Lessons in tragedies 6/27/07
By now you’ve probably heard of the tragic case of Chris Benoit, the pro wrestler who apparently murdered his wife and child over the weekend and then killed himself. If you watched Wednesday night’s O’Reilly Factor, you saw Bill’s and my frustration about the seemingly endless parade of these cases in which women stay involved with men who’ve shown themselves to be volatile, only to end up dead. In some cases, like the Jessie Davis case in Ohio and this wrestler’s double-murder-suicide, the women appear to have been volatile themselves, at least emotionally, making decisions based largely on emotion instead of rational thought. In other cases, like the Natalee Holloway case, the women’s decisions appear more attributable to immaturity. In all three of these cases, the results have been tragic and appear to have been avoidable. Some viewers will say that we were blaming the victims, but that’s not it at all. What we were trying to do was to help living women learn the lesson of these cases and stay away or get away from volatile men before it’s too late. Take the Natalee Holloway case for example. Of course nobody’s to blame for whatever happened to her but whoever did it. But, she probably would be alive and well today if she had not become intoxicated, left her friends, and gotten into a car with men she hardly knew. She didn’t cause whatever happened to her, but she probably could have avoided it, and that was our point. We weren’t blaming Holloway, Davis, or Nancy Benoit — we were trying to draw the only possible good from these tragedies, which would be for other women to realize when they’re putting themselves at risk and do something about it before they become the victim in the next case to be remembered on the 2007 year-in-review shows this December. Bottom line: if you hitch a ride with somebody who’s driving erratically through life, you’re likely to be hurt when they crash and burn, but there are almost always warning signs along the way, so pay attention, and get out while you can.
Factor coverage of Kansas illegal abortion story 6/13/07
Thanks to everyone who has complimented me on my appearance on Tuesday night’s O’Reilly Factor. It’s an important story that should concern everyone, pro-choice and pro-life alike, here in Kansas and across the U.S.A. Records indicate that bogus mental diagnoses are being used to justify late-term abortions (when the babies could survive outside of their mothers) in Kansas. Even if the reported diagnoses were valid, they would never have caused permanent and substantial bodily harm to the pregnant women, as required by Kansas statute (and they wouldn’t have caused irreversible mental harm either). In addition, records indicate that very underage girls have received abortions without the doctors reporting suspected child abuse to authorities as required by law (in practice, if it turns out that a case involves two consenting 14-year-olds, nobody’s going to jail here, but if it’s a 12-year-old girl and her 40-year-old stepfather, the authorities clearly need to step in and protect the girl).
This investigation was started by former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who had to fight all the way up through the court system to finally get access to the relevant diagnostic and demographic evidence. He then lost the last election because his opponent, current Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison, having never seen the records, convinced many Kansans that Kline was on a frivolous witch hunt jeopardizing women’s rights to the privacy of their medical records. In truth, there has never been a privacy issue because the women’s and girls’ names, addresses, etc. were not part of the records that were reviewed. From day one, this case has been about the behavior of doctors with respect to: 1) the reasons that they’ve given for performing late-term abortions, and 2) the ages of girls on whom they’ve performed abortions without reporting suspected abuse.
Before leaving office, Kline hired an expert, a world reknowned psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins, to review the records (again, without identifying information) and evaluate the validity and severity of the mental diagnoses contained in them. On Monday, that expert (totally legally and again, without identifying any of the women — he couldn’t have if he’d wanted to because their names weren’t in the records) told the world the kinds of reasons given by women seeking late-term abortions in Kansas and the mental diagnoses that doctors had come up with to justify performing those abortions when they apparently couldn’t find anything physically wrong with the women. It was the first time since Roe v. Wade that the public has been able to hear what’s in an abortion clinic’s records, and the evidence was damning. Some Kansas media outlets reported the story, and Morrison immediately issued a cease and desist order to keep the expert from talking any further about the case, probably hoping to keep the story from going national. Too late, we already had it, and Bill and I broke it nationally Tuesday night!
All eyes are on Morrison now. He has claimed to be continuing Kline’s investigation, but it’s hard to believe that he’s taking it seriously if he never contacted Kline’s expert until yesterday. Morrison’s in a tough position politically because now that he’s in office, he’s seen the records, and he knows what’s in them, so he has two real options: 1) prosecute the case and admit that he was wrong throughout his entire campaign, or 2) drop the case and live with what he now knows to be going on in Kansas on his watch. Hopefully now he’ll be more inclined to do the right thing.
Three updates, three inmates, three early release dates 6/9/07
This edition of the blog updates three cases that I’ve discussed in various formats over the past several weeks.
First up, Paris Hilton. She was released from jail on Thursday, after serving just three days, to complete her sentence in “home detention” (like Martha Stewart did) due to an unspecified “medical condition” which, according to the L.A. County Sheriff, made it a health risk for her to remain in jail. Thankfully, the judge in the case quickly stepped in and sent a tearful Paris back to jail on Friday, prompting a half-hour of live, O.J.-style helicopter footage of the transport vehicle on the L.A. freeway taking Paris from the courthouse to the jail. At one point along the route, the car at the center of this legal circus — I kid you not — drove right past an actual circus tent set up in a parking lot next to the freeway, making for some good comic relief and the still shot of the day. I’m sure by now it goes without saying that I think the judge did exactly the right thing and that Paris is right back where she belongs (or will be — she’ll reportedly spend at least part of this weekend under observation in a correctional medical unit). Her lawyer never specified the supposed medical condition and health risk, but I would speculate that it’s something anxiety-related (like Panic Disorder) that conveniently appeared right around her first jail check-in and was diagnosed by the same star-struck psychiatrist who recently declared her too stressed to testify in a civil case (but apparently not too stressed to go to clubs night after night during that same period of time). Yes, I’m a licensed healthcare professional, but I’m not worried about poor Paris. Seriously, if people who have cancer can get chemotherapy in jail, and people who have kidney desease can get dialysis in jail, I’m fairly certain that people who have whatever Paris has also can be treated in jail just fine. Besides, what are we supposed to do if, for example, a claustrophobic person commits some serious crime? Are we supposed to let that person stay out of jail because confinement is anxiety-provoking? I don’t think so. If someone’s claustrophobic, sounds to me like just another reason for that person not to commit any crimes! Also, some commentators have called Paris’ sentence excessive because the L.A. County justice system apparently is so lax that the sentence for violating d.u.i. probation there, even multiple times, normally would be an extension of the probation terms, the implication being that this judge is actually treating Paris worse than the typical defendant in order to make an example of her. Or maybe it’s because she not only violated her probation multiple times but also showed no recognition of the wrongfulness of her actions nor any respect for the law or the judge. Who cares anyway? Do we really want judges to continue being too lenient simply because they’ve been too lenient in the past? Or, do we want them to stop the insanity, like this judge has attempted to do, and teach people like Paris Hilton that society’s not going to put up with antisocial behavior? I’m all for some uniformity in sentencing, but instead of giving lenient sentences across the board, why not tough sentences across the board, starting with Paris? If someone on the L.A. county bench is finally getting tough, I say it’s about time!
Next up, Mary Winkler, the preacher’s wife, who shot her husband in the back while he was asleep, fled across the country with their small children, and then claimed that he had been abusive toward her. She was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in April and sentenced on Friday to — I kid you not — 270 days (no, that’s not years, or even weeks, it’s DAYS), with credit for 203 days already served and the last 60 days to be served in a mental health facility, which means she will serve seven, SEVEN more days in jail, then head off to “rehab” for a couple of months, and then back into society with three years of probation, during which she’ll probably petition to have custody of the children returned to her (from their deceased father’s parents), after she KILLED a man, a SLEEPING man! I supposed when you compare Hilton’s sentence to Winkler’s, Hilton’s actually could seem excessive! (The solution of course would be to lengthen Winkler’s sentence rather than to lighten Hilton’s!)
Finally, Carrie McCandless, the Colorado high school teacher (and wife of the school’s principal!) who had sex with an underage student. Bill O’Reilly and I discussed this case on the Factor after the young man and his parents appeared on the Today show to share their story with America. McCandless was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct, contributing to the delinquency of a minor (she also gave him liquor), and tampering with physical evidence. She was sentenced on Friday as well — to a whopping 45 DAYS in jail, followed by 10 years of probation during which she’s supposed to register as a sex offender and stay away from kids and teenagers. At least we can hope that if she fails to do those things, there’s a judge in Colorado like the one who’s handling Paris Hilton’s probation violations.
See what I mean about our justice system being lenient in general, not just with celebrities? I’m not saying there’s never “celebrity justice,” but I think these cases indicate a more pervasive problem with the system.
Paris in prison — a great day for America! 6/4/07
Paris Hilton will wake up this morning, and the next 20 mornings, give or take one, in jail! She showed up at a California jail late last night to begin serving her sentence, albeit a short one, for repeatedly violating the terms of her drunk-driving probation. It’s a great day for America — especially America’s kids — and here’s why:
This woman should be thanking her lucky stars every day that she hasn’t had to use her limited marketable “skills” to actually get herself through life. Seriously, without the Hilton name, where do you think she’d be working — street corner or pole? So, if she’s not going to contribute anything positive and be part of the solution to society’s problems, the least she could do is make sure that her behavior is never one of the problems. Is that too much to ask? Apparently she thinks so. She is the epitome of malignant narcissism, a spoiled-brat scofflaw with no regard for her fellow citizens or for the justice system. (It’s no excuse, but you could see that Paris comes by her snotty attitude honestly when her mother heckled the judge after Paris was sentenced. How the judge restrained himself from holding Mrs. Hilton in contempt and pointing out from the bench what a mess she made of her daughter, I don’t know. Maybe if Mrs. Hilton would have sent Paris to her room a few more times — or maybe any — while she was growing up, the judge wouldn’t have needed to send her to jail as an adult.)
The sentence is too late (but better late than never) and too light (but three weeks are better than three days) — the woman put people’s lives at risk and showed no remorse about it whatsoever — but that’s probably not because she’s famous or because she’s wealthy. Many people think that the system is rigged because they see celebrities repeatedly getting slaps on their wrists for everything from drunk driving (like Paris Hilton) to drug possession (like Robert Downey, Jr.), gun charges (like Snoop Dog), assault (like Naomi Campbell), shoplifting (like Winona Ryder), and the list goes on. That’s understandable, but unfortunately, as an insider (not in this case, but in the legal system in general), I can tell you that the system is too lenient and gives too many chances to most lawbreakers, not just the famous and wealthy ones. While having the best lawyer that money can buy does help somewhat, the fact is that most people who’ve done things short of murder, rape, or armed robbery avoid jail until they break the law repeatedly. If society came down on most lawbreakers harder and faster, we’d have less crime at all levels.
Today is a great day for America because our society — finally — is putting this woman in her place. People, especially kids, need to see that if you don’t exercise personal responsibility, the law will catch up with you eventually, and this society will hold you accountable for your behavior, no matter who you are.