Walking Dead Actress at Sentencing: “I Am Not a Bad Person” Seriously?

Shannon Richardson was a minor actress in a few shows including “The Walking Dead” TV series and the movie “Blind Side.” She is more famous now, however, as the person who sent toxin-laced letters to President Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg, and also to—as the Daily Caller puts it—“the head of his gun control collective, The Raben Group.”

She was sentenced to eighteen years and a $367,000 fine.

This quotation from the Daily Caller blew me away:

She told the judge Wednesday that she loved her country and respected her president.

“I never intended for anybody to be hurt. I’m not a bad person. I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone.”

Assuming Richardson was trying to make some kind of sense, I assume by “hurt” she meant that she did not intend or expect anyone to be hurt by her ricin-infected mail. She didn’t mean to poison the president.

That is probably true. She sent the letters in her husband’s name and then went to the police and accused him of sending them. The letter to Barack Obama said,

What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president, You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face.

So she really just wanted to hurt her estranged husband, who was divorcing her. I guess she wasn’t thinking about him when she made her statement.

But what was she thinking to say “I’m not a bad person”? Does she really believe that? Why not “I’m sorry for being a bad person.” Or, “I repent of my wickedness and am truly sorry.”

When you send poisoned letters to people that endanger them (or their security guards) and frame an innocent man (however much he may have wronged you), you are pretty much the definition of a bad person.

Yet I don’t think Richardson is especially unique in what she said, even though she was standing before a judge and admittedly guilty of a serious crime. We are all taught to say this and think it about ourselves no matter what our faults. I am not a bad person is like an affirmation of Roman Catholic transubstantiation—no matter what evidence we see with our eyes we cling to the idea that there is an unseen essence that is still good.

[See also, “Police Ask Wrong Question about Murderous Teens.”]

The only smidgen of truth in this credo is that we are made in the image of God and can be redeemed by His grace. But the first step to redemption, ironically, is to admit that you are a bad person.

Does anyone think that believing in one’s own goodness is some kind of incentive to good behavior? Isn’t Richardson’s unrealistic affirmation one of many pieces of evidence that such a belief allows people to feel free to commit worse deeds? Don’t forget Elliot Rodgers’ self-righteous tirade before he went on a murder spree. He considered himself an offended victim. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who resist evil precisely because they have been taught that they are, by nature, bad people—and are therefore on guard against temptation.

We would probably have a better, less criminal, society if we all confessed the truth about ourselves and didn’t each insist, “I’m a good person,” against all evidence.