End-of-the-week wrap-up

With politics and international news again dominating this week’s newscasts, here’s a rundown of Lawpsyc news that didn’t get as much attention:

More bodies have been found on that Long Island, NY beach, intensifying concerns about a serial killer on the loose.  (If you haven’t heard about this, I first wrote about it back on 12/15/10.)

And in the case of a known serial killer, it looks like the “Grim Sleeper” also may have more victims than previously thought.  (And if you haven’t heard about this guy, I first wrote about him back on 7/18/10.)

Dugard update:  Early last month (3/2/11) I told you that Jaycee Dugard’s captors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, were in plea negotiations with prosecutors.  Well, it looks like those negotiations have broken down, so for now, the Garridos are pleading not guilty.   Fine by me, these should be slam-dunk convictions with maximum sentences to follow — there probably shouldn’t have been any negotiations in the first place.

Attorneys for Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician accused of manslaughter in the death of singer Michael Jackson, are asking the judge in the case to exclude evidence that Murray has six children with four different women, is behind on child support, and has moved from state to state to avoid judgments and garnishments for the support and for skipping out on at least one mortgage and on multiple prior business debts.  The defense rightly claims none of that proves Murray guilty of manslaughter.  On the other hand, the prosecution rightly claims that it might explain why Murray was desperate enough to keep earning $150,000 per month as Jackson’s personal physician that he would’ve administered an extremely-dangerous, ultimately-lethal, drug to appease the singer.  The judge is weighing the arguments and plans to make a decision later this month.

NBA star Allen Iverson made complete fool of himself during a traffic stop by Atlanta police.  Iverson and a friend were in Iverson’s Lamborghini with the friend at the wheel when they were pulled over for changing lanes without signaling.  At that point, Iverson reportedly launched into an expletive-laden tirade during which he repeatedly asked officers if they knew who he was and told them that he makes more money than they’ll make in ten years.  Hmmm, you’d think that someone who doesn’t mind telling the police how much money he makes would’ve paid for up-to-date license plates, but not Iverson.  No, Iverson’s plates expired in 2009.  Tickets were issued for failure to signal and expired tags.  Of course this is no surprise — it’s actually toward the benign end of the continuum of bad behavior that we routinely see from professional athletes — but it underscores the desperate need for parents in this country to teach their children NOT to idolize/emulate such an idiot.

Brazil was the site of a terrible school shooting rampage, the worst in that country’s history, that killed 12 (plus the shooter, whom I never count) and wounded approximately 18, some critically.  The shooter was a 23-year-old male who returned to the school where he once was a student with two handguns and lots of extra ammo, shot the roughly 30 children, was shot and wounded by a military policeman responding to the commotion, and finally, shot and killed himself.  And just as is always the case when such incidents happen here in the U.S., I guarantee you that as we learn more about this shooter, we’ll learn that there were plenty of warning signs.  Regardless of where they occur, these things are generally foreseeable and preventable just as they are tragic.

And finally tonight, a disturbing “study this”:  You may recall a psychological researcher by the name of Milgram — he’s famous for 1960’s era experiments that proved people would administer what they believed to be lethal electric shocks to others if an authority figure directed them to do so.  Milgram’s experiments have been used to try to understand such real-world phenomena as Nazi soldiers committing atrocities and later saying that they were “just following orders.”  Well, in a similarly-disturbing deja vu, a newly-published British study proved that people — a significant majority of participants — would administer what they thought were severe electric shocks, not out of fear of punishment, not even out of a desire to please an authority figure, but merely in exchange for…cash.  That’s right, they believed that they were shocking an innocent stranger, and they kept doing it anyway for the equivalent of about $15.  As much as I’ve studied crime and criminals, I still don’t fully understand how a person can bring him/herself to steal someone else’s property — let alone physically harm another person — for personal gain, enjoyment, a thrill, etc.  Whatever exactly it is that’s missing from the characterological makeup of a person who does such things, this frightening new study suggests that far more of the population lacks it than I’d like to believe.

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