Anna Nicole Smith update 10/28/10
Anna Nicole Smith’s psychiatrist and “boyfriend”/attorney have been found guilty by a California jury of conspiring to furnish prescription drugs to a known addict (another doctor involved in Smith’s care was acquitted). Good, hope this is the beginning of a backlash against what I’ve dubbed “Hollywood Health Care”! If you’re interested in that, CNN interviewed me back in February as an expert in cases involving health-care professional misconduct, and you can find that story in print here.
Zahra Baker update 10/28/10
Quick update on the Zahra Baker case:
The stepmother’s been in jail for a couple of weeks now as you know. Guess who joined her briefly before bonding out…the father. Suprise, surprise. The charges against him, so far, are “unrelated” to Zahra’s disappearance (e.g. assault with a deadly weapon, writing bad checks, refusal to vacate a rental property), but they’re really not surprising considering the kind of a guy who would pick a woman like the stepmother (who is reported by numerous witnesses to have been abusive to Zahra and, more importantly, has admitted to writing a fake ransom note found at the couple’s home). It’s extra challenging to raise a special-needs child even when parents do the best that they can. With her disabilities and parents like these, it sounds like poor little Zahra may never have stood a chance of making it out of their home alive. Most ominous for the outcome in this case is news of the discovery yesterday of a child’s prosthetic leg almost certain to be Zahra’s with no sign of its owner in the immediate vicinity, yet. The stepmother reportedly has been taken by sheriff’s deputies out of her jail cell to two of her former residences — the cops usually do that when a person in custody says that he/she is willing to take them to a crime scene.
P.S. While I’m here, in a breaking story out of mid-Missouri, a 23-year-old male is in custody after a shooting spree in which he allegedly shot four people, killing three and wounding one. The motives for the shootings remain unclear, but based on what authorities are saying at this point, they appear to be premeditated/targeted rather than random murders/attempted murder.
“Connerie a Deux” 10/26/10
OK, one more. Just over a year ago, I wrote this in a post featuring “Hollywood Hoodlums”:
“Randy Quaid – celebrated actor, arrested with his wife in Texas for allegedly skipping out on a substantial hotel tab, and this allegedly isn’t the first time they’ve done it. Add this one to the list of incredibly-stupid legal problems that celebrities have created for themselves over the years, everything from shoplifting (Winona Ryder) to drugs (too many to mention) to drunk driving (too many to mention) to accidentally shooting themselves while carrying guns illegally (Plaxico Burress). As I always say, these tend to be really stupid people who tend to have a lot of money and tend to get a lot of adulation and deference from sycophantic fans, so they end up feeling like they can literally do whatever they want. Props to the cops in Texas for disillusioning the Quaids! I can’t wait to hear the completely-bogus ‘I was doing research for a role’ defense!”
So, the Quaids reportedly are now seeking “asylum” in Canada, supposedly because the U.S. government has been secretly killing off “A-list” Hollywood celebrities like Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson, and they fear that they’re next on the government’s “A-list hit list.” Hmmm, could it be a case of “Folie a Deux” (a delusion shared by two)? Or could it possibly be that the Quaids would like to get out of paying restitution to hotels they’ve skipped out on here in the U.S.A., and maybe even get some publicity in the process? People delusional enough to think that the U.S. government has a “hit list” of major Hollywood celebrities (or that the Quaids would be included on the list if it existed!) generally aren’t functioning well enough cognitively to figure out how to apply for asylum in Canada. Sounds like “Connerie a Deux” to me!
Shameless S.I.T.Y.S.’s 10/26/10
So back on August 3, I wrote the following:
“Actress (I guess that’s what she is — has she acted in anything recently?) Lindsay Lohan spent just 13 days in jail and then was released to go to “rehab.” She was supposed to spend 90 days in jail, and she should’ve spent every bit of that. It’s just like I said with Paris Hilton — these slaps on the wrist for serious offenses aren’t helping anyone, not the public and not even the perpetrators. All it does is make the probability higher that we’ll see Lohan back in trouble.”
Since then, Lohan’s court-ordered urine drug screening has turned up…positive. See, I told you so. And as a result, she is now…NOT in jail. How shocking. She’s been ordered BACK to “rehab,” for the umteenth time. The judge did warn her that we’re REALLY getting serious now though…one more strike and she MIGHT see the inside of a jail cell. Wow, how intimidating. So intimidating in fact that Lohan’s already trying to get out of “rehab” early by arguing that she can’t afford the expense. She apparently CAN, of course, afford drugs when she’s not in “rehab.” Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t see why these people need cold, hard, rude awakenings in JAIL, where they’re separated from drugs and alcohol by steel bars, chain link fences, and concertina wire, for significant periods of time, before the touchy-feely “treatment” they get at the “rehab” places has ANY chance of helping?
Continuing on with what I wrote back in AUGUST:
“Same thing with actor Charlie Sheen. He was sentenced to 30 days of “rehab” in lieu of jail for threatening his wife with a knife last Christmas (yeah, he also got some probation and “anger management” counseling). He should’ve spent every bit of those 30 days in jail. Instead, the State of Colorado is sending him to a place where he’ll sit in relative luxury and be told that he’s a victim of a disease and that he needs to forgive himself. Besides making me throw up, what do you think that’s going to accomplish? That’s right, not much. Look for Sheen’s wrist to need another slapping again soon.”
Since then, Sheen reportedly has been “hospitalized” after being found NAKED in a luxury hotel room that he allegedly TRASHED after getting high on COCAINE and becoming ENRAGED at a PROSTITUTE. See, I told you so. Apparently “rehab” and “anger management” therapy DIDN’T cure him. Imagine that. And guess where he’s NOT…jail. Yes, some probation violations have probably occurred, but hey, the guy’s got a disease, right? I’m sure Sheen will get a “stern” warning that we’re really getting serious now and that just a couple more incidents like this MIGHT land him in jail for a weekend! I ask again, is there ANYONE out there who STILL doesn’t see why some JAIL is part of Dr. Brian’s prescription for these people???
And if those S.I.T.Y.S.’s weren’t shameless enough, here’s one more for today:
As you know, the penalty phase is underway in the trial of the first of two defendants tried for the horrific Connecticut home invasion, sexual assaults, arson, and murders that I’ve been writing and talking about lately. So Tuesday, a psychologist testifying for the defense predicted that this defendant would NOT pose a threat to staff or fellow inmates if he were to be imprisoned for life instead of being executed. Well, well, guess what this same “non-threatening” prisoner reportedly did back in March of this year WHILE awaiting trial in the home-invasion case…threatened to kill a jail guard, saying, “I have nothing to lose; I am on death row…[this is your] last warning.” As I’ve said many times, in the van der Sloot cases and in this case and others, a guy like this guy is generally going to keep trying to hurt other people until he’s completely and permanently separated from all other human beings, one way or another.
Off to a busy start 10/25/10
After a slow Lawpsyc news week last week, this one’s off to a busy start:
First up, a young Florida woman who made headlines as a teen a couple of years ago for her chronic hiccups (supposedly lasting for months at a time) reportedly has admitted to cops that she participated (with two other defendants) in a robbery and murder. She allegedly lured the victim to the crime scene to be robbed and killed by the other two defendants, which would make her every bit as guilty of the murder as the other two (it’s called “felony murder,” a death occurring in the commission of a felony).
Second, the penalty phase is underway in the trial of the first of the two defendants in the horrific Connecticut home invasion, sexual assault, arson, and murders that I’ve been writing and talking about on tv lately. Now that he’s been convicted, the jury is deciding whether he’ll get the death penalty or life in prison without parole. He supposedly now wants to admit to everything and accept the death penalty because he supposedly can’t live with himself. Yeah, right. Anyone who’d feel that bad about doing something like this wouldn’t have done it in the first place. He supposedly has tried unsuccessfully to kill himself in jail several times, but who knows how genuine those attempts have been — I’ll bet not very. You can’t trust anything that comes out of the mouth of someone as psychopathic as this guy. He may be trying to get sympathy from a juror or two; he may be aware that the Supreme Court has prohibited the execution of mentally-ill people and just be trying to appear mentally-ill; or he may even be trying to make angry jurors want to imprison him for life instead of executing him by acting like he considers life imprisonment to be the worse fate. At least one expert seems to be onto him, however. That expert has testified that he seems capable of rational thought, that he knows what he’s doing, and that his stated decision to embrace the death sentence is not a product of mental illness. Good. If, for whatever reason, he’d like to at least pretend to take responsibility for his actions and spare taxpayers the multi-million-dollar death-penalty appeals process, I say let’s get on with it!
Speaking of getting on with it, the trial finally began today of the man accused of murdering Congressional intern Chandra Levy in a Washington, D.C. park several years ago. You may recall that the Congressman for whom she worked and with whom she was believed to have had an affair was the prime suspect for a long time, but the defendant turned out to be a man illegally in the U.S. from El Salvador who had attacked other women in the same area — just another example to add to the long list of criminals illustrating why we MUST know who is in this country and what they’re doing here! You can’t tell me that the U.S. military couldn’t keep individuals like this guy from literally walking in here if we’d just wake up and start treating them as the potential national security and public safety threats that they are. The defense tried to further delay the start of this trial by objecting to the composition of the jury. Thankfully, the ridiculous assertion that the defendant can’t get a fair trial without Hispanic jurors didn’t fly.
Pros and cons of a slow Lawpsyc news week 10/24/10
Well, it was kind of a slow week last week in the world of Lawpsyc news. No major new cases in the national spotlight. That’s mostly a “pro.” That means no mass shootings, no murder/suicides taking out entire families, etc. I say “mostly” a pro because kids definitely went missing that we didn’t hear about for various reasons. I’ve written about why some cases get national attention and others don’t, and if you’re interested in that, you can find it here in the archives dated 7/20/09. So, to the extent that the media could’ve covered some cases that it didn’t cover this past week, it’s a “con.”
Another “con” of a slow Lawpsyc news week (besides seeing less of me here and on TV of course! — that’s just a joke) is that it means no significant progress was made in the major cases that have been going on for weeks, months, and even years, e.g. Casey Anthony, Drew Peterson, and the Ft. Hood shooter are still waiting around in jail for their trials (although there was a recent hearing in which it looked even less likely than before that anyone’s going to buy an insanity defense from the Ft. Hood shooter); and Haleigh Cummings, Susan Powell, Kyron Horman, and Zahra Baker are still missing. Oh yeah, and the JonBenet Ramsey case still hasn’t been solved either (but investigators new to the case did say recently that they’d like to talk again to JonBenet’s brother, who was just nine or ten years old at the time but is now in his 20’s, apparently not because they think he could’ve done it but because they think he might know more than he told at the time, and the brother reportedly doesn’t want to participate in any further investigation of the case — if you’re interested in that one, I stated my theory of what happened right here, and you can find it in the archives dated 12/22/07). So I guess one possible “pro” of a relatively slow Lawpsyc news week is that it gives me a chance to go back and look at some issues and cases from the past that you might’ve missed or forgotten.
Another “pro” is that I get to look through some of the latest studies and give you a “study this” section that I haven’t included lately because most of the studies I’ve seen lately have been un-Lawpsyc-related and/or completely duplicative of previous ones and/or downright wastes of time (like the one that found that overeating in combination with a lack of physical activity could lead to obesity in children and adults). So, here you go, study this:
A new study found that love may be able to conquer pain, sort of. The central nervous systems of people who were in love and thought about their beloveds during a mildly-painful task experienced analgesic (pain-relieving) effects similar to those induced by prescription painkillers.
Another new study found that women apologize more than men. But before you conclude that women are nicer, better human beings, there’s a little more to this study’s findings. Turns out that when they thought they had really done something wrong to someone, both genders apologized equally often. Women in the study, however, tended to think that they had done something wrong more often than men, i.e. to think that “hurting another person’s feelings” was “wrong” even if it was caused by oversensitivity on the “hurt” person’s part rather than by any bad behavior on the apologizer’s part (men didn’t tend to apologize as much in such situations). Women may also have tended to apologize even when they didn’t think that they really had done anything wrong, i.e. to apologize just in the interest “relationship preservation” when another person was irritated with them.
And so begins another Lawpsyc news week. Wonder what this one will bring…
BOTH Cummingses off to prison 10/18/10
If you’re following developments in the case of still-missing Florida five-year-old Haleigh Cummings, BOTH her father and stepmother, Ronald and Misty Cummings, have received lengthy prison sentences in recent days, 15 and 25 years respectively, not in connection with Haleigh’s disappearance but for various drug offenses. In my opinion, one or both of them probably belongs there in connection with Haleigh’s disappearance as well, so it may be kind of like O.J. trial #2 in that the right result may ultimately have happened even though it wasn’t directly connected to the original crime.
CAUTION: You are about to enter a politically-incorrect zone! 10/17/10
CAUTION: You are about to enter a politically-incorrect zone!
Danroy Henry was a college student and athlete at Pace University. He was socializing in Mount Pleasant, New York this weekend. During that visit, he and at least one friend went to a club. At the club, there was a brawl. The cops came. As the cops were breaking up the brawl, Henry and one passenger watched from a car parked in a fire lane. Henry was at the wheel. One of the cops breaking up the brawl — we’ll call him Cop #1 — approached Henry’s car and knocked on the window. At that point, Henry — allegedly — hit the gas and attempted to drive off at high speed. Cop #2 then ran in front of Henry’s car and motioned for him to stop. Henry didn’t stop. Henry — allegedly — kept accelerating and drove right into Cop #2, who rolled onto the hood of Henry’s car. Cop #3 then tried to pull Cop #2 off of Henry’s car, but as he did so, Cop #3 was also hit by Henry’s car. Finally, Cop #2 pulled his gun and fired at Henry through the windshield of Henry’s car. Henry’s car then headed straight toward Cop #4, who also pulled his gun and fired into Henry’s car. Henry’s car plowed into Cop #4’s cop car and came to a stop. At that point, Henry’s passenger had been grazed by a bullet but was not seriously injured. Henry was dead. In the hours since then, Henry’s family members and friends have been quoted in the media saying stuff like the following:
“[Danroy was] a wonderful kid…a gentleman…a real gentleman,” and
“[Danroy had] a very generous heart,” and
“A great kid was murdered.”
They keep emphasizing how “tragic” it is that from humble beginnings, he had successfully used his athletic talent to get into college and that now his “bright future” won’t be realized — they even held a vigil for him tonight on Pace’s campus
Now, as a psychologist with compassion for human beings in general, I’m sorry to see anyone lose a family member or friend, but I’m SICK of stories like this one, in which the media reports absolutely ABSURD commentary along with the facts. IF the facts are as the many police and other eyewitnesses have said, Danroy Henry was NOT a “wonderful kid;” he was NOT a “gentleman;” and he did NOT have “a very generous heart.” And if he tried to run down several cops, or even one cop, then he was NOT “murdered.” Let’s tell it like it is: If he did what many people have said they watched him do, then he deserved to be shot, and his death is 100% HIS fault, period. It means NOTHING that he went to college or that he played sports. So what? People with athletic or academic talent or both can go to college and still maintain relationships with antisocial individuals and even still engage in antisocial behaviors themselves. Danroy Henry’s family and friends can grieve however they want and believe whatever makes them feel better about their loss, but at this point, it’s offensive and insulting to the families of the injured cops to even print or broadcast the assertion that Henry was “murdered.” Let’s let Henry’s family and friends grieve in private and focus public attention on the heroism of the cops and what THEIR families have to go through now as they recover from the injuries that they suffered protecting the rest of us from this “wonderful,” “generous,” “gentleman” and “scholar-athlete” who literally — allegedly — ran them down. And hey Pace, how about a vigil for the cops’ speedy recoveries, hmmmm?
HONEYBEE SUSPECT RELEASED! 10/12/10
Breaking news out of Illinois: The man believed to be the Honeybee Killer for the past several days is being released! Despite eyewitness identification and other circumstantial evidence apparently compelling enough to convince a judge to keep the suburban-Illinois cop in custody with a $2.5 million bail, forensic computer evidence reportedly has now convinced investigators in the case that the jailed suspect was at home blogging while the Honeybee Killer’s shootings were taking place. Looks like a huge reminder to everyone, myself certainly included, of why defendants are innocent until proven guilty in our justice system and why we in the media are always using that “allegedly” word that annoys some viewers and readers so much. I’m sure anyone who made an honest mistaking in i.d.’ing this guy feels terrible, but apparently investigators now believe they made mistakes nonetheless. And of course if it’s not this guy, it means that the Honeybee Killer apparently is not only at large but has had several days without law enforcement on his trail in which to get far away from the crime scenes and/or…kill more people. Stay tuned. I still predict that the real Honeybee Killer, whoever he is, will be caught and taken into custody alive.
In other news:
The stepmother of missing North Carolina 10-year-old Zahra Baker has been charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to mislead cops in that case.
A Mexican police commander leading the investigation into the reported homicide of an American jet-skier on a U.S.-Mexican border lake has been found dead…beheaded and stuffed in a suitcase. Sounds like some extremely dangerous people are involved in this still-mysterious story, which reinforces the absolute unacceptability of a border vulnerable to such people crossing into this country.
On a positive note, a rescue operation is underway to bring those 33 Chilean miners trapped half a mile below the surface to freedom almost two months early! Fears of claustrophobic panic attacks as miners are ferried to the surface in a small cylindrical capsule apparently haven’t been realized yet, but concern about the miners’ mental health won’t end when they reach the surface as PTSD-type symptoms can develop even weeks and months after an ordeal like what these men have been through over the past 60+ days. For now though, it was great to watch the first freed miner’s reunion with family members unfold in real time.
What’s in a name? 10/12/10
CAUTION, this is completely anecdotal and non-scientific analysis, but, here it is anyway: I’ve been covering cases for a while now of bad things tragically happening to kids, mostly here in the U.S.A., and while most of those kids (by far) have had “normal” names, it still seems to me like a disproportionate (to the U.S. population) number of them have had “unusual” names. Wonder if anyone else who watches the shows I’m on or reads my blogs has noticed the same thing? I’ve talked about this with cops and E.R. docs who’ve definitely noticed it. If it’s true, what would it mean (if anything)? Would it mean that unusual names somehow put people at heightened risk of bad things happening to them? I don’t think so — in fact, I’ve often found people who’ve grown up with “unusual” names to be quite interesting people — but here’s what I do think. I think what it would mean is that “unconventional” parents who name kids “unconventionally” might also then parent “unconventionally” and expose their kids to some “unconventional” people, places, and practices that might be associated with bad outcomes somewhat more frequently than more “conventional” people, places, and practices. Just something for discussion while you’re waiting for tonight’s crime shows, most of them covering the disappearance of…Zahra Baker.
Red flags 10/11/10
You’ve probably heard about the woman who alleges that she and her husband went jet-skiing on a lake on the U.S.-Mexico border, that they were chased by apparent Mexican drug-traffickers in a boat, that her husband was gunned down and killed, and that she barely escaped with her life. The husband’s body and jet ski haven’t been found, although there is eyewitness evidence corroborating that they were at least on their way toward the lake with jet skis in tow. First off, I believe that we’ve insanely left our borders vulnerable to violation by criminals and would-be terrorists, and I don’t doubt that there are drug traffickers on that lake. However, many have questioned this woman’s story, and I tend to agree that there are some red flags in it. People do respond differently to tragedy, but she just doesn’t seem to be responding to questions in a way that rings typical of a woman who just lost her husband in a random ambush shooting. What do I think? I don’t know exactly what to think, but here’s what I wonder: I wonder if it’s true that her husband was shot by drug-runners on the lake but that she knows more about it than she’s telling, which is causing her to come across now as less than fully credible. For example, I wonder if maybe she and/or the husband attempted to do “business” of some kind with the drug-runners, either in advance or on a whim, and it went bad, and that the wife figured she could tell the part about the husband being murdered without telling the part that might reduce the intensity of the search for his body or the manhunt for his killers and/or might get her in trouble. That’s what I wonder.
Now here’s a sad story full of red flags. A little girl, age 10, goes missing from her home in North Carolina. She’s hearing-impaired (but her hearing aids are left in the home), and she also has a prosthetic leg (which is not left in the home, so she presumably can walk, but she can’t hear well). The father and stepmother supposedly last saw her sleeping in her bed at 2:30 a.m. and didn’t realize/report her missing until about 2:00 p.m. the next day, red flag #1. She reportedly hadn’t been in school recently — the couple supposedly were “home-schooling” her, red flag #2 (I’m always a little wary of parents who think they can “home-school” their kids — in my professional opinion, it’s a very rare parent or parents who can provide a child with education and socialization equivalent to what they’d get in a school setting, and that only becomes more true when we’re talking about a child with needs for specialized expertise and facilitated socialization, like a hearing-impaired child). The family reportedly has relocated frequently, red flag #3. Nobody outside of the family apparently has seen the girl recently, red flag #4. The police reportedly say they’re having trouble establishing a timeline of events, due in part to “inconsistencies” in the stepmother’s story, and that an abduction by a stranger seems less likely than it did at first, red flag #5. The police have arrested the stepmother and are keeping her in custody on charges including larceny and writing bad checks, red flag #6. There was a fire in the back yard of the couple’s home on the morning that the girl was reported missing (and bizarrely, firefighters found a ransom note on the windshield of one of the couple’s cars addressed to the husband’s boss demanding ransom for the return of his daughter, who hadn’t been kidnapped), red flags #7 and 8. Cadaver dogs reportedly indicated the scent of decomposition on two vehicles in the couple’s driveway, red flag #9. The husband’s reportedly now saying that his wife could’ve had something to do with his daughter’s disappearance, giant red flag #10 (which could be a father actually putting his daughter first, or it could be one future defendant already trying to pin a crime on his future co-defendant). With this many red flags, it’s tough to get much closer to being able to just come right out and say that this couple, or at least this woman, is involved in this little girl’s disappearance, and that sadly, the outcome’s not looking good.
And finally tonight, you don’t get a much bigger red flag than this: a North Carolina woman has been charged with murder after…her boyfriend’s body was found in her freezer. It’s estimated that he’s been on ice since April. To make it even more frightening, the couple’s 15-year-old son is missing. This is one time when you actually hope a kid ran away!
What attacks on gays say about the attackers 10/10/10
Several members of an Hispanic street gang are in custody and at least one other is on the run after the gang allegedly tortured and robbed three men believed to be gay. At the same time, riot police in Serbia had to put themselves in harm’s way to protect a gathering of gays and lesbians (a gay-pride parade) from hoodlums hurling projectiles at them and shouting, “Death to homosexuals!” So, I want to take this opportunity to address the psychology of the attackers in these cases. I think it’s rooted in a lack of confidence in their own heterosexuality. I think that when these people see homosexuality expressed, it stirs up something in them that they deny and suppress by making vociferous and violent displays of disdain for it. Personally, I’ve never identified what a guy would see in another guy that would be sexually-appealing, and I think any public “celebrations” and displays of people’s sexual orientations (including gay-pride parades and “straight-pride” parades, if there are such things) are absurd (especially when kids might see them and parents might then have to try to explain them at sub-optimal times for the kids developmentally). However, it doesn’t bother me that there are guys out there who do see something sexually-appealing in other guys, just like it doesn’t bother me that there are women who see something sexually-appealing in other women instead of us guys. Being in both psychology and television, I’ve worked and become friends with plenty of gays and lesbians, and I never spend any time thinking about whom they’d like to sleep with or why. People can have perfectly reasonable differences of opinion about public policy and legislation involving homosexuality, like the military’s “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell” policy, or gay/lesbian marriage/adoption/partner immigration, but it’s really not reasonable for other people’s consenting adult sexuality to stir up rage in someone, and if it does, I think it says something about the enraged person’s own sexuality — that there’s a highly-anxiety-provoking conflict, a “self-homophobia,” in that individual. And I don’t buy it when people say that their vocal or behavioral assaults on homosexuals are rooted in religion either (like hypocritical anti-gay “pastors” who decry homosexual behavior from the pulpit while engaging in it themselves). As a forensic psychologist, I’ve generally found that whenever a person I’m examining goes on about what a “devout” [insert religion here] he is, and how he’d never commit some crime, professional misconduct, etc. because it’s “against his religion,” it’s the rule rather than the exception that I’ll quickly catch him/her lying and that he/she’ll end up admitting he/she’s guilty as charged but “just so ashamed.” Yeah, right. Even if a person really believes that homosexuality is a sin so terrible that those who commit it should/will end up in hell, why would that person really care as long as he or she didn’t have to worry about it? Is it really benevolent concern for other people’s souls, expressed in hateful behavior toward the very people they supposedly want to “save”? I don’t think so. I think it’s internal conflict. So, anyone who’s exhibiting rage about other people’s homosexuality should really think about what that conveys to the world about him/herself and whether that’s really what he/she wants to be conveying.
A couple of side notes about the New York case: First, some defendants are already arguing “duress,” that they didn’t want to participate in the attacks but had no choice because the gang’s leader threatened their lives if they didn’t. That’s a bunch of bull, and if anyone doesn’t think so, the prosecutor should have me come up there and testify about it. In one instance, the defendants allegedly threatened the life of one victim if he didn’t burn another victim with a cigarette, which he allegedly then did. If that victim were charged with the battery of the other victim, he could argue duress. But with the gang members, it’s laughable. You can’t voluntarily join a criminal organization, and then when you get caught committing a crime, argue that you never would’ve been involved if you hadn’t been forced, at least not with any credibility. Is it possible that not all of the attackers have doubts about their own sexuality and that some just sort of “went along for the ride” because they were part of an emotionally-charged group? Sure, I’ve written many times about people doing things in emotionally-charged groups that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought of doing alone, but does that mean their actions aren’t every bit as voluntary? No. Their participation would still be voluntary whether it were motivated by rage, group dynamics, or a combination of the two. The second side note is that these defendants face a host of charges including kidnapping and battery and hate crimes. As I said recently in discussing the case of the Rutgers student who committed suicide after his roommate and another defendant secretly videotaped him having sex with another man and streamed the video to the Internet, I don’t like the “hate crime” designation for this reason: It implies that we should punish a crime more severely if it was motivated by hate, which implies that we should punish it less severely if it wasn’t motivated by hate. Look, if a white guy mugged my girlfriend, pushed her down on the sidewalk and ran away with her purse, because he wanted money to go buy drugs, I wouldn’t want that guy to spend one less day in jail than a black guy would spend if he did it because he hated white people. I’d want both guys to stay locked up for the maximum time allowed by law for that crime. It’s the same in this case. Imagine that these defendants had done the same things to three straight guys, just for the “fun” of it. Should they really get less time in that case? I say no. There shouldn’t be any additional punishment left to give these defendants if they’re guilty as charged, so the hate/no-hate motivation should be irrelevant to the legal outcome.
And a very important P.S. for parents: While it’s not developmentally unusual for children to be particularly susceptible to some anxiety, born of uncertainty about their own still-forming identities, in the presence of people who seem “different” (disabled, gay, etc.), it’s your job to teach your kids what to do with that anxiety — to channel it into empathy rather than hostility. In short, if you’re raising a kid who bullies other kids, for any reason, you’re failing as a parent because you’re raising a kid who’s profoundly deficient in empathy. That’s a parental emergency because if you don’t get a handle on it immediately (and the longer you’ve let it go, the harder it will be to fix), it’ll cause problems for your kid and for others throughout your kid’s life.
Arrest made in the case of the Honeybee Killer 10/10/10
So I get to LA on Friday, get to my hotel, turn on the TV, and news is breaking about the arrest of the (alleged, but with bail set at $2.5 million) “Honeybee Killer” (a psychopathic coward I told you about last week who had shot three people, one fatally, at point-blank range, after engaging them in conversation about honeybees). Based on his m.o., I predicted both that he’d be caught and that he’d be taken into custody alive, so you heard it here first. Get this, turns out the suspect’s a cop who’s been on medical leave from a suburban Illinois police department for about a year (because of some physical injury in the line of duty). And guess what else, he apparently was pulled over, questioned, and released while the manhunt for him was underway because he fit the suspect description that had been circulated in rural Illinois and Indiana (a fat, 40-50ish, white guy). The fact that he was a cop probably deflected suspicion (no cop wants to think that a serial ambush shooter is another cop). After he was released (having obviously denied any involvement in the shootings, which is important because it would indicate consciousness of guilt), he apparently even had the audacity to go on Facebook and post a status about being stopped and how awful it was to have a gun pointed at him — this from a guy who allegedly didn’t mind pointing one at innocent people and actually pulling the trigger. You can see the psychology of a psychopath in that — someone who thinks he can do something to other people, innocent ones, but no one’s supposed to do it to him, even though he’s (allegedly, but with bail set at $2.5 million) guilty! Well, it wasn’t long before law enforcement realized he was apparently their guy, caught back up with him, and took him into custody, and with bail set at $2.5 million (did I mention that?), it’s unlikely that he’ll be released again anytime soon (or ever). No apparent explanation for the fixation on honeybees yet — one law-enforcement officer involved in the arrest said they didn’t even find a jar of honey in the dude’s house.
(And yes, I’ll tell you what I was working on in LA this time, but not for a little while longer!)
Verdict in Connecticut and two new multi-shooting cases 10/5/10
The verdict is in for the first of the two defendants charged in the horrific sexual assault and murder of a Connecticut mother and her two daughters — guilty, on all counts but one, arson. Looks to me like the jurors may actually have misunderstood the judge’s answer to their question as to whether it’s arson if a person spreads accelerant (gasoline in this case) over a crime scene but doesn’t light it. The judge apparently said no, but I don’t think he really meant that this defendant couldn’t therefore be found guilty of arson. This defendant apparently (at least this what the jury believed) spread gasoline around the crime scene, including over the two daughters who were still alive at the time, and the other defendant then put a match or lighter to it. As I interpret the law, that makes them both guilty of arson. To me, it’s absurd to think that multiple people could go into a home and spread gasoline all around it to burn it down, and the only person guilty of arson would be the one who actually struck a match. Nevertheless, this defendant was convicted on multiple capital charges, so the acquittal on the arson charge shouldn’t affect his eligibility for the death penalty. The other defendant will be tried after the first of the year.
Also tonight, two new multiple-shooting cases to tell you about. The first occurred in Florida, where a man shot and killed his father, then shot and critically wounded several other people, then shot and killed himself. Now get this, the shooter was arrested for cocaine possession in ’05, for violating probation in ’06 and ’08, for DUI in ’09, and twice for failure to appear in court in ’09. As is all too often the case, we slapped him on the wrist over and over and over, and he ended up killing and severely hurting people. Had we gotten tough on him anywhere along the way, he might not have been free to commit mass murder this week, and/or he might’ve been forced to get some help (i.e. medication) for the mental problems that he supposedly also had. The other new multi-shooting case involves a man described as a fat, 40-50-something, white guy who’s approaching people in rural Illinois and Indiana, engaging them in conversation about bees, and then shooting them, three total so far, one fatally. Sounds like someone who’s likely to be caught and less likely to kill himself than a massacre shooter like the one in Florida (who killed multiple, apparently-known victims, in rapid succession, in an apparent rage, with no apparent interest in self-preservation, while this bee guy’s a coward who’s ambushing and killing individual strangers, one at a time, with premeditation, apparently simply because he’s getting thrills out of it), so we might actually find out why he fixated on bees.
Another family murder-suicide and a cuople of s.i.t.y.s.’s 10/2/10
A New Jersey man shot his three teenage sons this weekend, killing two and critically wounding a third, before charging cops while armed, whereupon the cops shot him dead, which almost certainly was a suicide-by-cop. Sadly, I’ve covered a number of family murder-suicide cases, and this one seems to reinforce some comments I’ve made in the past.
Back in April 2009, I said this:
“Murder/suicides generally fall into one of three categories: 1) The murderer, driven by hatred of the intended victim(s), premeditates his/her actions, kills the victim(s), and then commits suicide to avoid facing justice [i.e. to ‘give society the finger’ and go out on his/her own terms, thereby depriving society of the opportunity to pass judgment on and punish him/her], 2) The murderer, driven by rage (possibly but not necessarily psychotic rage), kills the victim(s) on impulse, and then commits suicide because of overwhelming guilt feelings and/or because he/she realizes that his/her life is ruined (he/she will be caught, tried, imprisoned, etc.), or 3) The murderer, driven by psychosis (e.g. a fantasy about taking his/her loved one(s) to a ‘better place’), premeditates his/her actions, kills the victim(s), and then commits suicide to ‘join’ the victim(s) in death.”
This weekend’s shooter reportedly had apocalyptic delusions, telling his sons at least as far back as January that there was some sort of government conspiracy to start a worldwide pandemic and wipe out a substantial part of the population in 2012 using H1N1 flu vaccines. Sounds like he’s probably a good illustration of category (3) above.
Then just days ago, I said this:
“As always, I don’t want to compound grief with guilt here; I’m just looking for a lesson for other families with a ‘crazy’ family member or a family member of any age with a propensity toward violence, and here it is: As I’ve said before, you can love someone and want to take care of that person, but that doesn’t mean you put yourself, and especially children, at risk of becoming victims of the person’s violent behavior
Sounds like this case is a sad reinforcer of that very same lesson. The boys’ mother reportedly is a nurse who was at work at the time of the shootings, and while again, I’m not out to pile guilt on top of her grief, I’ll bet there were signs of her husband’s dangerous instability that she just didn’t want to see (i.e. I’ll bet this weekend wasn’t the first glimpse this guy ever gave anyone into the depth of his psychosis, and the potential dangerousness of that simply can’t be underestimated, especially when children are involved who can’t be expected to get themselves out of harm’s way).
Sex tape suicide 10/1/10
If you missed Thursday night’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, we discussed the sad case of a Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend allegedly streamed video of a sexual encounter between him and another male on the web. The defendants allegedly placed a web cam in the victim’s dorm room, watched it for a while, then decided to stream it to the web. When the victim found out, he apparently became distraught, reported it to the school but didn’t expect the school to do much of anything about it, and ended up jumping to his death from a bridge. The defendants are charged with invasion of privacy, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison but normally gets probation. Some want them charged with manslaughter or something like that, but there’s really no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim wouldn’t have committed suicide had they not done what they did (in civil court, if the victim’s parents wanted to sue the defendants for money, it’d be a different story because they’d only have to prove it’s more likely than not that their son would be alive but for the defendants’ conduct, but these defendant’s probably don’t have much in the way of assets to recover). Some want them charged with a “hate crime,” but it’d also be tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants’ motive for invading the victim’s privacy was a hatred of gays. (As you know if you watched or if you’re a regular reader, I don’t like the “hate crime” designation in principle because it suggests that if there’s not a hate motive, we should punish a crime less-severely than we should if there is one. I disagree. I generally don’t care what the motive is. If the crime was committed, I generally want the maximum penalty, whether the motive was hatred or financial gain or sexual gratification or whatever else it may have been. I wouldn’t be holding back on the penalties in non-hate-motivated cases so that I’d have “extra” penalty to impose in the hate cases.) Psychologically, this case has two “levels” to it. On the lower level, when the defendants were just watching the victim, they were doing it for their own stupid, twisted, voyeuristic amusement, which was wrong because it invaded the victim’s privacy. But, when they streamed the video to the web, they took it to a whole other, higher, level of wrongfulness because, I believe, they intended to (knew or should have known that their conduct would) harm the victim by humiliating him publicly. That’s sociopathic, and that’s why (if they’re guilty) they belong in prison for the maximum five years. I’d lock them up for this even if the victim hadn’t committed suicide in the wake of what they did. It’s not ok to victimize people this way, period, and as I’ve said often, if we don’t intervene severely and early in the lives of sociopathic people, they’re likely to continue finding ways to victimize others until we do. These are not people who are likely to ever really believe that it’s wrong to hurt other people if it gratifies them somehow to do it. They’re profoundly selfish, and sadly, that selfishness is about all that society has available to it, short of actual physical force (confinement), to motivate them to conform to society’s rules and expectations. That means making them fear being punished by the society to the point where they conclude that it’s in their own selfish best interests to conform.