- Published: November 23, 2012
- Written by Joshua Jackson
Herakles was born the son of a mortal Greek woman, Alcmene, and of Zeus, the king of the gods. This was much to the chagrin of Hera, Zeus' wife. Though Zeus was prolific in his promiscuity and Hera could not possibly have taken an interest in every case, she was particularly set against Herakles for most his life. Maybe this was the capricious temperament of the gods. Maybe Hera was jealous of the beautiful Alcmene, or maybe it was because Alcmene had foolishly chosen to name the child "glorious gift of Hera".
Whatever the cause, Hera's vendetta began with sending snakes to kill the infant Herkules. LIke a true Chuck Norris of the ancient world, Herakles strangled the snakes. Over the years Hera appeared periodically to make Herakles' life difficult or kick him while he was down, but generally Herakles came out on top. Eventually Hera upped the ante and drove Herakles mad, causing him to murder his wife and children.
Incognito mentions the unusual case of Kenneth Parks. There is little information available about Parks' ancestry, but it appears the gods had it out for him as well. In May of 1987 Parks murdered his mother-in-law and severely injured his father-in-law while sleepwalking. After he came to his senses with bloody hands, Parks turned himself in. The Canadian Supreme Court later upheld a ruling that Parks was not guilty due to a non-insane automatism.
The automatism defense is similar to the insanity defense but generally there is an expectation that the accused is unlikely to repeat their actions and receives a verdict of merely not guilty instead of not guilty by reason of insanity. Thus the defendant is not subject to commitment to a mental health institution as in the case of the insanity defense. The defense implies an absence of actus reus - in a sense the person on trial did not actually perform the act.
Since he was acquitted of both murder and attempted murder, Parks is a free man and was last seen running for a school board position in Durham, Ontario. Meanwhile, in Ancient Greece, Herakles was assigned twelve tasks which are best described as Herculean. His failure was expected, but as with the snakes in his childhood, he surprised everyone by making it through. Seeing that he'd had enough, Hera put aside her grudge against him.
The story suggests an alternate course for automatism cases such as Kenneth Parks. We can imagine that in such a situation, one's conscience would be plagued by the act. Perhaps both community service and counseling would be in order, but current legal systems appear to have no provision for such an outcome.
* PubMed Health: Sleepwalking http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001811/
* Lectlaw: The Automatism Defense http://www.lectlaw.com/mjl/cl033.htm
* Canadian Supreme Court ruling for R v Parks http://web.archive.org/web/20090513031306/http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1992/1992rcs2-871/1992rcs2-871.html
* Perseus Library: The Life and Times of Hercules http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/bio.html
* CityNews Toronto: Man Acquitted of Sleepwalking Murder Running for School Trustee in Durham http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/24162