A super bowlful of crime, drug, and downright bizarre stories

Revolving-Door “Justice” for Mexican Manslaughterer

Right here in Kansas, not far from where I sit as I write this, back in 2005, a Mexican man who was in the U.S. illegally, drank, drove, and killed a woman. Convicted of vehicular manslaughter and DUI (his second DUI by the way — he should’ve been deported after the first one!), he served less than seven years in prison and then got a free trip home to Mexico, courtesy of the U.S. federal government. Then – surprise, surprise – he turned up back here in Kansas. Doing what, you ask? Driving drunk, again. So now, he’s a convicted felon who re-entered the U.S. illegally, and after pleading guilty to both that offense and his most recent DUI, what’s he facing? A maximum of ten years in prison and another free trip home to Mexico. This guy came here illegally once, killed an American citizen, then came here illegally again and put more American lives at risk, and we’re just going to lock him back up for a while (probably not even the ten-year maximum) and then deport him again, as if he’s unlikely to be back on our roads drunk within weeks thereafter. As I often say, revolving-door “justice” isn’t justice, and it insults victims and victims’ families as well as the law enforcement officers who keep risking their lives to catch the same criminals over and over.

Mother/Son Victim Impact Statements Best I’ve Heard

Speaking of victim’s families, on Friday’s Prime News on HLN, we discussed victim impact statements given by the mother and brother of Somer Thompson at the sentencing of the rapist who murdered the little girl. They captured the psychology of a psychopath – particularly the narcissistic sense of entitlement at its core – better than many forensic psychologists and judges I’ve known. If you’re interested, you can find the statements here: http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/raw-video-somer-thompsons-family-speaks-at-sentencing/1d0dqjs3b.  The brother’s starts about 12 minutes into the clip, and the mother’s follows.  (And yes, on Friday’s Prime News, I also sang the first couple of words of Dionne Warwick’s “Deja Vu” before explaining how much the mother of “Baby Lisa,” appearing on the Dr. Phil show earlier that day, reminded me of Casey Anthony — after the President and Mitt Romney sang on national television last week, I figured it was the thing to do!)

Josh Hamilton’s “Weak Moment” 

If you follow Major League Baseball, you’ve probably heard of a player named Josh Hamilton who’s apparently quite good at the sport but has missed entire seasons due to substance abuse/dependence. Well, last week many media sources reported on Hamilton’s most recent “relapse.” I hate the use of that word in connection with substance abusers. A “relapse” is a spontaneous recurrence of a disease – like when someone who once had atrial fibrillation gets it again after a period of normal cardiac rhythm – it’s not a decision. Hamilton didn’t have a “relapse.” Hamilton decided to drink again. I have to give the guy credit though, if I heard correctly that when he was asked about it, he reportedly acknowledged that he drank simply because he was “weak.”

Is Addiction in Your Genes?

Also last week, many media outlets reported on a new series of brain-imaging studies comparing addicts’ brains and the brains of their (non-addicted) siblings to normal adult brains. The addicts’ and their siblings’ brains had some peculiarities, particularly in the structures that register senses of pleasure and reward, and many in the media reported this as an indication that addiction is a genetic, structural, brain disease. Not so fast. If the addicts’ brains and their siblings brains’ had the same peculiarities, yet the siblings hadn’t become addicted, then apparently either the siblings had somehow avoided contact with all addictive substances (not likely), or the siblings had exercised better self-control. So sure, some people’s brains may be built such that they enjoy the effects of certain substances more than other people do, but that still has never forced anyone, anywhere, anytime, to pick up abuse a single substance – as the siblings demonstrate, there’s always a choice involved in substance abuse. The value that I see in these new studies, if any, is that they may aid in the identification of people who are at heightened risk of becoming addicted and discourage them from even experimenting with addictive substances in the first place, but really, a little family history probably does as good a job of that as expensive brain imaging can.

Too Disgusting to Discuss?

In 2009, I wrote a piece about why certain crime stories get national television coverage while others don’t. I wrote about factors such as youth, beauty, sex, celebrity, mystery, fear, and victim innocence, but I also noted that some stories are just so grotesque that people don’t have a lot of interest in following them. I think we’re experiencing one such story out of California right now. An elementary-school teacher is in custody after allegedly conducting a classroom “game” in which he bound and blindfolded his students, put his semen up to their mouths on plastic spoons, and took photographs to add to his child pornography collection. With bail set at $23 million, we’re unlikely to see this guy back on the streets anytime soon (then again, it is California), but it seems like much of the public would just as soon not hear any more of this story either. That’s what I mean when I say that many people find some stories simply “too disgusting to discuss.”

Tic Epidemic in N.Y. School?

I’m not buying this — fifteen students at the same New York high school appear to have developed “tic” disorders characterized by involuntary movements and utterances. They’ve reportedly been thoroughly examined, and there’s apparently nothing wrong with them physically, so they’ve been diagnosed with “conversion” disorders, mental disorders in which psychological distress manifests in physical symptoms. Hmmmm. Fifteen kids in the same school (and since the story broke, there’s now also an adult living in the same community claiming the same symptoms) all with “conversion” disorders? No, I don’t believe it – I think they’re probably either faking, or they took some recreational drug that damaged their central nervous systems (CNS). Some have suggested the possibility that an environmental contaminant in the area is causing physical CNS damage that went undetected in thorough diagnostic examinations, however, both the school and the surrounding area have tested negative for abnormal levels of environmental toxins. Nevertheless, famed environmental toxin investigator Erin Brokovich is reportedly on the scene, so hopefully she’ll get to the bottom of this baffling new “epidemic.”

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