Fri. the 13th wrap-up

Here’s a quick wrap-up of the week’s Lawpsyc news on this Friday the 13th:

Van der Sloot Sentenced

Joran van der Sloot has been sentenced to 28 years in a Peruvian prison for the murder of Stephany Flores in that country in 2010.  It’s kind of like the second O.J. Simpson trial — what should’ve happened the first time around (i.e. in the Natalee Holloway case) is finally happening now.  Just yesterday, Holloway was finally pronounced legally dead here in the U.S.  I’ve been to Peru, and I won’t be surprised if van der Sloot never leaves that Peruvian prison alive.  That’ll be fine with me because if he does get out in 28 years, I also won’t be surprised if he kills again.  For now though, good riddance, and may Holloway and Flores rest in peace.

Pardon Outrage in Mississippi

If outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had the chance, he’d probably pardon Joran van der Sloot and put him back out on the streets with the law-abiding public.  At least the Governor’s finally mustered the courage to answer questions regarding his controversial 11th-hour pardons of murderers that I wrote about earlier this week.  In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Barbour said that he gave the pardons because he believes it’s Christian to give murderers “second chances.”  Well, if Barbour’s a Christian, then he also believes in an after-life, so, as a Christian myself, I say let’s do justice and protect the public here in this life on Earth and let God decide whether these guys get “second chances” (i.e. the after-life is their “second chance” if God decides to let ’em in!).  Barbour went on to say that another reason why he gave these pardons is that he was told by “experts” that these particular murderers, guys who supposedly killed in the “heat of passion,” are the least likely to re-offend.  Well, I don’t know who the Governor’s “experts” are, but as one of the better-known forensic psychological experts in the country, I’m aware of no good basis for concluding that.  You don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to figure out that if someone became “impassioned” enough to commit murder once, it could reoccur, unless of course you have the ability to see into the future and be assured that the guy will never become “impassioned” again.  So, I repeat, let’s leave these “second chance” decisions to the One who knows for certain whether they’d kill again if freed.  And even if we knew that they wouldn’t murder again, prison isn’t only about protecting the public.  What about justice for the victims?  As I often say, the victims in these cases are the ones who really deserve second chances, so until they’re “pardoned” back to life, I’m really not interested in “second chances” for their murderers.  Barbour’s both a disgrace and a danger to Mississippians in my opinion, and I can only hope that the attorney general of that state is successful in his efforts to reverse the most egregious of the Governor’s pardons.

The Hypnotic Principal

A Florida high school principal is on the way out of a job after having practiced hypnosis on a couple of students who later committed suicide.  While I doubt that the hypnosis had any causal relationship with the suicides, it could have had an indirect relationship in that the time spent doing hypnotherapy with them probably could’ve been better spent getting the students some therapeutic attention/treatment that would’ve had much better chances of being effective.  According to the school district, this principal was authorized to do demonstrations of hypnosis, with parental permission, in psychology classes, but he was not authorized to be doing hypnotherapy to “treat” individual students who were having problems.  Sounds to me like a district that’s already anticipating a couple of major lawsuits.

Settlement in Bullying Suicide Case

Speaking of suing schools, the family of a Massachusetts teen who was bullied relentlessly at her school before committing suicide will get over $200,000 from her school district because school personnel were aware of the bullying and didn’t intervene.  I love these cases.  We need more of these cases.  I would even take these cases as an attorney.  As I often say, no student should ever have to fear for his/her physical safety while on the campus of any of our schools, and whenever/wherever minors do have that fear, there are adults in those schools who need to be held accountable.

Workplace Shooting in NC

There was another grisly workplace shooting this week, this one in North Carolina — three dead plus the shooter.  As we learn more, I can virtually guarantee you that there will have been unheeded warning signs.  That’s why, whenever I report on these sad events, I encourage employers who think there’s even a chance that they’re seeing warning signs to at least get a risk assessment from an experienced forensic psychologist.  No, we can’t predict everyone’s future behavior with unfailing accuracy, but if more employers were considering our qualitative and quantitative (statistical) risk assessments in deciding whether to keep questionable employees on their premises, I think we could be saving some lives.

Edwards Too Ill to Try?

And finally, former U.S. Senator John Edwards reportedly has a heart condition and requires treatment which will delay his trial for allegedly using campaign funds to conceal his mistress and her pregnancy during his 2008 presidential campaign.  Is it a stalling tactic?  A sympathy tactic?  Is it legit?  I don’t know, but after covering this guy’s disgusting behavior on television from the very night that the scandal broke, I’m sorry, it’s just a little tough for me to feel sorry for him.

That’s it for this Friday the 13th wrap-up.  Have a great weekend!

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