Hope everyone had a good Labor Day weekend. Here’s a quick rundown of Lawpsyc news from the past several days:
On Thursday night’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, we talked about the case of a Philadelphia cop accused of raping a woman after offering her a late-night ride in his patrol car. Of course he’s innocent until proven guilty of the rape, but DNA reportedly has confirmed that sex of some sort occurred in the patrol car, which apparently was enough for the department to fire the officer. My piece of the discussion had to do with the effect on the public when a cop does commit a violent crime. I opined that it casts a broader swath of damage than the same crime committed by a non-cop because, in addition to harming the direct victim(s), it indirectly harms the public at large by shattering the sense of security that people get from believing that they can trust the cops to keep them safe.
Also on Thursday, Casey Anthony was ordered to attend an October deposition in which an attorney representing the real Zenaida Gonzalez plans to question her about reporting his client’s name as that of the fictitious “Zanny the nanny” (who supposedly absconded with little Caylee Anthony). Gonzalez’s attorney claims that Anthony’s lies ruined his client’s reputation and have made it difficult for her to live a normal life in Florida. Anthony’s attorney says his client will attend the deposition but will refuse to answer questions on Fifth Amendment grounds. I don’t think that’s going to fly. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows a defendant facing criminal prosecution to refuse to give testimony that might incriminate the defendant in any venue (i.e. criminal or civil court). In Anthony’s case, though, her criminal trial’s over, and she can’t be tried again for those crimes. I’ll bet her attorney plans to argue that since Anthony’s currently appealing her convictions of lying to the cops, she shouldn’t have to testify about lying to the cops in the Gonzalez civil case (in case her appeal is successful and she gets a new trial on the lying charges). If that’s the plan, then the judge in the civil case should force Anthony to go ahead and testify because there’s no way an appeals court is going to overturn Anthony’s lying convictions — her whole murder defense was based on the premise that she lied to cops about Caylee’s whereabouts, knowing all the while that the little girl was deceased.
Remember the woman who was found dead, hanging from a balcony with her hands and feet bound, at a California mansion shortly after her boyfriend’s six-year-old son fell down a staircase on her watch and died? On Friday, local authorities announced that their investigation had ruled the woman’s death a suicide rather than a murder. Assuming that ruling is correct in this case, it’s actually not the first case of its kind. Back in 2009, a U.S. Census Bureau employee committed suicide in a similar manner in a Kentucky forest, although he went even farther to make it look like a murder, scrawling an anti-government epithet across his body. It was later determined that he had staged it that way because he wanted his beneficiaries to be able to collect the proceeds of two insurance policies on his life, neither of which would pay a death benefit in the case of suicide. In this California woman’s case, her motivation seems more likely to have been guilt about what happened to the little boy, and the restraints seem more likely to have been applied so that she couldn’t reverse course in her last few instinctively-desperate moments. Seattle attorney and t.v. colleague Anne Bremner isn’t buying it though. She’s representing the woman’s family members, who are insisting that it wasn’t a suicide and calling for the investigation to be reopened.
Now this may not mean much to you, but over the weekend, it was announced that a bank is foreclosing on a once-wildly-popular “megachurch” in Kansas City that’s been plagued by bad p.r. (e.g. unpaid bills, the head pastor’s $400,000 annual salary…) and falling attendance over the past couple of years. I have to say I’m not really sad to see it go. I like people going to church, but I don’t much like the “megachurch” concept. It’s better than nothing, I suppose, but it seems like the positive effects of the whole mutually-supportive, family-nurturing, values-reinforcing “faith community” concept have to get diluted somewhere between 100-200 people worshiping together in a traditional church and 10,000 people worshiping together in a structure that looks more like a major concert venue than a church.
Also over the weekend, it was announced that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates half of Americans will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives. I don’t buy it. Sounds way too high to me. The only way a 50% lifetime prevalence of mental illness could possibly seem anywhere close to plausible to me would be if “mental illness” is defined so broadly as to include such pervasive experiences as periods of normal grieving following the deaths of loved ones.
And remember Amanda Knox, the American college student convicted of complicity in the murder of her British college roommate in Italy? Knox went back to court in Italy on Monday challenging DNA evidence used to convict her in an effort to secure a new trial. As I’ve said many times, the Italian cops may not have done everything perfectly in terms of their handling of forensic evidence, but there’s also a ton of circumstantial and behavior evidence that makes it tough for me to understand the “Free Amanda” folks in the media. Having said that, my friend Anne Bremner’s been involved in this case, too, as a spokeswoman for Knox’s family, and she seems convinced that Knox was wrongly convicted (that’s Anne & me to the left talking about Warren Jeffs).
On Tuesday, a man showed up at a Nevada International House of Pancakes, shot three people dead, wounded several others, and then shot himself. The shooter apparently had no criminal history, but — surprise, surprise — he apparently had a significant history of mental illness. I could be wrong, but as more information comes to light, I’ll bet that this guy’s mental-illness history included a predilection toward violence and that, once again, we prioritized his autonomy over our safety. You’d think that we would’ve had enough of these cases by now that folks across the country would be getting it. Instead, sadly, people seem to have become so desensitized to these stories that they almost think, “Oh, only three victims killed, that’s really not that big of a story.”
And finally, coming off of Labor Day weekend, the President’s planning to address the nation about jobs tomorrow. Now, as you may know, I’ve written some about the psychology of debt and taxes lately, so let’s guess what the President’s proposed solution to our country’s jobless problem is going to be. Ok, he’s already spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying unsuccessfully to stimulate the economy, and we’ve maxed out our national “MasterChina” card (i.e. exceeded the maximum amount that our government can sanely borrow, much of it from foreign governments like China’s). So, what will the President propose now? My guess: more government borrowing and more government spending (maybe with a tax increase thrown in). No wonder his opposition reportedly isn’t even planning to offer a televised “response” following this address. Sounds like the opposition’s thinking the thing to do is just get out of the way and let the President be the sole focus of people’s frustrations with both the economic/employment situation and the idea that another government “stimulus” will fix it. I could be wrong, though, so stay tuned for the big speech!