A jam-packed Lawpsyc weekend!

It was a weekend full of developments in major Lawpsyc stories, so here’s a rundown:

NORWAY SHOOTER:

Other experts are echoing what I said in the immediate aftermath of the recent bombing/shooting rampage in Norway — the perpetrator’s 1500-page “manifesto,” reminiscent of both the “Unabomber” and various Islamic jihadists, indicates that its author is full of hate and resentment but not “insane” in the legal sense of the word (i.e. that he certainly knew what he was doing and that he had the capacity to know that it was wrong yet made a conscious choice to go against what intellect would dictate and act instead upon his emotion).  Meanwhile, some continue to argue that if the “Muslim terrorist” label fits Al Qaeda operatives, then the “Christian terrorist” label fits this guy, citing historical events like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as evidence that mass murder can be predicated upon Christian ideology every bit as much as it can be predicated upon jihadist Muslim ideology.  It’s true that murders have historically been committed in the name of Christianity and have even been sanctioned by Christian leaders, and the cited events (the Crusades and Inquisition) are instances.  The difference now, however, is that in today’s world, no one can commit murder in the name of Jesus Christ and be applauded by any identifiable Christian denomination or find authority/support in any identifiable Christian sect’s interpretation of Christ’s teachings.  There’s a clear consensus within Christianity that the ranks of Christ’s followers are to be enlarged by non-violent means only.  For the jihadists, though, there’s not such a clear consensus yet, in part because their avowed religion is less centrally-organized (such that it’s tougher for a single authority to speak for the religion as a whole), and in part just due to the historical evolution of religions.  Islam is about 600 years younger than Christianity and thousands of years younger than Judaism, so it stands to reason that it may still be evolving toward the virtually-universal nonviolent consensus that those other religions have already reached.  If so, hopefully modern information technology will accelerate that process such that we don’t have to wait hundreds of years, but it still may take a century or more before no one committing mass murder in the name of a religion can find support for that behavior in any quarter within any of the world’s major religions.

AMY WINEHOUSE:

According to the family of deceased singer Amy Winehouse, it was alcohol withdrawal syndrome rather than intoxication that supposedly caused her death.  The media needs to be careful not to report these claims in a way that suggests to people (especially young people) with alcohol problems that they shouldn’t stop drinking.  First of all, we don’t yet have the toxicology to prove the family’s claims.  There may have been another substance (or a whole cocktail of substances) involved.  Second, alcohol withdrawals can be deadly, but that just means people with alcohol problems need to be detoxed under controlled, medically-monitored conditions.  As we know, people tried to persuade Winehouse to do that, but she famously said, “No, no, no!”  Here’s a perfect illustration of what I’m always saying about how the criminal justice system actually getting tougher rather than being lenient with an addict might’ve saved a life.  You can find video on the web of her allegedly using various illegal drugs at various times in the past several years.  As in the U.S., the criminal justice system in the U.K. could’ve put steel between the woman and the substance(s), with medical attention available, long enough for her to fully detox and could’ve then hung a massive, omnipresent “cloud” of extrinsic motivation to stay clean/sober over her head (in the form of a threatened lengthy return to jail/prison that could strike at any moment if she reoffended).  She may nevertheless be dead, but she may not.  We’ll never know.  But when an addict won’t sober up and/or clean up on his/her own, only the legal system can force it.

DREW PETERSON:

Hearsay statements from the missing fourth wife of former Illinois cop Drew Peterson and from one of his deceased third wife’s co-workers will not be admitted at his trial for the third wife’s murder, which casts doubt on the viability of the prosecution’s entire case.  For example, the missing fourth wife is alleged to have told her pastor that she lied to give Peterson an alibi, falsely claiming that he was with her at the time of his third wife’s death.  As I explained during the Anthony case, that’s hearsay because it’s an out-of-court statement that would be used to prove that Peterson lied about his whereabouts on the night of the death (rather than to just prove something unrelated to the content of the statement, for example, to prove that the fourth wife talked to the pastor that day).  There is a hearsay exception in the law that allows an otherwise-hearsay statement to be admitted as evidence of the content of the statement if the defendant is the reason why the person who originally made the statement isn’t available to testify first-hand and be cross-examined (e.g. if the defendant murdered the person who originally made the statement).  The problem in this case is it hasn’t been proven that Peterson is responsible for the fourth wife’s absence.  He alleges that she ran off on her own, and it hasn’t been proven otherwise.  Without presenting the excluded hearsay evidence, the strongest evidence prosecutors really have that Peterson murdered the third wife is a recent autopsy on her exhumed, greatly-decomposed body, which concluded that the woman was murdered, while the defense could introduce an autopsy performed at the time of her death, when all of the bodily tissues were present and (forgive me) “fresh,” which concluded that it was accidental.  Peterson still could be charged in his missing fourth wife’s presumed death, but without a body and presuming the consistent inadmissibility of hearsay statements, that prosecution looks tough at this point, too.  We may be looking at the second high-profile defendant in as many weeks who’s about to walk free even though we know there’s evidence of guilt.  Meanwhile, the next “Peterson-esque” case may be unfolding in Missouri, where a mother of triplets has been missing since early June (this kind of got eclipsed by the Anthony trial) — her estranged husband is the focus of attention, but here again, there doesn’t seem to be the physical or eyewitness evidence to pin anything on him conclusively…yet.  At the same time, the body of a young Illinois girl who was murdered over 50 years ago has been exhumed in the hope that her DNA will tie her to a suspect (a former neighbor of the victim and also a former police officer like Peterson) who was recently arrested in Washington.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH:

After two previous trials, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is asking for trial #3.  He claims, in part, that the judge confused him about whether or not he should testify in trial #2.  Blagojevich didn’t testify in trial #1, in which he was convicted of only one crime (the jury deadlocked on all other charges), but then did testify in trial #2, in which he was convicted of many of the remaining charges.  People will be building snowmen in Kansas in July before trial #3 happens (e.g. it’s approaching 100 degrees here today).

WARREN JEFFS:

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, on trial in Texas for allegedly committing sex crimes under the guise of “marriages” to underage girls, has fired his defense counsel and now wants to defend himself.  He probably see’s the writing on the wall — “g-u-i-l-t-y” — and thinks he’s laying a clever foundation for an appeal, but I don’t think it’s going to help him.  I covered his first trial (in Utah, on similar charges) on Fox News Channel (photo above), and I see this guy as just a run-of-the-mill sex offender who knowingly committed crimes under a bogus veil of religion (kind of like jihadists do).  I think this Texas jury will see it the same way.

AMANDA KNOX:

Experts continue to cast doubt on the forensics used to convict American college student Amanda Knox of murder in Italy, but as I’ve said all along, none of that explains her behavior after the crime, which I think strongly suggested consciousness of guilt.  Who knows, maybe we’ll hear again from that eccentric defense expert who testified in the Anthony case that distraught, grieving people sometimes express their distress and grief by telling lots of lies and doing lots of partying.  Stay tuned.

CASEY ANTHONY:

Just as I predicted, Casey Anthony has been offered a deal to pose nude.  Masks are already in production for Halloween.  No surprise there either.  Actress Mila Kunis, however, reportedly has turned down an offer to play Anthony on the big screen.  I didn’t even know who Kunis was until she recently accepted an online invitation from a U.S. Marine to accompany him to the Marine Corps Ball.  After that and this reported refusal to be connected in any way with Casey Anthony, I’m a fan.

“ANIMAL CONTROL” AT FT. HOOD:

A dangerous animal is in custody in Texas.  It’s known as a “copycat.”  Another U.S. soldier of Middle-Eastern decent, this one a.w.o.l. from a post in Kentucky, was caught preparing to massacre fellow soldiers at Ft. Hood.  The primary reason why this guy was caught before he could replicate the mass murder of his predecessor, Maj. Nidal Hassan, who’s currently facing a capital court martial after gunning down numerous soldiers at Ft. Hood in 2009, is that a concerned citizen (a former cop who works in a military surplus store where this latest would-be terrorist shopped for supplies) became suspicious and notified law enforcement.  You’ve probably heard it said, “If you see something, say something.”  This is the best example in a while of just how critical it really can be.

IT DOESN’T TAKE A PH.D.:

Lastly, sadly, a ten-year-old Arizona girl died of suffocation after being locked in a box as punishment.  Thankfully, the alleged murderers (yes, murderers — remember the Anthony case; it doesn’t matter whether they intended to kill the child or not because the death occurred during their commission of a felony, aggravated child abuse, which is known as “felony murder” and is the legal equivalent of pre-meditated, i.e. first-degree, murder) are in custody.  On a tangential note, you may recall that a few months ago, I posted before and after pictures of drug criminals on my Facebook page and noted, at the risk of sounding like I was “profiling,” that it didn’t take take a Ph.D. to spot them.  Well, take a look at the four suspects in custody in this little Arizona girl’s murder.  You can find their photos here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/29/us-child-suffocate-arizona-idUSTRE76S04R20110729.  Even without knowing what they allegedly did, would you be comfortable leaving a child you love in the custody of any of these folks?  Sadly, it often doesn’t take a Ph.D. to spot trouble.  In a society that respects individual liberty (which is the only kind of society in which I’d want to live), though, there’s often no legal way for the society to intervene until a law has been broken.  But when it comes to your own personal life, fortunately, you’re not similarly required to suspend judgment until harm has occurred.  So, if you get a bad feeling about someone, I say trust your gut and get away.

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