Hesitance, Inaction, and Regret
I believe David Cash’s actions should have been guided by basic human empathy. I do not think the argument that it can be difficult to stand up to wrong (and that one should not be charged with a crime for not doing something) makes sense in this case, because Cash clearly had the will to go into a stall, climb up on a toilet, and peek over at his friend and the victim. Then, he made a series of decisions not to help Sherrice, or even honor her memory by helping her rapist and murderer be brought to justice.
I’m not familiar with criminal law, but could it be argued in court that Cash was an accomplice to the crime? At every step of the way, his decisions allowed his friend to commit and get away with the crimes. As others (@crunchysnowball, @SlothsPoopOnceAWeek, @soleilmagic) brought up, there was a series of opportunities for David to act by 1) Questioning why his drunk friend (a)Was playing with an unsupervised girl at a casino late at night, and then (b)Followed her into a women’s bathroom, 2) Stopping the crime, 3) Reporting the crime while it was happening, 4) Going back into the bathroom, 5) Reporting the crime after the confession, 6) Reporting it later, 7) Telling his dad, 8) Identifying Jeremy on the security cam, or even, at the bare minimum, 9) Exhibiting any amount of remorse for his behavior. He did none of these things. I agree with @butterfly123 that Cash’s total lack of remorse is confusing. And it’s sad, even alarming. I think it shows that, had Cash been magically put into the same situation again, with all his knowledge from the first time, he would likely not act. And if he did, it would probably be to save his own skin socially, because he was the subject of a lot of anger.
In most situations, I believe that we do have an obligation to act. It’s usually best to take a risk to help someone. It can be difficult to will yourself to stand up, but once you do, even a small action can translate into a huge difference for a victim, as I read in “Nightmare on the 36 Bus.” A small “Stop that,” anything really, could have made a difference. This story, although much more extreme, reminds me of the time I was defended by a stranger on a 35 bus. 7th grade me wasn’t very street smart, and when a man who seemed “off” got on the bus talking to no one in particular, I made the mistake of paying attention. He started talking to me in a way that, while not sexual/violent, was inappropriate for a grown man to be talking to a random 12yo. I missed my stop, even though I was meeting someone there, because I didn’t know what to do and I was getting scared. This went on for a few minutes, until a lady yelled at him. This stranger recognized the situation as inappropriate and came to my defense, making sure I was safe. I still remember how relieved I was after she helped me.I think the golden rule (treat others as you want to be treated) should govern the decision to act. No one wants to be a victim. But, in the moment, few people want to be that person who breaks from the rest of the bystanders to become an upstander, as discussed in the article, “The Bystander Effect in the Cellphone Age.” I think this is a sad, yet interesting effect. Also, for regular people, it can be difficult to mentally get past the risk of harm. Thank you to @FacingHistorystudent and @crunchysnowball for making me realize that Cash’s situation was different. The bystander effect may have had some part in this, but, from what he said, he just did not care about Sherrice. Hesitance to speak up does not seem to be the problem here. If it had been, he would’ve shown remorse for what he didn’t do. But there was no indication that he regretted his inaction. He knew that his friend’s behavior was wrong. There was no one else there. The only possible consequence would be losing one friend, which wouldn’t be bad, because he turned out to be a horrible person who raped and murdered a child.