Catching up on major cases in the news

Hey, been a while since I’ve posted anything here, been working hard on cases and on ‘Til Death Do Us Part, premiering this fall on Investigation Discovery, so, here’s catching up on some major cases in the news:

William Balfour.  He’s the creep who murdered several members of the family of actress Jennifer Hudson.  He’s been found guilty on all counts and faces a mandatory life sentence.  Good riddance.

Dahrun Ravi.  He’s the jerk who video recorded and streamed his college roommate having a sexual encounter in their room at Rutgers University, which apparently played a role in precipitating the roommate’s suicide.  He was convicted weeks ago of invading the roommate’s privacy and doing so, in part, because the roommate was gay (i.e. a hate crime, which I don’t like, not because I care about Ravi, but because I generally don’t want crimes to be punished any less severely when the motive is something other than hate).  On Monday, Ravi was sentenced to one month in jail, a few years of probation, and some community service.  It’s not enough.  Even though he wasn’t legally found responsible for the roommate’s death, he should have done at least a year.  We don’t do enough in this country when people try to damage others’ reputations electronically.

Roger Clemens.  He’s the baseball player charged with lying to Congress about steroid use in Major League Baseball (which is federally regulated).  His trial is underway.  I’m convinced that he’s guilty, and if he is, I hope he gets convicted.  We don’t do enough to hold professional athletes and entertainers accountable for horrendous behavior in this country, and we need to do that, publicly, spectacularly, so America’s kids will see that many, if not most, of these people aren’t worth emulating anywhere but perhaps on an athletic field, in a recording studio, etc.  There are bad apples in every bunch, of course, but I think that generally, America’s kids would be a lot better off emulating doctors, teachers, soldiers, first responders, etc.  That’s why, if I were President, I’d use my photo ops to promote those unsung heroes who don’t get enough attention as it is rather than a bunch of athletes and entertainers who already get too much attention.

Anders Breivik.  He’s the Norwegian currently on trial in Norway for a bombing and shooting massacre that killed over 70 Norwegians, most of them teenagers, last year.  For a while, Breivik was supposedly “insane.”  Fortunately, a review of that determination by other psych experts found him to have been, and to remain, more than capable of knowing what he did and that it was wrong under Norwegian law.  Breivik even admitted that.  So, his trial has now been going on for three weeks.  Why?  Tough to know.  Nobody disputes that he committed mass murder, and he’s apparently not legally “insane” (which of course doesn’t mean that he’s mentally healthy), so it seems like it ought to have been a one- or two-day open-and-shut guilty verdict followed by the maximum sentence.  That’s the scary part of this trial — even when he’s convicted, the maximum sentence in Norway will only guarantee that Breivik will be in a cage until he’s in his 50’s.  At that point, psych experts will have to find him to be an ongoing threat to public safety in order to keep him caged longer, and based on the divergence of opinion that we’ve seen among the Norwegian psych experts who’ve examined this guy, that’s by no means a slam dunk (unless of course they invite me to come over there and do an international psych consult!).

John Edwards.  He’s the former senator who had an affair while running for president back in 2008, and while his wife was dying of cancer, and allegedly used campaign donations to hide his pregnant mistress in style.  Testimony is over in his case, without any testimony from Edwards, and the jury is literally still out.  I was on the air the night this scandal broke, so I was one of the first national t.v. personalities to discuss it on the air.  Edwards is a sleaze bag for sure, but in order to find him guilty of a crime, the jury must conclude that he knew about the financing of the mistress with funds donated to support his campaign for the presidency.  It’s clear to me that this was the case — he knew where the mistress was; he was in contact with her the whole time; even if other staffers actually engineered the logistics of all that, how else could Edwards possibly have believed that an unemployed former campaign staffer was affording to live the high life?  The jury’s taking a while to reach a decision, however, suggesting that jurors are having a hard time reaching consensus.  They’ve asked to review some prosecution evidence, so that may be helpful, but I think that the longer this goes on, the more likely it is that Edwards walks.

George Zimmerman.  He’s the Florida neighborhood watchman who’s charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.  The latest evidence released in the case shows that Zimmerman sustained multiple serious injuries in a physical altercation with Martin culminating in the shooting.  Despite that, prosecutors and others have argued that Zimmerman had the “opportunity to avoid” the altercation by not following Martin after a 911 dispatcher advised against it.  Here’s the thing, though:  It doesn’t matter.  Following someone may not be smart, but it generally isn’t illegal, even if a 911 dispatcher advises against it.  If you think about it, you could argue that practically anyone who’s been assaulted had the “opportunity to avoid” the assault had the person known that the assault was going to occur (and by the way, that goes for Martin as well — he had a cell phone; he could’ve called 911; he had the “opportunity to avoid” the altercation, too).  If you’re behaving lawfully in Florida (and in a number of other states), you’re not legally required to try to “avoid” an assailant before you can defend yourself against an unlawful assault — that’s what the widely-misreported “Stand Your Ground” law is all about, and it’s exactly what any potential assault victim, i.e. all of us, should want the law to be.  Then there’s the argument that Zimmerman may have initiated the physical altercation.  Doubt it.  Zimmerman knew he had a gun on him.  If he had thought that force was justified or necessary, it seems to me that he would have pulled the gun rather than initiating a fistfight.  The latest evidence indicates, however, that the gun didn’t come out until Zimmerman had had the tar kicked out of him by Martin, i.e. that Zimmerman tried to avoid killing Martin and pulled the gun as a last resort.  I’ve advised against rushing to judgment in this case, and I stand by that advice, but here’s the bottom line at this juncture:  If all Zimmerman did was follow Martin, and if, at some point, Martin turned around, rushed Zimmerman, and assaulted and battered Zimmerman, then Zimmerman’s the victim, and as sorry as I feel for Martin’s parents, Martin’s really just a tragic example of why it’s a bad idea to assault and batter someone, especially someone who might be armed (which, in a concealed-carry state like Florida, is just about any adult).

Joran van der Sloot.  He’s the creep who allegedly killed American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba several years ago and then murdered Peruvian Stephany Flores five years thereafter.  Serving 28 years in a Peruvian prison for the murder of Flores, he faces extradition to the U.S. now to stand trial for attempting to extort money from Holloway’s mother by offering to tell her what really happened to Natalee in exchange for cash.  I’ve been to Peru, and I would think that he’d have it worse in a Peruvian prison than he’d have it here in the U.S., but if this extradition allows the U.S. to tack on years to this creep’s total time in a cage, then I’m all for it.  I’ve said all along that I fully expect him to keep victimizing people as long as he has the opportunity to do so.

Paul Watson.  He’s the “captain” of the Sea Shepherds, an environmentalist group that uses violent tactics to try to prevent the killing of whales and other sea creatures around the world.  He’s been apprehended in transit in Germany and is being held there pending extradition to Costa Rica on an outstanding international warrant dating to 2002, when he allegedly captained a Sea Shepherds vessel in a collision with a Costa Rican shark-fishing vessel off the Central American coast, injuring some fishermen.  As I’ve said in the past, I don’t like seeing whales killed any more than you probably do (I just went whale-watching in Hawaii last winter, and they are truly magnificent creatures), but the civilized world cannot tolerate violence toward human beings in the name of saving whales.  If we do, then how can we tell Somali pirates that they can’t commit violence in the name of whatever “cause” that they may use to justify piracy, e.g. “international socioeconomic inequality.”  And how can we tell Al Qaeda that it can’t commit violence in the name of whatever “cause” it uses to justify terrorism, e.g. Islamic jihad?  If we’re going to condemn piracy and terrorism committed against Americans on the high seas (or anywhere in the world), then we need to also condemn the violence committed by Watson and his group, seize their vessels, and put them on trial for piracy.  I hope that the Costa Ricans finally lock Watson up for a good long time, but he seems to slip through the dragnets of justice time and time again, so I won’t be holding my breath.

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