Weekend Lawpsyc updates

After a week dominated by financial news (and the continuing volatility that I predicted on Monday), here’s a rundown of Lawpsyc news that happened this week (or that I learned about this week, you’ll see what I mean)…

Deja vu in Aruba:

An American woman has gone missing from the very same resort area where Natalee Holloway disappeared, and her suspicious male “traveling companion” is being detained by Aruban police.  He reportedly says that she was swept out to sea by a strong undertow while the two were snorkeling, but her “boyfriend” (that’s right, her “boyfriend” is not the same guy who she apparently met on a dating web site and accompanied to Aruba — more on that in a moment) says she wouldn’t have gone snorkeling, and Aruban authorities say the water was calm that day.  Now, of course finding the woman is paramount, and of course no one is responsible for any foul play that befell her except the perpetrator, however, this looks like it may be another case in which the apparent victim’s behavior leading up to the apparent crime is being downplayed, probably because it’s feared that people might be less inclined to pay attention to the story if they heard the whole thing.  I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of weeks ago when the Celina Cass story broke — quick recap: a crime story gets national attention because of seven key factors, sex, celebrity, youth, beauty, mystery, fear, and victim innocence; more factors = more attention, and that last one is important because if people perceive that the victim did something wrong that facilitated the crime, they’re less inclined to empathize with that victim.  Just as in the Holloway case, though, the rest of the story, the unflattering (to the victim) part, likely a story of stupidity, about how the victim got into harm’s way, may contain important, potentially life-saving lessons that shouldn’t be overlooked, not by the media and not by the young women in the audience.  In fact, if someone who was on a path to future victimhood wises up because of what she learns from this story, that very well might be the only good that comes out of it.  So, with that said, it sounds like this woman (how shall I put this?) may not have lived a very “risk averse” lifestyle, may have secretly started a relationship with a man whom she met online, and may have accepted an invitation to accompany him to a beach resort outside of the country while she still knew very little about him and while her loved ones knew very little about either her travel plans or her “companion.”  No, it’s not her fault if he killed her, but if it went down anything like what I just described, it was very stupid behavior that put her in harm’s way totally unnecessarily.  I know, Jane Velez-Mitchell will probably say that I’m blaming the woman, blaming the victim.  I’m not.  I’m just sick of covering case after case in which a young woman’s life is cut short because she greatly overestimated her ability to assess a guy’s trustworthiness in five minutes, and in making that mistake, let a psychopath into her life.  I hope this woman is found.  I hope she’s alive.  If she’s not, and if she was murdered, I hope justice is done to the guilty party (although the Aruban authorities’ track record in that regard is bad).  But regardless of all that, if you’re a young woman, or if you know a young woman, please, please learn from this story or pass it along.

Sentences in the Jeffs and Sowell cases:  

Despite his bogus protestations about being “raised that way,” polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs got a life sentence in Texas for raping underage girls under the guise of “religion.”  Meanwhile, despite more bogus protestations about being “cognitively impaired” such that he didn’t fully realize what he was doing, the guy who owned that “house of horrors” in Ohio, the one in which the bodies of eleven women were found hidden all over the place, got a death sentence.  Both sentences sound right to me.  Both men’s behavior was utterly depraved, and their excuses, even if true, don’t reduce their culpability at all in my book.

Fugitive siblings arrested:

The Dougherty siblings, two Florida brothers and their sister who went on the run after robbing a bank and shooting at police, were arrested after a car chase in Colorado ended in a crash.  Two lessons in this:  First, surprise, surprise, now that we know the full extent of their criminal records, it looks like once again, we made the cops catch the same people, people we’ve caught and released like under-sized fish, who never should’ve been on the streets in the first place — we’re lucky we didn’t lose one of those cops in the process.   Second, the Doughertys reportedly told their mother that they wouldn’t be caught alive, that it was their time to die, and here they all are in custody — don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they didn’t hurt anyone else by shooting it out with the cops, but their arrest does kind of illustrate what typical psychopaths are, cowards, real “tough” with AK-47’s in a bank full of unarmed customers, not so tough when cornered by a bunch of armed cops though.

Anthony on probation:

In a surprisingly gutsy move, the judge in the Casey Anthony case has ordered Anthony back to Florida to complete a year of probation stemming from her prior felony check fraud charges.  Good, at least she’s getting punished as much as possible for the crimes of which she was convicted.  The down side is that it’ll be easier now for the paparazzi to track her movements and keep drawing public attention to her.  It may also require the State of Florida to expend more resources responding to death-threat calls, mobs outside of her home, etc.  By the way, I know I’m extremely late getting around to this, but I think I’ve finally seen what’s purported to be the actual recipe for chloroform that Anthony allegedly retrieved online from her parents’ computer.  I’ve wanted to see it since the trial so I could judge for myself whether Anthony seemed smart enough to be able to pull it off.  While she certainly doesn’t strike me as a genius, this recipe wouldn’t take a genius to execute.  The ingredients are simple household items (especially common to households with swimming pools, like the Anthonys’), so there wouldn’t necessarily have been anything unusual for the cops to have found when they searched the Anthony home, and the procedure (assuming it works as advertised — I’m not going so far as to attempt it) doesn’t seem that complicated.  I think she probably could’ve done it (or she could, of course, have just bought it from someone, or she could, as I’ve opined, have been responsible for her daughter’s death even if no chloroform was involved).

Individual mandate in health care reform package ruled unconstitutional:

A federal Court of Appeals has ruled that the individual mandate provision of the health care reform package passed last year (the part that requires you to secure health insurance or pay a financial penalty) is unconstitutional, paving the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to make a final ruling on that issue.  As you may know, I’m both a licensed health care provider and a licensed attorney, so I’m interested in this issue from both perspectives, and I have to say, I agree with this Court of Appeals’ ruling.  Stay tuned to see what the Supreme Court does (but don’t hold your breath — we probably won’t know until next year at the earliest).

Rape conviction appealed because of a dog:

There’s an interesting appeal of a rape conviction pending in New York.  The appeal is based on the presence of a “therapy dog” in the courtroom while the 15-year-old victim testified at the defendant’s trial.  The girl’s psychologist apparently paired her up with the dog to help her remain calm during her testimony, which it apparently did (the judge ruled that the dog could be present in the courtroom while the girl testified, extrapolating from a previous NY appellate ruling allowing a child witness to have a teddy bear on the witness stand).  Defense counsel is now arguing, however, that the presence of the dog unfairly enhanced the girl’s credibility with the jury.  If the argument were just that jurors thought the dog was cute and favored the victim’s testimony by association, I’d say it’s bogus, but it’s actually more complicated.  The argument is that the dog’s presence made it appear that the girl must truly have been traumatized by the defendant (i.e. if she needed the dog to remain calm, she must’ve been extremely scared in the presence of the defendant, which unfairly implied that the defendant was guilty).  The defense argues that she may not have been traumatized on the witness stand, and if she was, it could also have been because she was lying.  Ultimately, I don’t think it’s likely to alter the outcome of this particular trial because of other evidence in the case (it wasn’t a “he-said-she-said” between two 15-year-olds; the victim apparently was impregnated by the defendant, who — prepare to be nauseated — is her father).  It’s an interesting side issue though, and the appeal may affect the use of such dogs in future trials.

Tables turned on the “Sea Shepherds”:

You may recall that I wrote last year about the “Sea Shepherds,” the conservationists whose efforts are the subject of the Discovery Channel’s Whale Wars reality series.  [Recap:  For years, these people have cruised the oceans near Antarctica and have assaulted, vandalized, sabotaged, disabled, and rammed Japanese whaling ships.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like seeing whales killed any more than you probably do, and the last thing I want for dinner tonight is whale meat, but I also don’t like American citizens committing acts of piracy on national television.  I know, pelting the deck of a whaling ship with broken glass and rancid liquid may not be deadly, but disabling the ship’s propeller and setting it adrift in rough, remote seas at sub-zero temperatures could be.  I don’t think it’s wise for these people’s home countries, particularly ours, to tolerate that kind of behavior by our citizens, even in international waters.  It diminishes our moral authority and makes us look like hypocrites when we tell Somali pirates that they can’t attack oil tankers and container ships and cruise ships off the coast of Africa.  The “Sea Shepherds” don’t like whaling.  I get it.  I don’t particularly like it either, but that doesn’t justify endangering other people’s lives and damaging their property.  Think about it — Somali pirates don’t like people having more wealth than they do, but that doesn’t justify robbing people or kidnapping them for ransom.  The point is, we can’t have a world in which people are allowed to go out and commit violent acts whenever they don’t approve of what others are doing.  That’s chaos.  We need a world that respects the rule of law (no, not Nazi law, not Gaddafi law, reasoned law, made by legitimate governments, with the consent of the governed), and we need to model that for the world by demanding it of our own citizens when they go rogue.]  So, I just heard about two recent incidents involving the “Sea Shepherds,” and here’s an update:  First, they apparently had to ask for assistance when they were approached by…you guessed it…Somali pirates, off the coast of Africa in late May.  Hmmm, now let me understand this — the “Sea Shepherds” think that they can commit acts of piracy, and they expect the civilized world to just let that go, but then they expect the civilized world to come to their aid when others threaten to commit acts of piracy against them?  Now I don’t want anyone to be the victims of piracy, so I’m glad they escaped unharmed, but I also don’t want the civilized world looking the other way when piracy happens, regardless of the race or nationality of the perpetrators, so I was glad to hear this second story:  In July, a Scottish court impounded a ship belonging to the “Sea Shepherds” and didn’t release it until the organization paid approximately $850,000 to cover losses that a Maltese fishing company reportedly incurred when the “Sea Shepherds” cut its ship’s fishing nets, which were full of bluefin tuna, in the Mediterranean last year.  I like it!  (the Scottish Court’s action, not the Sea Shepherds’ net-cutting, just to be clear)

Have a good weekend!

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