Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
On February 12, 2008, fifteen year old Larry King was working in the computer lab of his middle school. At approximately 8:15 a.m. the defendant, classmate Brandon McInerney pulled out a 22 caliber revolver from his backpack and casually shot King in the back of the head. With the entire class looking on, McInerney calmly fired a second shot into his victim’s head, dropped the gun on the floor and walked out. He was picked up less than ten minutes later and just a few blocks from the school.
After numerous interviews and a thorough investigation it was revealed that McInerney had told one of King’s friends the day before, “say good-bye to Larry, ‘cause you’re never gonna see him again.” He also told several other people he was going to “shank” King. McInereney even attempted to recruit other classmates to kill King. It makes you wonder what King (photo right) could have possibly done to inspire such hate from his classmate. Well, wonder no more. His defense team laid it all out in their opening statement using what has sadly, become known as the gay panic defense.
This insidious defense first came to prominence in the horrific murder of Matthew Shepard back in 1998. There, Matthew’s murderers claimed that he had “put the moves on them”, made come-ons and was flirting with them. This allegedly put them in such fear that they felt that they had to murder him. They asked a jury, through their attorneys, to excuse the brutal, fierce, inhumane beating they gave him before they tied him to a barbed wire fence and left him to die alone in a field. Why? All because Matthew supposedly made some unwanted sexual advances towards them. I find this offensive on so many levels, not the least of which is the obvious lack of correlation to the rest of the population. If an unwanted sexual advance or come-on was justification for murder, than the straight male population of this world would be cut by about two thirds.
In the King case I take another exception. Gay Panic Defense? Doesn’t the very word panic infer that someone is out of control? That they are in immediate fear, they are experiencing an overwhelming terror? That’s not even close to what we have here. By all witness accounts there was no exchange, verbal or otherwise, between the two students that morning. There were threats indicative of planning and premeditation on the part of the defendant the day before. There were no allegations of physical touching by King. So what did cause this extreme reaction? This cold-blooded, calculating crime?
Words. Yes, words. King had allegedly said to McInerney “I want you to be my valentine”. King was known to wear make-up and high heels to school, which is protected behavior under California’s anti-discrimination laws. There seems to be conflicting testimony as to whether King was sexually harassing other students by speaking to them like he did McInerney. The prosecution presented several witnesses that testified they never observed such behavior from King. The defense presented a teacher who said other students told her King “followed them into the bathroom.” Either way, there were no allegations of physical advances or touching. You can’t just shoot someone in the head twice because you don’t like what they say.
Don’t get me wrong, I do feel some measure of sympathy for McInereny. He is, after all, a fourteen year old boy being tried in adult court. He is a boy with a troubled past. His mother had a criminal history and was addicted to methamphetamine. His father was a batterer who choked his wife almost unconscious after she accused him of stealing her eldest son’s ADHD medicine. This kid didn’t exactly have any role models. The police found white supremacist literature in his room. There are a whole host of reasons this kid turned out the way he did, but lets place the blame squarely where it lies and not on the victim.
One of the problems with the gay panic defense is that, besides being patently offensive and not a legal justification, it vilifies an entire segment of the our population making them out to be freakish or abnormal. This is simply not acceptable, any more than it would be to victimize the mentally challenged, or people of other races or religions and then blame them for their own victimization, inferring that they were asking for it or deserved it. Boiled down to it’s simplest and ugliest terms it is nothing more than the “they’re different from me and I’m better” attitude.
I understand the need the vigorously represent defendants in a court of law. I do. I get it. And this boy certainly needs defending, but to propound a defense that has no basis in law and is nothing more than a thinly disguised prejudice is irresponsible.
This case is a tragedy on so many different levels. Two young lives have been ruined. One taken forever, another irreparably altered.
As the jury continues to deliberate the fate of this young killer I am hopeful that while they will consider all of his issues they will flat out reject this blatant attempt to legalize prejudice.
photo: Angelina Cupcake
Friday, August 26, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Gabe Zimmerman, her friend U.S. District Judge John Roll, and 9-year-old constituent Christina-Taylor Green.
by Cathy Scott
For more than six months, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was kept in the dark, for her own protection and state of mind, about the deadly fate of six victims shot in the January shooting spree that nearly took her own life.
Now, in one of the most poignant moments in the tragic case comes the revelation that Giffords has learned the names of those who died at the hands of a crazed gunman. Prior to that, the senator was told that people had died, but she did not know who.
As one TV commentator put it after the news broke that she now knew, Giffords is not only recovering from her injuries but, on top of that, she is grieving the deaths as if they just happened.
It was not surprising that Giffords sensed there was more to the story she'd been told, especially given her slow but steady recovery and rehabilitation from the debilitating injury to the left side of her brain, caused by a lone bullet to her skull.
Giffords' spokesperson, C.J. Karamargin, confirmed with the Republic that Giffords was given the names just days before her surprise visit to Washington, D.C. in the U.S. House chambers to cast her vote for raising the nation's debt ceiling.
“She was deeply saddened by (the news)," Karamargin told the newspaper.
Giffords, who was wounded along with 12 others on January 8 by a lone gunman as Giffords met with constituents at a shopping center in Tucson, Arizona, has undergone brain surgery, facial reconstruction and therapy to regain her ability to walk and speak.
After she learned the news about her aide, she spoke with Zimmerman’s father, Ross, and personally offered her condolences. Giffords “still has some trouble with language, but there is no question that she can get her point across and her comprehension is 100 percent,” Zimmerman told the Republic. "It was Gabrielle – it was nice to talk to her."
Her would-be accused assassin, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial for the killings and alleged assassination attempt of Giffords. Loughner has been housed at a federal prison in Springfield, Missouri, where since July he has been on forced psychotropic drugs to stabilize his mental condition. His attorney fought unsuccessfully to prevent the medication from being given to his client.
Now that she knows the truth, Giffords is courageously continuing her rehabilitation at a center in Houston, Texas, working hard to improve and reclaim the life the gunman tried to take from her. Tweet
Monday, August 22, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
For more information visit www.chuckhustmyre.com.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
- 2009: first place, In Cold Blog's Detective Award for best true crime article, Missing: Caylee Anthony, (truTV's CrimeLibrary.com)
- 2008: finalist, Press Club of New Orleans, feature writing, Violent Night: On the street with NOPD Homicide, (New Orleans Magazine)
- 2007: second place, Press Club of New Orleans, investigative journalism, True Blue: Katrina and the Cops, (New Orleans Magazine)
- 2006: finalist, Press Club of New Orleans, excellence in journalism, Blue on Blue: Murder, Madness, and Betrayal, (New Orleans Magazine)
- The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News
- The Line-Up, Fox News
- Hannity's America, Fox News
- The Live Desk, Fox News
- Fatal Beauty: 15 Notorious Women, E! Network
- Deadly Women: Born Bad, Discovery Channel
- Mystery Writers of America
- International Thriller Writers
- National Press Club
- The Authors Guild
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The bottom line is this: Twelve members of a jury listened to every single word of the testimony and examined every single piece of evidence presented by the state of Florida in an attempt to convince each of them to render a verdict of guilty to capital murder. Each of those 12 people, plus the alternates, sat in the courtroom and listened to every single word each lawyer said to them during voir dire (jury selection).
Jury selection is the only time during a trial when the jurors and the lawyers, both for the defense and for the state, get an opportunity to have a conversation. That means that if there is any part of the conversation they do not understand, the juror can stop the lawyer and ask any question he or she wants answered. Their questions sometimes include the meaning of a legal term, or it might be a question about a hypothetical situation that a lawyer presents to the group of potential jurors in an effort to educate each juror about the facts they will be deciding, without giving the specific facts about their case.
In other words, a defense lawyer or a prosecutor is not allowed–at least in Texas–to stand in front of the jury panel and tell them the facts of their particular case. The lawyer may only present facts to them in a hypothetical situation to try and determine how that specific juror feels about a certain topic or whether that juror has had any experience with that specific topic. The easiest example would be a driving-while-intoxicated trial. The defense lawyer wants to find out the drinking habits of the juror, or whether he or she is a member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). So, the hypothetical would contain facts close to, but not exactly the same, as the case on trial.
Photo Credits: turtlemom4bacon; Caveman Chuck Coker; Lee Bennet
Monday, August 15, 2011
A man died recently who I want you to know about. He operated in the shadow of law enforcement and you probably never heard his name. In his own very unique way he developed an expertise that helped bring justice to those who would otherwise never get it.
His name was Frank Bender, and when he died recently at the age of 70 at his home in Philadelphia, he was the best known in a rare breed of forensic sculptors.
Frank Bender somehow knew how to take a fleshless mummified human skull and reconstruct its face into an eerily perfect facsimile. To compare a photo of the dead person with a finished Bender sculpture would take your breath away.
Bender started his career as a commercial photographer and had an innate curiosity about human anatomy. That led the young Bender to visit the Philadelphia morgue, and he came away with a mysterious talent that would become sought after by law enforcement officials worldwide.
He reverently began each reconstruction by focusing on and minutely measuring certain points of the skull. Bender was then able to calculate how thick the tissue, muscles and skin would have been at any given point. Working with tissue-thin layers of clay he painstakingly followed the unique bone structure of each skull and, as Bender once explained his process to a USA Today reporter, his fingers just take over and he becomes his subject.
His finished projects were stunning renditions of the forgotten dead seemingly brought back to life. Once released to the public Bender’s work brought in tips which helped identify dozens of discarded bodies that might have gone to unmarked graves had it not been for his efforts. Over the years his work helped solve numerous murders and serial killings and led to the arrest of high profile fugitives.
Bender first reconstructed skulls for the Philadelphia Police Department and when word of his success spread he was called upon to help departments in other states. Then the FBI came calling, followed by Scotland Yard, the government of Egypt and in Mexico his work identifying the remains of a string of murdered woman became the basis for a book called, The Girl With the Crooked Nose.
is most publicized reconstruction came in 1989 and originated not from a skull but from an old photograph. Police in Westfield, New Jersey, had long been looking for a mild-mannered accountant named John List who was wanted for the 1971 murders of his wife, three children and his mother. The television program "America’s Most Wanted" commissioned Bender to craft a sculpture of what List would look like 18 years after the crime. He created an age-progressed jowly baldheaded bust and because he thought an aging accountant might wear glasses Bender plopped a pair of black horned-rimmed glasses on it. The glasses did the trick.
A woman in Virginia watching the program called the tip line to report her neighbor, an accountant named Robert Clark. A fingerprint check quickly revealed the man was really fugitive List. Sentenced to five life terms List died in prison in 2008.
Frank Bender never made much money for his efforts. In the end, one of his meticulous creations brought in about $1,700. He worked as a fine artist and various other odd jobs to help pay the bills.
Bender never discriminated over which skull to rebuild but he had a passion to help solve crimes against children. Ted Botha the author of the aforementioned book was quoted in The New York Times' obit saying the diminutive Bender was “A fighter for justice. He’s almost like a little Captain America or something.”
The sculptor told a North Carolina newspaper why he had to make this his last work of art. “A child is so innocent,” Bender explained. “They have a whole life ahead, and it’s taken away. It all bothers me, but they bother me the most.”
You'd probably never heard of Frank Bender before now, but as he playfully identified himself on the outgoing message on his home answering machine. he was indeed “a re-composer of the decomposed.” A crime fighter par excellence. Tweet
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Why are we still debating whether children under the age of 13 should be allowed to walk alone to and from school? Is keeping our children safe really up for debate?
As a clinical psychologist, I often counsel victims of violent crime. Given the risks that children face in our time, it is naive and simply irresponsible to argue, as Lenore Skenazy does in her book Free-Range Kids, that because we were all raised in the 1970s in a "free" way, our kids should be as well.
In the '70s, our generation also didn't believe in sex education for our children and believed that being gay was a choice and should be demonized. We also didn't believe domestic violence was a problem, that the Catholic Church would never put children in harm's way, and seat belts and car seats weren't mandatory. Many things over the last 40 years–through studies, our intelligence, our emotional reactions, and plain mothers' intuition–have simply become obvious at this point in time. One of them is that young children should not be left alone in a public place–whether it is walking home from school or a friend's house, playing in a park, or playing in the front yard unsupervised. Would any of you even question putting your child in a car seat or forcing them to buckle up when you get into a car? Is that too restrictive? Not free enough for your taste?
I believe what is often the motivator for these free-living parents is that by allowing their kids to be independent, it frees up the parents to focus on themselves and also saves them the costs of childcare. The parents are simply choosing their own independence over their children's safety.
I do not agree that depriving our children of the freedom to walk home alone from school quells their sense of independence. Children develop independence in many ways that don't put them at risk. For example, when your kids choose their extracurricular activities–the clothes they wear, how they wear their hair, the decor of their bedroom, or the games the family plays on game night–this, in my opinion, gives your child a strong sense of independence and power at much less risk. The experience of independence is developed across time and in age-appropriate and safe ways. The argument that allowing a 9 year old to ride alone on public transportation promotes independence is ignorant and irresponsible. My 9-year-old son begs me to stay home alone while I take his sister to dance class. I in no way believe that is his cry for independence or that I should even consider it for a minute to promote his independence. He is a 9-year-old boy who wants to stay home and play Wii for as long as he can.
By saying this, I am in no way blaming the mother of Leiby Kletzsky. She is a single mother and these are very difficult issues to deal with. I am sure she would agree that if at all possible she would prefer to have her 8-year-old be with someone on his way to and from school. We can't expect an 8 year old to be able to handle dealing with a stranger, alone on a street, because, again, he is a child. I think we should look to these issue when thinking about giving children the "freedom" Lenore Skenazy is pushing for. Don't you?
You see, it is about maturity and ability to deal with different contingencies in one's environment. Younger children do not have the brain development to deal with issues like adults do. It is that simple. They can be manipulated and lured much easier than adults, which is why they are at greater risk.
It is sad that we live in an at-risk society. However, as we have seen on the news, there are many sex offenders living among us. And we simply cannot afford to place our kids in harm's way under the guise of "letting them live free."
There are two tracks to deal with sexual offenders:
1. Community Information and Protection of Children
This is composed of access to information regarding the location of registered sexual offenders, and includes where they can live within range of schools, libraries and parks. It also includes the enactment of the Amber Alert system and Megan laws.
I believe we need to take this further. We should have national guidelines for the training of our children in schools on how to be safe and protect themselves as much as possible from sexual predators. We need to create ways for our children to get to and from school with adult supervision.
Our schools should be community centers with access to after-care programs for working parents. It is imperative that we as a society deal with the issue of after-school care in a progressive and aggressive manner.
I do not think that it is paranoia to say that we should provide GPS devices for our children. In the case of Elizabeth Olten, the police were able to locate her body because of her cell phone. There are many GPS devices that you can give to your children that would enable the authorities to help locate your child. Devices can be placed in shoes or in backpacks and could be monitored by the Global Positioning Satellite System immediately. As we know, when a child goes missing, time is of the essence. We place a greater emphasis on locating our cars or our cell phones than our kids. Again, it's a risk-reward issue. To me, it's a no-brainer.
2. Sentencing and Civil Commitment of Child Sexual Offenders
We should all be upset at the differing sentencing guidelines for sexual offenders. I believe we need to make sexual crimes against children a federal offense, which would automatically mandate sentencing guidelines that are uniform for all states.
Mandatory federal sentences for child sexual abuse should be similar to Wisconsin's tough sexual offender statutes that include the following: Jessica's Law legislation (created in memory of Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped and killed by a sex offender who did not register in Florida) imposes a minimum 25-year sentence for those convicted of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Another measure passed by Wisconsin lawmakers provides judges with the authority to give life sentences to offenders twice convicted of first-degree sexual assault (the previous maximum was 40 years). With the high rate of repeat offending by child sexual predators, it is imperative that sentencing guidelines are used to protect our children from pedophiles.
Kansas has enacted the Sexually Violent Predator Act of 1994, which was passed in response to concerns about recidivism rates among sex offenders. Under the law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997, the state can commit individuals who are likely to engage in predatory acts of violence because of a mental abnormality or personality disorder. Few confined sex offenders are ever released. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has followed the issue since that state passed a civil commitment law in 1990. As of December 2004, the Institute reports that 3,493 people have been held for evaluation as sexually violent predators or committed for treatment, and 427 individuals have been discharged or released. This seems like a good alternative to keep sexual predators off the streets, but it is far more expensive than prison. Civil-commitment legislation was introduced in South Dakota as well, but lawmakers decided to create a no-parole provision for certain repeat sex offenders instead.
Given the clear danger of predatory child sexual abusers, as a nation we must come together and create clear and tough guidelines for repeat child sexual predators. We must educate our children about sexual offenders, and we must wake up to the reality that we can't live as if it is 1970. Sadly, we must wake up and deal with the reality that there are people who look for the window of opportunity to take a child, sexually assault them, and throw them away like garbage. These are real risks in the reality of our time.
We must take our shoes off at the airports, put our children in car seats, and not allow them to be alone in public places or walk home from school alone. Is it really that much of a hassle for us to take these measures? I would not want to be a parent who sits with the pain of having a child taken, assaulted, or even killed and know that I placed my child in danger when it could have been avoided. Tweet