Here’s a quick roundup of lawpsyc stories from the past week:
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and sits in jail at this hour, reportedly on “suicide watch.” He’ll be sentenced in 90 days or so and is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. At sentencing, look for the possible resurrection of “Histrionic Personality Disorder” as a supposed “mitigating” factor, which is so bogus I can only hope no mental health professional seriously suggested that it was relevant. People with histrionic personalities are “drama queen/king” types who crave attention and make big emotional productions out of things that most of us would find relatively trivial, which of course has absolutely nothing to do with sexual abuse. I hope that what happened was simply this: Sandusky’s lawyers had him examined by a mental health professional who essentially said, “Well, the only thing I can find to diagnose in him is this,” and the attorneys threw it out there during the trial in desperation without realizing how utterly stupid it was/is.
In related news, a Catholic Church official in Philadelphia has been convicted of failure to report child sexual abuse at the hands of priests working in his chain of command. I think this foreshadows bad news for a Kansas City area bishop set to stand trial later this year on similar charges (although they’re misdemeanor charges in the K.C. case — the Philadelphia case involved felony charges). As a lawyer and as a health care professional subject to the same mandated child-abuse reporting statutes as the K.C. bishop, I think it’s both good public policy (we can’t have individual church officials deciding which cases law enforcement should and shouldn’t investigate) and ultimately good for the restoration of public faith in the Catholic Church’s administration that these administrators are being held individually, criminally accountable for having allowed (allegedly in the K.C. case) Sandusky-like situations to persist inside the Church. (And don’t forget, we’re not done with Penn State either — two former administrators are facing charges for failure to pass reports of child sexual abuse by Sandusky on to law enforcement).
Boxer Floyd Mayweather, in a Las Vegas jail for 90 days for domestic violence, doesn’t like the food and the lack of bottled water in the jail. No surprise there. What’s surprising, and perhaps even more appalling, is that a judge actually gave Mayweather’s attorneys the time of day to argue for his release (to home detention) on those grounds. A doctor apparently suggested that Mayweather might build up a lot of anger while deprived of his routine workout regimen and that the anger could then pour out in unhealthy ways. If I were the judge, I would’ve just said, “Well, it had better not, because if it does, Mayweather’s going to be right back in here, for years instead of months, and after that, he may just be too angry to release.” The judge did ultimately deny the request, and Mayweather remains in jail, right where he belongs, for now.
George Zimmerman’s account of the events surrounding his shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida this spring were made public. I know some aren’t going to like reading this, but as I’ve cautioned all along, if Zimmerman’s account is not controverted beyond a reasonable doubt by credible evidence, then the legal conclusion will have to be that he did act in self-defense, regardless of the fact that he had followed Martin beforehand, and he will have to be acquitted of second-degree murder, if it even gets that far (the case could very well be thrown out at a preliminary hearing, at which the judge will determine whether Florida’s broad immunity for citizens who act in self-defense, the “stand your ground” doctrine, applies).
A Norwegian court is deliberating the fate of Anders Breivik, the fanatic who murdered close to 80 Norwegians, many of them adolescents, in a bombing and shooting spree last year. In a rather strange reversal of the norm, prosecutors are actually arguing that Breivik is insane and needs to be confined indefinitely in a mental institution, while Breivik himself is arguing that he is sane, having acted in furtherance of his “cause,” resisting the encroachment of Islamic influences in Europe. Here’s an even more interesting irony to ponder though (and I’m not the first to point it out): If Breivik were a fanatic from the Middle East who had committed mass murder in the name of jihad, would anyone be pushing to label him as insane? I kind of doubt it, which makes me wonder whether people are making a prejudicial assumption that only stereotypical Middle-Eastern terrorists are capable of knowingly, willfully, consciously committing mass murder and that a European guy who does it must be crazy. Hmmm, remember Adolf Hitler?
The U.S. House of Representatives moved one step closer to holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents requested by the Congressional committee investigating the botched “Operation Fast and Furious” that resulted in the death of a U.S. border agent. The committee voted in favor of a contempt citation this week, and a vote of the full house could come next week. If you haven’t followed “Fast and Furious” until now, in a nutshell, federal agents covertly trafficked assault-type weapons into Mexico with the intention of tracking the weapons to their end users, believed to be major Mexican drug-trafficking figures. Well, they lost track of some of the weapons, two of which ended up at the scene of the agent’s murder. Congress has since been attempting, as it is obligated to do, to get to the bottom of how such an ill-conceived operation ever happened, but the Attorney General has refused to turn over many of the documents that the oversight committee has requested. After giving no explanation for his lack of cooperation for over a year, the Attorney General last week asserted that the documents were protected by “executive privilege” (Congress is generally obligated and entitled to oversee all operations of government on behalf of the American people whom it represents, but “executive privilege” allows the President and the White House staff to keep certain information from Congress if its disclosure would compromise either national security or the ability of the President to receive candid advice from his advisers). In this case, I don’t see how executive privilege would apply, as the documents in question are internal Department of Justice documents about gun trafficking (i.e. not White House documents about ongoing covert counter-terrorism operations, and if executive privilege does somehow apply, then that would seem to suggest that the President and/or White House staff was/were involved, both of which have been repeatedly denied). I see no reason why the Attorney General wouldn’t just comply with the committee’s request for these documents other than knowledge on his part of something damning therein, so it looks to me like he’s evading and abusing the oversight process in order to prevent the damning fact(s) from coming to light until after this fall’s presidential election, which I think is an affront to all law-abiding Americans but especially to the family members of the dead agent, who are entitled to know why he’s dead.
Cell-phone video of middle-school students mercilessly verbally bullying a 68-year-old female school bus monitor in New York went viral on the Internet and has resulted in a groundswell of public support and donations for the woman. So far, appalled viewers have sent over $600,000 to a fund set up to prevent the woman from ever having to return to the $15,000/year job. While I’m glad to see the country coming out so strongly against bullying, I think: 1) this particular woman clearly should never have been put in the bus monitor position with these particular kids, and 2) the parents of the kids involved have mental-health emergencies on their hands. They need to get those kids to shrinks, perhaps get them to church, and most importantly, get them immersed in some intensive, value-centric structure and discipline immediately. Kids who take pleasure in causing the kind of suffering that these students caused this woman have proverbial screws loose in their brains, and if people like them make it out of childhood with those screws still loose, it’s likely to be bad times for them, and for those with whom they come into contact, in adulthood. If such loose screws ever tighten up post-childhood, it tends to be only after people get hit — literally and/or figuratively — very, very hard by life.
Luckily for the students involved in the above bus-monitor-bullying story, the bus monitor didn’t express her frustration in the same way as a former Florida middle-school principal who’s in custody at this hour after going on a stabbing, bludgeoning, and vehicular hit-and-run spree that killed two and injured several others, mostly adults but at least one child included, some of whom appear to have been targeted (though it’s unclear exactly why) while others of whom appear to have simply been “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Not surprisingly, we already know that this guy has a lengthy track record of self-indulgent, blame-externalizing behavior including bankruptcy, drug abuse, conviction for purchasing cocaine on the grounds of his school (ending his career in education), etc., etc., etc. Like I always tell my colleagues, generally-poor character portends only bad things.
And finally, what’s up with the Beverly Hilton? Last time a major awards show (the Grammy Awards) was staged there, singer Whitney Houston was found dead in her room. With another major awards show (the Daytime Emmy Awards) scheduled for this weekend, two more bodies have been found in an apparent murder-suicide. Almost makes me not want to show up if Fatal Vows ever gets nominated for an award and the awards show is staged at the Beverly Hilton! (Actually, I do hope the show gets nominated for something after seeing all of the hard work that goes into it, especially by the many people who never get to take a bow any other time, and yes, I would risk showing up even if the award were given out at the Beverly Hilton!)
Have a good weekend!