Monday, February 28, 2011

The Psychology of Rape

On February 11, 2011, intrepid 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan fell victim to an attack in Egypt as she covered the unrest and overthrow of the Egyptian government. She suffered a brutal sexual attack by a gang of men shouting accusations suggesting she spied for Israel. A group of women and members of the Egyptian army rescued her. Logan flew home and remained in a hospital for five days with severe internal injuries. Since January 30, 140 correspondents have been injured or killed while covering the unrest in Egypt. The list includes reporters Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour. Katie Couric described being "man-handled" while reporting in Egypt.

Sexual assault, like that sustained by Lara Logan, occurs about once every minute in the United States. In fact, one in ten rapes in the U.S. involve multiple assailants attacking a victim. In South Africa, Lara Logan's birthplace, one in three rapes involve multiple perpetrators.

Why do men around the world rape women? Rape researchers typically fall into about three different camps. Feminist researchers see anger and hatred for women as the primary cause of rape. Behaviorists focus on research showing that rapists respond to deviant sexual stimuli, unlike non-rapists. Evolutionary biologists see rape as biologically programmed to ensure that men with strong sex drives reproduce. In an attempt to understand the complexity of rape, Dr. Gordon Nagayama Hall found four main types of rapists:
  • Type 1: The Aroused. Impulsive, he becomes aroused by deviant sexual stimuli such as bondage or cruelty to women.
  • Type 2: The Conqueror. Often the date rapist. He believes women enjoy rape. Misinterprets signals from the woman. For example, if she invites him to her dorm room, he assumes she wants rape.
  • Type 3: The Angry. Motivated by rage toward women. Acts out the anger in sexual attacks. Considered the most dangerous kind of rapist.
  • Type 4: The Abused. The repeat offender. Likely abused as a child. Difficulty establishing long-term relationships.
Dr. Hall cautions against simple explanations for rape. Evolutionary biology theories do not explain the sexual assault of infants or senior citizens. Feminist theories don't explain how men with meaningful long-term relationships with women can then go out and rape strangers. He believes that by studying the multiple reasons for rape, researchers can reduce it's frequency and design better treatment methods for offenders.

I suggest the best place to begin rape prevention strategies is with our children. A recent study of 1,600 juvenile sexual assault offenders found:
  • Just 33 percent of these boys perceived sex as a way to demonstrate love or caring;
  • 23.5 percent believed that sex was a way to establish power and control;
  • 9.4 percent found sex to be a good way to dissipate anger;
  • 8.4 percent believed sex to be a way to punish others.
In a study of college men, 35 percent admitted they would violently rape a woman who had rejected a prior advance if they were assured of getting away with it. Many men and women believe a woman deserved rape if she was intoxicated, led the man on, or invited him into her bedroom. In a 2003 study, men who were highly competitive and win-oriented reported more sexual aggression and held beliefs that supported rape. This impulsive type may have much in common with the hostile group who attacked Lara Logan.

In a small town in Texas a high school cheerleader was dragged into a room and raped by two star football players. The victim, H.S., reported the crime. The boys were arrested, released and returned to the football team, while H.S. returned to cheerleading. In an act of protest, H.S. turned her back on the football player who raped her and refused to cheer for him. H.S. was kicked off the cheer team. Her family sued and the judge ruled that H.S. must cheer for her rapist. I offer another explanation for rape, of both the physical and legal kind. It appears many men, in positions both lofty and low, possess the emotional intelligence of a kumquat.

Friday, February 25, 2011

DNA Manipulation

by Andrea Campbell

When technology gets better, there will always be someone who wants to defeat the system. It’s comforting to know that progress is continually being made in order to stay ahead of the criminals.

We’ve talked a lot about biometrics and DNA. These are thought of as irrefutable biological characteristics that help to define and identify just who we are. That’s why when I saw the headline, “DNA Paternity Test Almost Fooled,” I had to know more.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Paternity tests use DNA to allow people to discover their origins, such as who are my mother and father? DNA has longed been used for this process and there are reasons that someone would not want to be found—mainly child support payments. In 2007, someone found a way to confuse the identification system temporarily and it has now prompted a new methodology because of this person’s brash moves.

Apparently the fraud attempt was predicated by a DNA paternity test.

The paternity test is done just as one would do for a crime suspect—samples of saliva cells are collected from the mouth. In this particular case, Dr. José Antonio Lorente Acosta, Director of the Laboratory of Genetic Identification at the University of Granada, carries out forensic tests just like these as commissioned by the court in cases of paternity, and for the identification of possible criminals, or else to contribute to DNA databases such as in the case of trying to locate missing relatives.

In this 2007 case, epithelial cells were collected from the interior of the mouth by a person undergoing a paternity test, which gave an incongruous result. The research team questioned their procedure and found they had not changed anything. The suspect washed his mouth and, “... after repeating the analysis, there was only one possible conclusion: In the mouth of that man there was DNA from two different persons,” says Dr. Acosta. They, of course, arranged to meet the subject again and found out that shortly before he took the test, he mixed his saliva with someone else’s that he had concealed on his person in a small container, hoping to mislead detectives. As it turns out, the test was repeated and he was found to be the biological father in that particular case of judicial investigation. This case prompted a modification of all future tests, as now it would be compulsory for the donor to wash his mouth out, but this time in the presence of a witness.

The Grim Sleeper Case

A Los Angeles' serial killer who was thought to have killed at least 10 people, was caught by detectives who used a familial DNA search and that, and new databases, has made somewhat of a breakthrough. Only Colorado and California currently have laws specifically allowing the use of familial DNA match. The practice has drawn criticism from privacy advocates who fear that innocent family members will be targeted if they have the misfortune of being related to a criminal.

The research policy, however, is restricted to major violent crimes, and only after all other investigative methods have failed. Apparently the majority of the Grim Sleeper’s killings were committed in the 1980s. Unfortunately the crimes restarted after a 13-year absence, with the latest one occurring in 2007. This prompted Los Angeles' police to look for a “similar” DNA profile. Hoping they might find a relative for leads, after running several tests, some DNA was identified as the suspect’s son. The after-effects of this case and use of familial DNA will surely set precedents for its future use, as well as new policies as other states adopt the process. First published in Forensic Magazine.

Take That Robbers: DNA Mist

This new technology is fairly genius and was discovered in the Netherlands. We’ve all seen in films where the bank puts explosive dye packs in the money bag in order to mark the criminal after it explodes. They open the bag to get the money and are showered with indelible ink. Now there is a DNA spray mist! The applicator is positioned on the door of a bank or other business that has funds. Every person who enters is misted with a DNA spray that has no odor and is completely unnoticeable. The synthetic DNA compound settles onto hair, clothing and skin without knowledge. Of course, somewhere on this person is a trail that has a fluorescent marker that can be detected using ultraviolet light. Not only that, but the DNA can be made unique to a particular location. Good thinking that.

All photos are

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ponderous Plodding toward Justice for Caylee Anthony

Casey Anthony

Sometimes the gears of justice turn so slowly that they appear to be frozen in place. This month, Casey Anthony hit a milestone: 853 days in custody since her arrest in October 2008. She now has the distinction as the longest-serving female inmate in the population at Orange County corrections center, the area's county jail.

Nonetheless, with the trial less than three months away, it appears that justice is about to catch up to her and grind her to bits. Recent events look very grim for the defense.

Casey's attorney, Jose Baez, was fined by the judge for missing a deadline last December and has missed yet another one. He is under investigation for the second time in the last three years by the Florida Bar Association, and the prosecutor's office has launched a parallel tampering investigation sighting Baez in the crosshairs. The prosecutors are now asking the judge to hold the attorney in contempt of court.

A much ballyhooed defense witness, volunteer searcher Laura Buchanan,  is at the root of the tampering issue.  She signed a form swearing that Caylee's remains were not at the location where they were later found.  She wrote: "It is my opinion that the remains of Caylee Anthony were not there during the time of our search.  I personally searched near the privacy fence and worked my way towards and then beyond where the body was found.  I did not notice anything unusual."

Caylee Anthony
This statement supported the defense's claim that Caylee was placed in that spot after Casey was already in jail. Therefore, someone else committed the crime. However, Ms. Buchanan had a Texas Equusearch form in her possession that she should not have had. Buchanan has now admitted to altering that form after meeting with the defense. She said, "I can't say that to be true because I still to this day don't know where she was found, what area or what she was near."

On top of that, matters have not gone well for the defense recently in the motions they filed. Baez wanted the lying and stealing history of his client kept out of the courtroom.  Judge Belvin Perry, however, said, "The state may be able to introduce evidence of collateral acts--such as lying and stealing--which are inexorably intertwined with the crime charged if necessary to adequately describe the deed, provide an intelligent account of the crime charged, establish the entire context out of which the charged crime arose or adequately describe events leading up to the charged crime."

From Casey's MySpace page
Perry also ruled that Casey's MySpace entries in her "Diary of Days" were admissible to show Casey's state of mind at the time of the crime. He did exclude use of the Jib Jab cartoon about the case. He also stood with the prosecution on the issue of Casey's tattoo, "La Bella Vita," declaring that any possible prejudicial affect was far outweighed by the probative value.

As to the testimony of the Anthony's neighbor, Brian Burner, about his shovel, Perry said, "There is nothing inherently prejudicial about borrowing a shovel, nor is a shovel 'gruesome' evidence that would intend to inflame the passions of the jury."

Anthony Lazzaro
Although the judge tossed out testimony from Anthony Rusciano about sexual relations with Casey and ruled the same on details of her sexual liaison with Anthony Lazzaro, he did allow that her relationship with the latter Anthony during the time period in question was "highly relevant," viewing her demeanor at the time and in light of the fact that she never mentioned to him that her daughter was missing.

The defense motions to exclude evidence seem never ending.  We haven't heard resolutions to all of them yet.  I can't imagine the judge throwing out Casey's statements to the police in which she lied about the nanny and her daughter's whereabouts in the summer of 2008, but I am anxious to her the judge's ruling.

The case looks--almost--like a cakewalk for the prosecution. The one sticking point may be proving to the jury's satisfaction that Caylee was a victim of homicide. Medical Examiner Jan Garavaglia could not determine a cause of death because of the ravages of decomposition. Intuitively, it is obvious that Caylee was murdered; her body was found stuffed in a laundry bag and tossed in an overgrown area.

Will that be enough for the jury? Or will they demand more before convicting Casey Anthony of premeditated murder? We will find out soon, enough, because the trial is scheduled to start in May.

Diane Fanning is the author of Mommy's Little Girl, the only published book about the murder of Caylee Anthony.  When the Casey Anthony trial begins, currently scheduled for May, you'll find daily updates of the case on Diane Fanning's blog, Writing is a Crime.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jane Doe and a Serial Killer?

They tagged the body “Jane Doe” after the discovery in a rustic grave on the desert floor near Florence, Arizona. The dead female, estimated between 15 and 18 years old, became Doe case number 2278dfaz.

The body was discovered on May 10, 1997, by hunters in the remote desert area. In an odd twist, Arizona authorities years later admitted that they'd misplaced the corpse of Jane Doe, but not before a facial reconstruction could be created, using the skull, to help identify the body. It was then placed in a county cemetery, but the exact location of the plot was not noted on the paperwork.

Three months after the discovery of Jane Doe’s remains, the wife of Craig Leslie Jacobsen, who was eventually convicted in the Las Vegas murder of 20-year-old salsa dancer Ginger Rios, led police to Ginger’s grave in the same vicinity off the Florence Calvin Highway, a 30-mile dirt road between Florence and the Riverside-Kearny area not far from Tucson. The wife knew exactly where the body was, because she had been in the van with her husband, along with their baby, when he drove Ginger’s body to Arizona to bury her.

Jane Doe
Jacobsen eventually told police that the Jane Doe remains, buried not far from Ginger’s body, were those of a missing woman named Mary Stoddard. Thus, the body was formally ID’d and police believed the case had been solved. On the body’s right baby finger was a yellow metal ring with two clear stones and a light purple stone. On the left hand was a ring fashioned with two twisted gold wires with the letter "M.” Police believed it stood for “Mary.”

But seven days before Jane Doe was discovered, 15-year-old Christina Marie Martinez disappeared, on May 3, 1997, on her way to a local laundromat.

Thirteen years later, in the summer of 2010, according to the Doe Network, police finally learned the true identity of Jane Doe. The ring’s “M,” they also learned, actually stood for “Martinez.” The family, for all those years, had not realized and had not been told that the remains of a young Jane Doe were found just days after Christina's disappearance. It was the same day Christina would have turned 16.

Ginger Rios (left)
For Ginger Rios, her interaction with Craig Jacobsen, also known as John Flowers, started out innocently enough when, on the afternoon of April 4, 1997, she drove with her husband to Jacobsen’s Spy Craft shop near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to buy a how-to book on cleaning up their credit so they could buy a house. Ginger left Mark Hollinger, her husband of five months, in their car, telling him, “I’ll be right back.” Jacobsen had a second Spy Craft shop in Phoenix just blocks from where Christina Martinez was last seen.

With three deaths in his wake–Jane Doe, Mary Stoddard and Ginger Rios–all evidence points to Craig Jacobsen being a serial killer. Yet, he has not been charged in Christina Martinez’s murder nor in connection with Mary Stoddard’s disappearance.

Now, however, evidence is reportedly being gathered in an effort to charge Jacobsen with Christina’s murder.

I interviewed Jacobsen after Ginger’s disappearance and before his arrest. He told me he was angry with Ginger for causing him trouble and that he didn’t appreciate it. He, too, wanted to find her, he said. His words, in light of Ginger's death, were chilling.

Jacobsen was arrested in Los Angeles in August 1997. A day after being interviewed by Las Vegas police about Ginger’s murder, Jacobsen was found comatose in his cell, hanging from a bed sheet, inside the Los Angeles County Jail. He survived.

Shortly after Jacobsen’s arrest, his wife suddenly offered, in an apparent move to help save herself from being named an accomplice, led police to the desert where her husband had buried Ginger’s body.

In light of the evidence against Jacobsen, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, in downtown Las Vegas, at the time publicly vowed to seek the death penalty against him. Yet, months later, in a surprise move, Jacobsen was offered a plea bargain in Ginger’s case in exchange for a lesser penalty of 25 years–this, despite two confessions for two separate murders and damning evidence against Jacobsen. Then, a couple years later, his guilty plea was withdrawn and a judge allowed him to instead plead guilty by reason of insanity. Today, Jacobsen sits in a Northern Nevada prison hospital with an uncertain release date.

In the meantime, Ginger Rios’s family remembers the good times and the dreams their daughter had for her future. “She wanted to get her own musical group and have her own show here in Vegas,” her mother, Denise Rios, said. “She was taking professional voice lessons.”

“She said to me once,” her mother added, 'One day, Mom, I'm going to be Miss Las Vegas.’”

Seeing Jacobsen take a plea deal, only to have it tossed out, was hardly justice for Ginger’s parents. They understandably have said they want Jacobsen put away for life.

Time will tell whether Arizona law enforcement will do right by Christina Martinez, which would be justice for Ginger as well, and pursue charges against Jacobsen for the murder of Jane Doe, a k a Christina Martinez.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sexting: How Did We Get Here?

by Katherine Scardino

Wikipedia defines sexting as the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones-- a combination of the words “sex” and “texting.” The term sexting was first published in Sunday Telegraph Magazine, a British broadcast newspaper, back in 2005. Most, if not all, states have laws against child pornography, so how can we allow sexually explicit photographs of our children to be sent across the Internet? And, more importantly, how and why is this happening?

Many states find themselves in a quandary about how to handle this issue. Teens sending nude pictures of themselves to each other is basically child pornography. If someone under the age of 18 takes a pornographic photo of themselves and then sends that photo to someone else, they are distributing child pornography. And, of course, the person who receives the photo is in possession of child pornography. These charges can potentially carry stiff criminal penalties. In some instances, the district attorney may determine that the acts involved in sexting constitute distribution or possession of child pornography and decide to prosecute. Others times they do not. Some states are interpreting the problem differently and coming up with various ways to deal with the problem, but it will most likely take a number of years for the laws to formulate and become even remotely consistent. 

In Texas, our state Attorney General has opined that adults with nude or semi-nude photographs on their mobile devices can be investigated and tried on felony child pornography charges. Teenagers with photographs of other teens aged 18 and under can be prosecuted, and face up to 10 years in prison. The recently proposed Texas Senate Bill 407 gives prosecutors an additional tool to use when prosecuting teens who engage in sexting by providing a more appropriate offense. 

Under Bill 407, charges for sexting for first-time offenders who are younger than 18 are considered a Class C misdemeanor instead of a felony child pornography charge. Those teen offenders, as well as their parents, may also have to participate in an education program. The proposed new law would also give teens the chance to apply to have the sexting charge expunged from their records. One of the good points of this proposed law is education. It requires school districts to provide information to students and parents including the legal and emotional impacts of sexting. If approved, this Texas statute would become effective in September 2011.

But, do you really think making parents go to some class to hear about their teenagers new “fun thing to do” and the evils of taking naughty pictures will make any impression on these kids? Is sexting going to be blamed on the parents? Surely there is something deeper going on here. Yes, parents need to watch over their children. Yes, parents need to teach their children to be responsible, law-abiding citizens. Do you think we just have kids who make dumb mistakes, or is this new craze reflective of the times? 

Sexting is simply a result of advances in technology enabling new forms of social interaction. Messages with sexual content have been exchanged over all forms of historical media. Newer technology allows for the recording and exchange of photographs and videos, which are intrinsically more explicit and have greater impact. But, one important risk to remember is that material can be very easily and widely propagated, over which the originator has absolutely no control. Once it is on the Internet, it is gone forever.

Sexting is popular with teenagers. It is a new thing to do. But it must be controlled. Whose job is it to intervene and make some changes? Is it the parents', schools' or law enforcement's job? Or a combination of all three? Obviously, in my opinion, all three must bear some responsibility. But, what bothers me is that parents get first shot at teaching their children morals, citizenship and respect. I cannot help but cringe at the thought of a young girl feeling so emotionally numb to believe that it is cute or cool to send a nude photograph over the Internet to a boyfriend, or just a friend, which is even worse.

We really should do something about this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Fool For A Client, Or Foolish Not To Consider Representing Yourself?

"He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” is the proverbial expression warning against self-representation, but is it really true?

A person, or even an attorney, who represents him/herself in a matter is considered a pro per or pro se litigant. Most professionals look down their nose on those who represent themselves. Even non-professionals poke fun and criticize those who represent themselves. So is it really as dumb as people say?

Pro per or pro se representation is not limited to criminal cases. One can represent themselves in civil cases, including family law, in and criminal cases. So why would a litigant or, even more serious, a criminal defendant facing a prison sentence go pro per?

Data from the 1996 report of the Pro Se project overseen by Ayne H. Crawley of the University Of Maryland Law School found that
  • 57 percent of pro per defendants said they could not afford a lawyer
  • 18 percent said they did not wish to spend the money to hire a lawyer
  • 21 percent said they believed that their case was simple and therefore they did not need an attorney
A 1998 ABA-commissioned study found some public beliefs that may influence the choice
  • 78 percent believe “it takes too long for the courts to do the job.”
  • 77 percent believe “it costs too much to go to court.”
The 1994 ABA Study of Legal Needs found that predominate reasons for low-income households to not seeking legal help were that “it would not help” or “costs too much.” Predominate reasons for moderate-income households to not seeking legal help were that “[issue] not really a problem,” “can handle it on my own” or “a lawyer cannot help.” The Conference of State Court Administrators recently characterized this trend as “unprecedented and showing no signs of abating.”

Research in California indicates that pro per or pro se representation is not solely due to financial limitations. As reported in the National Center on State Courts study of 16 large urban trial courts in 1991 to 1992 – Domestic Relations cases, “a significant portion of the family law pro pers in California are not poor or poorly educated.”

There’s an equally important adage that comes to mind when I think of pro per cases that is not nearly as tired as the "he who has himself as a client" one. That is, "if you want something done right, do it yourself."

It is no secret that lawyers have a bad rap, with complaints of lack of communication, lack of interest, lack of focus, and most commonly, very high fees. It is for these reasons, plus unjust results, slowness of the movement of the system, that make many people mistrust the system. But besides these normal complaints, I often hear criticism that attorneys do not pay attention well enough to learn the facts of the case that they are handling. Or that a client does not feel enough person attention. Plain and simple, pro pers feel that they can do a better job representing themselves because they have more of an understanding of the facts of what occurred.

What does all this say about the work product and slow, or fast, slide of lawyers reputations. I mean think about it, a defendant in a criminal case or a parent in a divorce chooses to forego legal knowledge in favor of knowing the facts of case and thinking that will do better. Is that like people choosing to perform there own medical procedures because they know their own body better and don't need the help of experts? Or is there a distinction?

This may sound silly but it is not. I don’t blame a litigant or defendant for feeling frustrated by their lawyer not knowing whats going on. How can you have faith in the system if the lawyer can’t distinguish one sibling from another in a divorce case or know who was the shooter or who was the master mind in a complex murder/conspiracy case.

So should individuals go pro per or not? Robert Kearns, the American inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, thought so. Immortalized by the film Flash of Genius, Kearns represented himself in his own patent infringement lawsuits against Ford and Chrysler, to the tune of multi-million dollar verdicts.

But what about the other side? Brandon Moon represented himself during his own rape trial. Even though he was the only blue-eyed, white male in a lineup some 18 months after the rape, the identification was admitted in court and Moon was convicted for a crime he did not commit. Moon spent 17 years in jail before the Innocence Project got him out by proving the DNA was not his. Ted Bundy went pro per as well. It worked out worse for him as the infamous serial killer and former law student was executed on January 24, 1989. The list goes on.

Crawley's study, discussed above, told us that it is true that there has been a "rising tide" of pro se litigants flooding the justice system. And our current court model was designed for a more "traditional" full representation model, whatever that may be. So where does it leave us?

Many aspects of the system of justice, from the rules to the training of judges and court staff to the physical layout of the courthouses themselves, have been oriented to cases in which knowledgeable attorneys represent the parties. But if you are considering pro se, there are resources out there for you. In California, you can start with the court's own "Self Help" site.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our Youngest Lifers – Disposable Children

Quick, a question: What does the United States of America have in common with the African nation of Somalia?

Answer: They are the only countries to refuse to sign Article 37 of the 1989 UN document entitled, “Rights of the Child.”

What’s that mean? Translated, it means America stands shoulder-to -shoulder with a primitive East African nation in routinely refusing to acknowledge the rights of children. And, America is also the only known nation in the world that allows children under the age of 18 to be tried as adults and sentenced to prison forever–with absolutely no chance for parole. In a majority of U.S. cases the child is charged with murder but sometimes they have simply been in the company of someone else who committed murder.

Hey, wait a minute!

Aren’t we the country that touts our progressive stand on human rights? Isn’t America the nation that cajoles others–Egypt being the latest example – for unreasonable treatment and imprisonment of citizens? Yep, that’s us. So, how do we possibly explain the more than 2,574 inmates currently in U.S. prisons who were sent there as children and who will remain there for the rest of their lives? (By the way, the undisputed figure of 2,574 comes from the latest Human Rights Watch annual report.)

Is it okay with you that we, as a society, routinely toss kids into the deep end of the adult pool of criminal defendants? Understand that upon conviction they are, in effect, lost forever – thrown away as disposable kids–in a prison system that will surely expose them to sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners and turn them hard and mean forever.

Every mental health expert will tell you a child’s brain isn’t fully developed–specifically, in the areas that control decision making, risk taking and impulse control. We’ve learned these young kids kill for a variety of reasons including prolonged emotional or physical/sexual abuse, brain damage or mental illness sustained during gestation from their addicted mother or a perceived threat to their way of life that their young brain cannot accept.

So when they kill are they really responsible for their behavior?

To be sure, there are some under the age of 18–vicious teen-aged members of street gangs–who are keenly aware of their actions and who richly deserve to be locked away to protect society. But many of the defendants within that group of 2,574 aren’t like that at all and some are single digit young. One boy in Arizona was just 8 when he took a gun and blasted ten bullets into his father and a male tenant in their home. The state is still trying to figure out what made that child snap. The boy pleaded guilty and the state ordered him to undergo psychiatric evaluations, a great step, in my opinion. However, if he doesn’t respond this boy could still be sentenced to hard time.

Coming up soon in the Pennsylvania court system is young Jordan Brown. He shot and killed his father’s pregnant girlfriend as she lay sleeping so Jordan was deemed a double murderer at just 11 years old. The judge in the case has declared that since the boy has expressed no real remorse he must be tried as an adult. Jordan will likely become the youngest offender in American history to be sentenced to LWOP – life in prison without parole.

Quantel Lotts was 14 years old when got that sentence in 2002 in St. Francois County, Missouri. What started as horseplay with his older stepbrother later turned deadly when Lott impulsively grabbed a knife. He was tried as an adult for first degree murder with predictable results. Quantel will live the rest of his life behind the bars of a prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri.

In many states judges have no discretion in sentencing adult defendants. Take a life and you get LWOP–period.

It wasn’t always like this. Before the late '80s, children were seldom prosecuted in adult court settings. Their fates were determined by juvenile courts which many believed were much better equipped to deal with these minor’s unique problems and get them psychiatric help. But the system often simply set the offender free at age 21 providing little or none of the security net they had come to rely upon. That scared folks and somewhere along the line it became easier to just lock up these kids and throw away the key.

California’s notorious Charles Manson, found guilty of seven murders, gets his 12th parole hearing next year. New York’s “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz, who admitted to killing six people when he was in his 20s has had four parole hearings so far. The system may never grant a reprieve to either of them but at least they got a chance. Meantime, at least 2,574 American kids will never get that–not even if they can prove they found true redemption and direction in prison.

There’s got to be a better way to keep ourselves safe while at the same time administering to the needs of our troubled kids. Any ideas?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will Casey Anthony Commit Suicide As A Final Act of Control If She Gets Death Penalty?

In examining Casey Anthony’s behavior, her body language ,and communication patterns throughout the years, it is my view that there are significant signals of sociopathy or psychopathy. According to the characteristics set forth by Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare in his Hare Scale of Psychopathy, Casey Anthony appears to fit most of the characteristics seen below:

Factor 1: Aggressive narcissism
  1. Glibness/superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. Pathological lying
  4. Cunning/manipulative
  5. Lack of remorse or guilt
  6. Emotionally shallow
  7. Callous/lack of empathy
  8. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Factor 2: Socially deviant lifestyle
  1. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  2. Parasitic lifestyle
  3. Poor behavioral control
  4. Promiscuous sexual behavior
  5. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  6. Impulsiveness
  7. Irresponsibility
  8. Juvenile delinquency
  9. Early behavioral problems
  10. Revocation of conditional release
Traits not correlated with either factor:
  1. Many short-term marital relationships
  2. Criminal versatility
When a sociopath or psychopath is cornered and there is no way out for them, they often become severely depressed. Because of that, it is not uncommon for them to commit suicide. That is  what happened with Craigslist Killer, Philip Markoff (right). He knew there was no way out of his predicament. So he found a way to kill himself in his jail cell and as a final act of control, write messages in his own blood on his cell wall. This could possibly happen with Casey Anthony as well.

Sociopaths and psychopaths do not commit suicide for the same reasons non-psychopaths or non-sociopaths would commit suicide. Instead, they commit suicide as a final act of control. So if Casey is found guilty of the crime of murdering her daughter Caylee and is sentenced to death by the State, she may very well attempt suicide and succeed. In doing so, it may serve as her final act of defiance and control. She may commit suicide as an act of controlling her own death on her own terms.

While many may believe that Casey is too narcissistic to kill herself, that may not  at all be the case. If and when she is housed in a prison’s death row, Casey will get a rude awakening.

Right now, she is the center of attention, and she appears to be loving it. She gets to show off her different outfits and hair styles in the courtroom. For Casey, it is important to her that she always look good. That is why you always see her grooming her hair or adjusting her clothing. She also gets the pleasure of seeing her crush and attorney Jose Baez, and whomever else she fancies at the moment. She gets the pleasure of sharing a smile or a laugh with Jose. Most of all , she gets the joy of seeing her parents agonizing over her in the courtroom, while she purposely ignores them. She gets the thrill of knowing that her every move is televised and scrutinized by the press and that she is the subject of websites, news articles and television shows. There is no doubt that she flourishes with all of this attention bestowed upon her.

But if she is found guilty and sentenced to death, all of that external attention will suddenly disappear. Instead, she will experience hours and hours of complete isolation and boredom. There will be a disturbing lack of visual and auditory stimulation on a regular basis.

So stimulus-seeking Casey, who needs all of that attention to survive, may have a terrible time dealing with and tolerating her newly imposed boredom. Because the lack of stimulation may be so intolerable and such torture for her, it would be highly possible for her to attempt to take matters into her own hands and kill herself because she may feel there is no way out.

Even though Casey would no doubt appeal her conviction, the legal process would be agonizingly slow. It could take years. There would not be daily, weekly or even monthly visits from attorneys. Even though she will no doubt continue to receive countless letters from fans who support her innocence, or receive marriage proposals from emotionally disturbed people who are captivated by her beauty, it may not be enough to sustain her.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Two Cases of Missing Mothers, and One Suspect

It was January 2, 2009 when Shon Pernice was scheduled to attend a training session with the Missouri National Guard. Instead he picks up his kids at a neighbors home and his wife, Renee, is not there. That evening his daughter from another relationship was concerned she had not heard from Renee, her step-mother. Around 9:30 pm the child calls Renee, leaving a voice mail asking her to come home.

Saturday, January 3, at approximately 4:30 a.m., leaving his 11,- 8-, and 6-year-old children alone while they were sleeping, Shon Pernice goes to a fire station. He used his key card to enter Fire Station No. 5’s hazmat storage area. This area stores chemicals used for clean-up of hazardous spills. Shon is an EMT for the Independence, Missouri, fire department assigned to Fire Station No. 7, not station No. 5–a huge red flag.

He does not report to the National Guard that weekend. He goes into a facility likely forgetting or not knowing that his key card will be documented and recorded upon entry. His story is fabricated. He is the last person to see her alive. He does not report Renee missing. He has a lot to lose financially.

On Saturday, January 3, the stepchild calls her mother. According to accounts, the child is scared, so her mother picks up the daughter at the Pernice home, cutting short the normal visit. She then contacts someone from Renee’s family. A few hours later a family member calls the Pernice home to speak to Renee. Shon answered and said that he did not know where Renee was. Family members called 911.

Shon Pernice has given conflicting information on when he last saw Renee. He told a family member it was on January 1. He told police it was on the morning of January 2 between 9 and 10 a.m. At approximately 3 p.m., family members met officers at Renee’s home. Family members, along with officers, entered the residence and discovered that no one was home. They also discovered that Renee’s purse, vehicle, personal hygiene items and coat were at the residence. They noticed that Renee’s wallet, credit cards and cell phone were missing. Renee’s car was parked in the garage.

At the Pernice residence a call came in to a family member from Renee’s cell phone at approximately 4 pm. A homeless man had found the phone at about 1 a.m. on the morning of January 3, 2009, on the ground in the northeast part of town, approximately 12 miles from Renee’s home. Police sent a patrolman to pick up Renee’s phone from the homeless person.

The family members, not Shon Pernice, filed a missing person report while at the residence with police.

Another red flag, and important pattern of conduct by the last person to see his wife alive, Shon Pernice and  two attorneys arrived at the home and ordered the family and police to leave. The attorneys stated Pernice would not be speaking to family members or the police except through them.

On Sunday, January 4, Renee’s family immediately printed up posters and began posting flyers. They also searched portions of Kessler Park close to where Renee’s cell phone was found. In addition, the family contacted the local news stations asking if they would broadcast the news of Renee’s disappearance.

Monday, January 5, Detectives found divorce documents at Renee’s place of employment. They also found a photo of Shon with one of the children and an unknown woman in the file.

Tuesday, January 6, in the evening, Shon drove to Line Creek Park, approximately 1.5 miles from Renee’s house and let the family dog out of the van and left. Detectives who were observing Shon retrieved the dog. On January 7, police to obtain a warrant to search Renee’s house and they obtained another warrant on January 9 for the car.

A little over two years since Renee Pernice vanished, her remains have yet to be recovered. Had the stepchild not been alarmed and contacted her mother, a lot more evidence would have likely vanished.

In May of 2010, without a body, Shon Pernice was charged with murder and is being held on a million dollar bond. He is scheduled for trial in June of 2011. What is disturbing is that Renee may never be located because of the chemicals, in my opinion, used when he killed her. The timeline of when the children went to bed and when Pernice left the residence is important because that is when he may have disposed of her body. Where he had it hidden is anyone's guess, but it had to be a safe enough place for him to return, a place only he knew, where no one would suspect.

The details a week prior are also important to the case, including cell phone records, purchases at hardware stores, his timecards at work, the strange woman in a photo with him and the kids. His fire work boots and, frankly, any shoes in his truck, locker at work, the house and on the property are important evidence along with credit card activity six months prior. If they can identify the woman from the photo, her cell phone records and credit card activity should also be considered, as this is someone who might unknowingly make purchases for him, or secure a cell phone and have packages delivered to her.

The pattern of conduct of Renee Pernice leading up to the day she vanished could be like so many other women trying to leave a marriage. Renee held a good job with a salary large enough to support herself and her children. In fact, Renee alone cared for her children while her husband was stationed overseas. During the investigation, divorce papers were discovered in Renee's home office, leading us to believe she was serious this time about leaving her marriage.

Renee Pernice was close to her family, was in constant contact, and as is often heard in cases of missing mothers, "She would never leave her children." Most of the statements from Shon Pernice are in direct contrast with the woman and mother her family knew her to be. Perhaps Renée confided in her family or close friends about the upcoming divorce, or about the problems in her marriage leading her to make the decision to finalize the divorce.

Tragically, this case is one of thousands, when a person begins a divorce action, separates or ends a relationship, that having the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit (as provided in the book Time's Up) and video prepared, with copies given to trusted friends and relatives, removes the burden by surviving families members to have cases of intimate partner homicide investigated and those responsible arrested.

A $25,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to where her remains. The family is trying to appeal to the people that know, or have heard things on the fringes and could give them a tip. That's all they're asking for, according to Renee's father, Rick Pretz.

Anyone with information on Renee Pernice's disappearance is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

Shon Pernice is also linked to another missing mother, Star Boomer. In my opinion, he can be placed at her crime scene according to eye witnesses years earlier. Star Boomer has been missing since 1999, and she left behind a son and a family who deserve some real, truthful answers. Shon Pernice was the last person known to see both women.

There is a $5,000 reward for information in Star Boomer's case. Call the TIPS Hotline or link to the family's private investigator's website for the case. Those with information about the disappearance of Star Boomer are asked to contact the KBI at (800)-KS-CRIME