On Aug. 24, 2021, a man was sentenced to twelve years in prison for leaving his 91-
year-old father unattended. Actually, the word “unattended” is a severe understatement.
Danny Norris, aged 57, was the sole caretaker of his father, Elmer Norris. At approximately
10:48 AM on Nov. 22, 2019, Danny Norris called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they
found his father, Elmer, stuck to his bed, lying in his own urine and feces. He needed to
literally be cut from his sunken mattress because he could not be extracted from his own
dried feces. Elmer was transported to Baltimore Washington Medical Center where its staff
suspected elder abuse and neglect. The hospital staff discovered maggots and insects on
Elmer’s sores and ulcers. Elmer Norris was treated by the hospital staff, but at 1:51 PM, the
elder Norris was pronounced dead.
For months, the police investigated Elmer’s case. The Department of Social Services
had listed Elmer Norris as a vulnerable adult, unable to feed himself, use the toilet, or to
bathe himself. Detectives interviewed members of the Norris Family who said that Danny
Norris was a drug addict and were concerned about the way that Elmer’s son was providing
care. Danny Norris had prevented other family and relatives from visiting, feeding, and
cleaning for the elder Norris. Danny Norris even routinely changed the locks on the house
and refused to answer the phone to keep others from reaching his father. When Danny
himself was questioned by investigators, he declared that he had hired a home health care
nurse to clean and care for his father. Investigators, however, could not find this nurse
anywhere. In March of 2020, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that
Elmer Norris’s death was caused by pneumonia with ulcers attributed to neglect, thus
concluding that Norris’ death was a homicide. On Mar. 20, 2020, the homicide unit in
conjunction with Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office obtained an arrest warrant
for Danny Norris. Finally, Danny Norris entered a guilty plea to second degree murder on
Aug. 16, 2021.
What this son had done to his father is unbelievably abhorrent. Still, this case caught my
attention because this was the first time that I could recall anyone being charged with
murder by neglecting his or her victim. In other words, the charge is that Danny killed his
father circumlocutorily. Without even debating whether it was meditated or not, Danny
Norris committed a murder without even lifting a finger. His murder weapon was neglect.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, neglect can be the most cruel form of inflicted pain or
punishment. Sakyamuni Buddha had a disciple by the name of Channa (車匿). Actually,
their relationship began when the Buddha was still a young prince. Channa was the
Buddha’s charioteer. Could it have been because Channa was a charioteer, his disposition
was rather brusque and unpolished. He was direct and discourteous. After Sakyamuni
renounced the world, it is said that Channa became his disciple. But, Channa’s personality
was difficult to reform. He had no control over his emotions, and often complained using
derogatory language. Often, Channa was defiant in challenging the leadership of the
Buddha’s sangha. He was audacious and bad-mouthed some of the elders such as Śāriputra

(舎利弗) and Maudgalyāyana (目連). The consensus was that Channa stood out as a
nuisance and a liability within the sangha.
Before the Buddha passed away into parinirvana, Ānanda (阿難) quietly inquired of the
Buddha what they should do with Channa. The Buddha replied that Channa should be
reprimanded by something called brahmadanda (黙擯
). Brahmadanda simply involves the
act of ignoring someone. Ānanda, knowing how unruly Channa can be, asked the Buddha
what should be done if Channa became enraged. The Buddha responded by saying that
Ānanda should be joined with a legion of the sangha. The story is that after the Buddha
passed away, Ānanda gathered five hundred members of the sangha in Goshita Garden (ゴ
ーシタ苑) of Kosambi City (コーサンビー), and summoned Channa. When Channa was
informed that it was the Buddha’s wish that he undergo brahmadanda, Channa broke down
and fainted. Through this experience, it is said that Channa worked hard to correct his
faults. Channa was eventually able to become an arhat. Thereafter, it is said that Channa
attained nirvana.
As stubborn as Channa was, being ignored proved successful in helping Channa reform
his ways. In Japan, a child is often punished by his/her parents by being told to get out of
the house, that the parents did not need him or her. This is quite the opposite of what
happens in the U.S. where a parent may “ground” a child, prohibiting the child to go
outside. In Japan, being placed outside of a social group is essentially a death sentence.
Japanese companies rarely terminate the employment of their employees. What they do is
very hurtful. When management decides that a certain employee is no longer needed, they
will slowly absolve them of their responsibilities. Gradually, management would not
deploy the employee at all, assigning non-essential jobs such as serving tea or sweeping the
entrance, essentially ignoring him or her completely. What is painful is that the employee
knows full well what is happening. Yet, they would persevere just to continue getting a
monthly salary or someday, a pension. Ignoring anyone in this way is demoralizing.
Channa’s brahmadanda was meant to jolt a tough man to rethink his words and actions.
In other words, it was deployed with good intentions. But, when someone is ignored devoid
of love, it becomes torture. So, indicting someone such as Danny Norris for murder may be
within reason. (Eisei Ikenaga)