Two Children's Murder Case: Classical and Positivist Schools of Criminology

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Words: 1241 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Words: 1241|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Murder, in this day and age, is not uncommon by any means. However, some of the classic criminological perspectives that relate to these crimes are uncommon. Does it make sense to take a look at a murder case from the classical school and the positivist school perspectives? If it is an unsolved crime, for example, could this help solve it? These are the questions we are going to explore as we look at the brutal murder of two children in October of 2012.

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Late on a Thursday in 2012, the mother of two children returned home to find her 6-year-old daughter and her 2-year-old son dead in the bathtub. According to an article by the New York Times, “The family’s nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, was [also] standing over them, slashing herself with a knife.” Years have passed now and the case is finally set to go to trial with the main defense of Ortega being a not guilty plea by reason of insanity. Some say the insanity is just an act, as Ortega was very jealous of what her boss had. Ortega had worked several jobs for a living and lived in a small apartment with family. “In statements made to prosecutors after the murders, Ms. Ortega, who is now 55, said that she was angry with the Krims, that they asked her to work too hard and that her skin had been damaged by cleaning products she was forced to use. Did she act out of vengeance or delusion?,” the New York Times asks. Yet, the funny thing is, the parents of these poor children never noticed anything wrong with Ortega, mentally – until that day. This eventually became one of the main points of defense in the trail against her.

So, let’s begin with what the classical school of criminology is. The classical school has it’s own way of thinking and that is the fact that humans act out of free will and are driven by the pursuit of pleasure. Cesare Beccaria was one of the founding fathers of the classical school and argued that people give up liberties and freedoms in exchange for society providing them safety and laws place restrictions on freedoms. When it comes to crime, presumption of innocence should be primary and a criminal code should be written in advance. Retributive reasoning should drive punishments that go along with a crime because that offender attacked another person’s rights and the severity of that punishment should be limited and fit the seriousness of the crime. It must be certain and inflicted immediately. However, the offender must be viewed as a rational thinker who weighed the crime against the benefits. It is the legislations job to be the prevention of crime because, to Beccaria, it is better to prevent crimes before they happen than to punish those who commit the crimes after the fact.

How does this crime relate to the classical school? Well one of Beccaria’s arguments is that the presumption of innocence should be primary, but in this situation, there is no reason for a presumption of innocence. Ortega was in the bathroom with the children and was found with the children’s bodies. In the article, it does not say that she confessed, but with the plea of insanity, it goes without saying that she has admitted that she did kill them and did it because of her ‘incapacitated’ state. With regards to Ortega’s insanity plea, another one of Beccaria’s arguments was that of the offender being viewed as a rational thinker who weighed the consequences of the crime against the benefits. What were the benefits of this crime? What were the benefits of killing two children? Was it just revenge that Ortega was seeking? However, with the insanity defense, she is not being seen as a rational thinker, so where does that leave the court? These are the ways the case can be looked at using the classical school of criminology, but it can also be viewed using the positivist school, which is viewed in a complexly different way.

Cesare Lombroso started the positivist school of criminology as a theory, this being where he wanted scientific proof that crime was caused by features within an individual. He was the first theorist to apply formal research to his theory and was called the “Father of Modern Criminology.” He classified four categories of people, the first being a born criminal. This is someone he considered less sophisticated and controlled than others, someone that hasn’t evolved fully, or a person that is a throwback to earlier man. His second category was insane criminals - these being idiots, imbeciles, paranoiacs, epileptics, and alcoholics. The third category was the occasional criminal which commits crimes of opportunity, but who also have innate traits that may pre-dispose them to crime. And last being crimes of passion, which we are all familiar with, and this being those who commit crimes because of anger, love, honor, or are propelled by an irresistible force. It must be noted that these concepts are not widely accepted today s they are seen as naïve and simple today, but they are still a part of the positivist school of criminology.

Ortega’s crime relates to the positivist school on many different levels. First, there seems to be no traits of a born criminal. From what the New York Times article said, Ortega had no previous history with the law, which would indicated that she was no where near less sophisticated than anyone else. When it comes to insane criminals, she is using the insanity plea, but to what extent? Some could also argue that Lombroso’s definition of an insane criminal is crass and not up to date with the times and we know that epileptics and alcoholics are not ‘insane’ criminals nowadays. However with Ortega using the insanity plea as her defense, she would be seen to the outside world as an insane criminal, so she may fall into that category. Another category she would fall into is the occasional criminal. Once again, this is the only crime she had ever committed – it was a crime of opportunity for her. Who is to say what that opportunity was or what the motive behind it was, but it was something she felt she had to do. And again, for the last category, she also falls into the crime of passion. The New York Times mentioned that she hated the parents of the children for making her work so hard. She wanted revenge on them; so taking their children’s lives was what she thought she had to do in that moment. For whatever reason, that irresistible force propelled her.

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Are the classical school and positivist school of criminology still relatable to today’s modern crimes and criminal justice system? In some way, it seems the classical school of criminology holds a protection over criminals and their rights. With this instance, if Ortega wasn’t using the insanity plea and her case was only reviewed using the classical school, she may have been charged slightly easier than how she will be now. As far as the positivist school, it is just so outdated that there really is no way anyone could uphold those facts in relation to this case. Moving forward, Ortega still has yet to be charged for her crime, but the process is still ongoing and they are set to go to court this week.

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Two Children’s Murder Case: Classical and Positivist Schools of Criminology. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Two Children’s Murder Case: Classical and Positivist Schools of Criminology.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
Two Children’s Murder Case: Classical and Positivist Schools of Criminology. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
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