A man accused of bludgeoning his sister-in-law and her boyfriend to death with a hatchet says he did it because of Scientology, but the religious group is already pushing back.
Kenneth Wayne Thompson, who allegedly killed two people and burned a house down to destroy the evidence, may get the death penalty for the violent murders. But he’s arguing that the sentence would be too extreme, especially since he was inspired by Scientology.
… Thompson is not arguing that Scientology turned him violent in March 2012. But he is saying his belief in the religion of Scientology helps explain his actions. In particular, he says, his devotion to Scientology’s tenets led him on a 24-hour plus drive from his home in rural Missouri to the eventual murder scene in Arizona.
Prosecutors say the marathon drive helps show Thompson committed the crimes with premeditation, an element of the first-degree murder convictions they are seeking. On each, the state of Arizona will ask for the death penalty.
Thompson’s attorneys will argue to the jury that the act was rational, if understood through the lens of Scientology. Thompson felt he needed to rescue a child, a nephew to his wife, because the boy’s spiritual well-being was at risk.
Neither the boy nor his sister were in the house at the time of the killings.
This is obviously sad, though it’s an interesting legal maneuver. By explaining his actions using Scientology, Thompson effectively put the group in the spotlight and made it part of the case. I reached out to a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, Karin Pouw, and she told me that the Arizona Republic article “creates a false and misleading impression about Scientology and its beliefs.”
The Aims of Scientology are to “create a civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can proper and honest beings can have rights, and where Man is free to rise to greater heights.”
Fr0m what I’ve read in the news, Arizona Republic repeats and embellishes some of the desperate arguments used by the defense to attempt to avoid responsibility for this heinous act.”
Pouw further pointed out that Thompson’s grandmother told reporters he went to a Christian church, and that his Facebook page listed him as an “atheist.” I was unable to confirm the latter of these reported details.
The jury will have to see some serious evidence to hold Scientology responsible, yet it appears the defense is trying to present it. In fact, they are calling in some anti-Scientology experts and celebrities.
Attorneys for Thompson have already subpoenaed records from the Florida-based church. They have also asked for testimony from Scientology experts, including the actress Leah Remini, who has produced documentaries critical of the religion.
The defense has listed the Scientology “tone scale,” a chart that purports to diagram all human emotions, among its evidence.
Potential jurors were asked their thoughts about the religion. Tom Cruise’s name was mentioned during opening arguments.
Prosecutors had tried to get the judge to disallow the Scientology defense. In a brief filed before the trial began, the state said followers of any religion believe the theology to varying degree and it would not be clear to what extent Thompson hewed to Scientology’s.
It’s true that each person’s beliefs are different, but if those ideas are relevant to the case, these issues should certainly be discussed. And that’s exactly what the judge, Yavapai Superior Court Judge Patricia Trebesch, already decided.
So far, the defense has argued that Thompson — who was apparently a Scientologist as a child despite some reports that he ultimately abandoned the faith — heard that his wife’s nephew was being treated for mental health issues. That is completely against Scientologists’ beliefs, as they think psychology is literally evil.
Thompson, as a Scientologist, would have thought that the medication the child was being given subjected him to irreparable harm, his attorney said. In court motions, his defense team has said Thompson thought the child’s eternal soul was at risk.
No doubt Scientology’s psychology-related beliefs are harmful and lacking any credible evidence. Whether or not they played a role in this crime, however, will be up to the court to decide.