Death verdict for cesarean murderess 10/28/07
Lisa Montgomery was convicted in federal court in Kansas City this week of killing an expectant mother in 2004, cutting the infant from the murdered mother’s womb with a kitchen knife, and introducing the amazingly-unharmed baby to family and friends as Montgomery’s own newborn child. On Friday, the jury recommended the death penalty, which I frankly didn’t expect. As heinous as her crime was, I expected jurors to come back with a recommendation of life in prison because Montgomery has other children and because the defense introduced a lot of evidence about how psychologically messed up she is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I have any problem with the verdict; I’m just a little surprised by it.
Motives for arson 10/27/07
Now that we know that some of the devastating forest fires burning in California this week were caused by arson, people are asking why someone would commit such extreme and seemingly random violence. First of all, let me just say that the “experts” who’ve been talking about some connection between arson and sex need to stay off of TV and just curl up in front of their fireplaces at home with their long-outdated Freud books. Now, let’s get real. Deliberately-set fires fall into two categories: 1) fires set to accomplish tangible secondary goals, and 2) fires set for purely psychological reasons.
Fires that fall into the first category can be set to terrorize random people or specific groups of people (there’s been no indication that this week’s fires involve terrorism, but recall the string of fires at southern black churches a few years ago), or to harm a specific person or organization financially (like the burnings of luxury homes in California and ski resort buildings in Colorado by environmentalists a few years ago, or the burning of a business by a disgruntled former employee), or as a means of committing murder (even mass murder), or to cash in on an insurance policy (despite the weak housing market right now, the suspects who’ve been identified in this week’s California fires so far have not been area homeowners), or to cover up evidence of another crime (it’s been suggested that at least one of this week’s fires may have been a diversion, set to distract federal authorities while large quantities of drugs and illegal aliens were smuggled across the southern border).
Fires that fall into the second category can be set for the arsonist’s excitement, or to give the arsonist a sense of power, or to draw attention to the arsonist (there have even been cases in which firefighters and forestry workers have set fires apparently so they could fight them and be “heroes”), or to accomplish some psychotic, delusional goal (like “to purify the Earth”). People talk about “Pyromania,” a trance-like fascination with watching fire, as a potential psychological motivation for setting fires like the ones burning in California, but that’s probably one of the lower-probability explanations. While Pyromania remains a psychiatric diagnosis, there’s controversy about whether it really should be one. If it truly exists as a distinct disorder, it’s extremely rare and probably occurs more in children who, for example, keep lighting matches despite repeated warnings from their parents (setting small fires that would grow out of control only by accident rather than big fires that were meant to be big, as evidenced by spreading accelerant over a forested area).
More illegal abortion charges in Kansas 10/17/07
This time Planned Parenthood is the subject of a 107-count criminal complaint here in Kansas alleging falsification of records (23 felony counts), failure to maintain records (26 misdemeanor counts), failure to determine the viability of fetuses before performing late-term abortions (29 misdemeanor counts), and unlawful late-term abortions (29 misdemeanor counts). Can you believe that the unlawful late-term abortions are misdemeanors while the falsifications of records are felonies? I tried to set the Legislature straight when I testified at the State Capitol last month, and there’s one area of the law that needs their prompt attention! The head of Planned Parenthood is on the record stating unequivocally that his organization does not perform abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy, but a judge has found probable cause to support each and every one of the charges in the new criminal complaint, so expect convictions on the felony falsification charges. I expected this complaint to include charges of failure to report to child protective services that girls who were under the age of consent for sex had sought abortions at Planned Parenthood facilities. Maybe those allegations are embodied in the charges of falsifying records and/or will be amended to the complaint later, but we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, if you want to know more about the recent history of illegal abortion cases here in Kansas, see my previous posts “Factor coverage of Kansas illegal abortion story” and “Progress, but a long way to go in Kansas illegal abortion case.” Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, and whether you live in Kansas or not, medical professionals completely disregarding the laws governing their practices should alarm you.
Quick takes on this week’s high-profile cases 10/4/07
Here are my quick takes on three major cases in the news this week:
1) Isiah Thomas, former basketball star and current coach of the New York Knicks, was found liable and ordered to pay $11.6 million in damages for the sexual harassment of a female executive at the Knicks’ home venue, Madison Square Garden. While I’m often skeptical of “hostile environment” sexual harassment claims, I have no sympathy for someone who says, as Thomas did, that certain words are offensive only when spoken by a person of a particular color.
2) Britney Spears has lost custody of her two children, at least for now. I think she’ll probably get a shared custody arrangement reinstated in the not-too-distant future, but she should’ve gotten this wake-up call back when the judge found her to be a habitual substance abuser a couple of weeks ago (see my previous post “Overshadowed by O.J.”).
3) This horrific Ohio case in which a mother drowned her two young children in the bathtub is going to be the Andrea Yates case all over again. Ohio is one of the states that defines insanity, in the context of a criminal case, as the inability to appreciate the “wrongfulness” of one’s conduct, which I think is the wrong standard (see my previous post “Stupidity + money = trouble” for an explanation of why), but I hope the jury gets it right nonetheless.