernan told a doctor in the Central Mental Hospital.

“I think he was a gay. He made a pass at me and I kind of went along with it,” he said, adding that he was embarrassed.

Mr Heffernan said the devil was in Mr Ryan’s eyes and noted that Ryan’s eyes were badly damaged by the attack. The killing may not have been rational, but here is the problem.

A psychiatrist examined him and believed Mr. Hefferman suffers from a psychotic state. While this is uncertain, this begs and  important question.

How would you differentiate between religious intolerance to homosexuals and the attack on them caused by a psychotic state?

It’s a difficult case. Heffeman did turn himself in for the murder but is he guilty of murder or manslaughter via diminished responsiblity of the mind?

I hope stories like this become rarer.


  1. smrnda says

    I agree that a problem is if a person has a bizarre idea in their head, if it’s somehow more popular or sounds vaguely religious, it kind of grants it more legitimacy, though I don’t see why. This also leaves open the possibility that a lot of religious people might just have untreated psychiatric problems; evidence for this is the large quantity of people who believe they communicate openly with god or have experiences with angels, demons, and other supernatural entities.

  2. machintelligence says

    There does seem to be the generally recognized convention that if you talk to God (pray) it’s OK, but you hear God talking to you (and you aren’t a famous evangelist) you are insane — or at least suspected of having delusions.

  3. William Humenansky says

    When did killing a person become the proper response to someone “making a pass?’ Devil in his eyes my ass. It’s BS. Hefferman knows it, his lawyer knows it and the doctor knows it. If you don’t want to engage in gay activities the first response is a simple “no thank you” and most gays will leave it at that. If it’s aggressive or violent you leave the area if you can; If you can’t leave then a self-defense position is acceptable. It’s pretty much what women have to do on a daily basis; and they only kill as a last resort or continued abuse.

  4. smrnda says

    On mental illness and violence – I have schizo-affective disorder and have had delusions and hallucinations, and I once put up quite a bit of resistance to some police officers who observed me behaving strangely in public, mostly because I become suddenly convinced they were going to try to rape me.

    So I think it’s *possible* for someone having a psychotic episode to be violent, but this typically goes along with lots of other noticeable signs of mental instability and a history of problems. Though nobody realized I was delusional, most people would have said I’d been manic for a while before I had my first major episode.

    This just seems a bit too… sudden, and convenient.

  5. cubist says

    sez avicenna: “How would you differentiate between religious intolerance to homosexuals and the attack on them caused by a psychotic state?”
    Your question assumes that there is a difference between religious belief and a psychotic state. The former is, of course, granted societal sanction; is there any other difference between the two?

  6. says

    How would you differentiate between religious intolerance to homosexuals and the attack on them caused by a psychotic state?

    Quick answer: You can’t. (This might not be the answer you wanted to hear.)

    Conclusion: Religion is indistinguible from psychosis.

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