Gosnell Gets Life Without Parole x2

Dr Kermit Gosnell accepted a deal in which he received life in prison without parole in exchange for giving up his right to an appeal. 

He will be sentenced Wednesday for the third conviction, which is for involuntary manslaughter.

I think this is a good deal for everyone involved. I doubt that the 72-year-old Dr Gosnell will be busting out of prison to kill more people the way Ted Bundy did. By forfeiting the right to appeal, he will almost certainly have to do the time.

From CBS News:

Kermit Gosnell Update: Convicted Pa. abortion doctor gets life in prison 

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Monday, May 13, 2013, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic.

 / AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim

(CBS/AP) PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of killing three babies who were born alive in his clinic agreed Tuesday to give up his right to an appeal and faces life in prison but will be spared a death sentence.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was convicted Monday of first-degree murder in the deaths of the babies who were delivered alive and killed with scissors.

In a case that became a flashpoint in the nation’s abortion debate, former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants dispatched the newborns by “snipping” their spines, as he referred to it.

Prosecutors agreed to two life sentences without parole for two of the three first-degree murder convictions, and Gosnell was to be sentenced Wednesday in the death of the third baby, an involuntary manslaughter conviction in the death of a patient and hundreds of lesser counts.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty because Gosnell killed more than one person, and his victims were especially vulnerable given their age. But Gosnell’s own advanced age had made it unlikely he would ever be executed before his appeals ran out.

Gosnell has said he considered himself a pioneering inner-city doctor who helped desperate women get late-term abortions. Defense lawyer Jack McMahon said before the sentencing deal that his client’s bid for acquittal was a battle. (Read the rest here.)

Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart, or In the Head?

0415 AUDRIE POTT sized jpg full 600

Sheila Pott, mother of Audrie Pott, with photo of Audrie 

Here are the facts.

  • Fifteen year old girl attends a party in one of the elite zip codes in this country.
  • She drinks. Maybe she drinks too much. Maybe her drink was doctored.
  • What is certain is that she was raped by boys she thought were her friends.
  • The boys put graphic photos of the rape on the internet.
  • The girl hanged herself.

I have had to deal twice with situations like this in my job as a representative. One was a girl who killed herself after a gang rape by five men who took photos and showed them around, including to the police. When the police told the girl there were photos, she went home, got in the bathtub and killed herself with a shotgun blast to the face.

The other girl tried to kill herself. After four days in critical care, she survived. 

I’m going to post an excerpt of an article about the little girl who hung herself. I want to talk about the attitudes that show through this article. I have no grievance with the person who wrote it. They’ve just fallen into our societal trap of cleaning up what should be faced and excusing that for which there is no excuse.

The article begins by saying that 15-year-old Audrie got drunk at a party and when she woke up, concluded that she had been “sexually abused.” Let’s get our terminology straight. She concluded, probably due to some grisly physical evidence, that she’d been raped. 

Remember that word: Rape. It’s ugly and people don’t like it. But the word isn’t the real ugliness. The ugliness is living in a society where 15-year-old girls can be treated like this and then suffer the further indignity of having reporters try to clean the horror up for the perps with the use of “soft” expressions like “sexual abuse” to describe what happened. 

These upstanding young men posted “graphic” photos of their rape of their friend on Facebook. After Audrie saw the photos on the internet, and endured the mockery of emails and texts circulating about what had been done to her, eight days after she was raped, she hung herself.

According to our reporter, “the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.”

Is that what’s this “case” is about? “Sexual abuse” and “callous” use of technology? 

If we accept this kind of bland obfuscation of the brutal rape and murder by suicide of this young girl as a problem with technology and “cyber-bullying,” we need to burn our Member of the Human Race Card and go sit in the corner with the trolls and monsters of our deepest darkness.

To paraphrase a line from the movie Grosse Point Blank, where are all the good people dead:  In the heart, or in the head? 

Let’s get one thing clear: I don’t talk about misunderstood mass murderers and rapists who are otherwise such good people on this blog. You won’t see sweet-face lists of these young men’s accomplishments and wonderment about “how could such fine boys do this?” You’ll not read a word of sympathy and grief if they get sent to the prison where they belong, no matter how much they cry for themselves when they are sentenced. 

They were without pity for Audrie. I don’t care if they bawl their eyes out for themselves. I hope they spend the rest of their lives in jail. I don’t think they should ever breathe another free breath again. 

If you do something like this, then I put you in the monster column. The only way to get off that column is to manifest extreme remorse and humble grief for what you have done, coupled with a willingness to admit that you have in fact done it and that you are willing to do anything it takes to make up for it and to change. Even then, I want the proof of a changed life, and I mean a really changed life. 

Nice people do not rape their friends. They do not — ever — treat other people like things. They do not take photos of their raping and then post them on the internet, along with sending emails and texts to taunt, degrade and destroy their “friend” socially. What these men did to this girl, the rape, was physical torture. What they did later was emotional torture. What this young girl faced was social death.

People who treat other people like this are monsters. They will remain monsters so long as they continue to excuse, defend and deny the utter depravity and sub-human cruelty of what they have allowed themselves to become.  

From The Washington Post: 

SARATOGA, Calif. — Fifteen-year-old Audrie Pott passed out drunk at a friend’s house, woke up and concluded she had been sexually abused.

In the days that followed, she was shocked to see an explicit photo of herself circulating among her classmates along with emails and text messages about the episode. And she was horrified to discover that her attackers were three of her friends, her family’s lawyer says.

Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.

“She pieced together with emails and texts who had done this to her. They were her friends. Her friends!” said family attorney Robert Allard. “That was the worst”

On Thursday, sheriff’s officials arrested three 16-year-old boys on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie, who committed suicide in September.

The arrests and the details that came spilling out shocked many in this prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000. And together with two other episodes recently in the news — a suicide in Canada and a rape in Steubenville, Ohio — the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.

“The problem with digital technologies is they can expand the harm that people suffer greatly,” said Nancy Willard, an Oregon-based cyberbullying expert and creator of a prevention program for schools.

Santa Clara County sheriff’s officials would not give any details on the circumstances around Audrie’s suicide. But Allard said Audrie had been drinking at a sleepover at a friend’s house, passed out and “woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable.” She knew she had been assaulted, he said.

She soon found an abundance of material online about that night, including a picture. (Read the rest here.) 

 

Forgiveness, Murder and the Law

This particular post will probably earn me a few brickbats. But I think it needs to be said.

Deacon Greg Kandra, who blogs at The Deacon’s Bench and Leah Libresco, who blogs at Unequally Yoked, each wrote posts about a New York Times Magazine article concerning forgiveness in the case of murder.

The article in question is a fascinating read about two Florida parents who were able to forgive their daughter’s murderer and then seek a reduced sentence for him. They used a process that is normally reserved for lesser crimes called restorative justice. Both Deacon Kendra and Leah Libresco seem to have positive feelings about this situation. In fact, the consensus opinion seems to be a sort of be-still-my-heart flutteriness. It. Is. So. Sweet.

My reaction, as someone who writes laws on one day and then deals with their consequences in her constituents’ lives on another day, is totally different. I know better than many people who will read this post why we need prisons. I also know better than many people who will read this post that criminals, even murderers, are people.

I grew up in a rough neighborhood that was full of violent people. I played with children when I was little who grew up to murder people later on. I knew them both before and after they committed these crimes. I also know people who have lost their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to murder, including but not limited to, the mass murder of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I represent a district with the highest number of ex-offenders of any district in Oklahoma. I have constituents who commit violent crimes and I also have constituents who are the victims of violent crimes. Sometimes, these are the same people, or are from the same family. I know a dear couple who lost their mother to murder and whose son later was executed for the unrelated crime of committing a murder during a robbery.

I’ve seen forgiveness that passes understanding. I’ve seen vengeance that also passes understanding. I’ve seen, close up and personal, the hollowing out grief of losing a child to murder.

I have also seen our criminal justice system at work.

All of this has led me to two conclusions.

(1) I oppose the death penalty in this country. Long before I was a Christian, I did not believe that we should execute people in this country. People are too weak, too prone to take shortcuts, manipulate and lie to ever entrust our judicial system with the ability to put human beings to death.

(2) I also oppose a victim-driven criminal justice system. 

Based on what was said in the article I read, and assuming that the facts in it were accurate and that there aren’t other, ameliorating circumstances, I have no doubt that the young man in question should have received a sentence of life in prison without the option of parole. Let me be clear about what I’m saying here: He committed a deliberate act of cold-blooded murder against an unarmed young woman who was on her knees in front of him at the time. He shot her in the face with a shot gun.

He should live out the rest of his life and die in prison for that crime.

The article tells the story of two parents who were able to forgive their daughter’s murderer. It sounds as if they did this almost at her death bed. They then sent messages to her murderer while he was in jail awaiting trial that they “still loved him.” They followed through on this by working with the young man’s parents to help him avoid, not just the death penalty, but any serious prison time for what he had done.

They convinced the prosecutor to enter into a process which is normally reserved for non-violent crimes known as “restorative justice” to deal with this young man. They did this, and the prosecutor agreed to it, despite the fact that no one debated that the young man was a cold-blooded murderer.

The girl’s parents entered this process with the idea that the young man should receive 5 years in prison for his crime. After hearing the details of how he killed their daughter, they were moved by emotion to ask for sentences ranging from 5-15 years. The prosecutor, after what he says was much “thought,” decided to give the killer a sentence of 20 years with 10 years probation.

Evidently, most people who read this story go all touchy-feely and misty-eyed.

I don’t.

In fact, the story gives me the creeps.

I view this sentence as a violation of the public trust on the part of the prosecutor. I also view it as a fine example of the nonsensical things that happen when we move to a victim-driven justice system.

Victims of violent crimes, and in the case of murder, their surviving families, react with raw emotion to the terrible things that have been done to them. This can make them demand guilty verdicts, even if that means doing away with a fair trial. It can lead them to push with everything they’ve got for harsh sentences, even when the sentence is out of proportion to the crime. On the other hand, in other cases like the one in this story, their hunger to express the forgiveness they have been able to reach can lead them into working for sentences that are also out of proportion, but this time on the side of leniency.

I have respect for anyone who can forgive from the heart when something as terrible as having your daughter shot in cold blood happens to them. That is what the parents in this story went through. Their daughter was shot in the face with a shot gun by an abusive boyfriend who had slapped her in previous arguments.

Let me repeat that: Their daughter was shot in the face with a shot gun by an abusive boyfriend who had slapped her in previous arguments.

Due to their intervention, their daughter’s murderer received a sentence of 20 years with 10 years probation for murdering a young woman who was on the cusp of a productive adult life.

The reason that story gives me the creeps is the bland assumption on the part of everyone that this crime was somehow or other a private thing between the murderer and the murdered girl’s family. The assumption seems to be that murder is a private injury, and that if the family of the murdered person can be satisfied by whatever sentence is arrived at, then justice has been done.

I absolutely do not believe this. Murder is not a private offense between family members. Murder is a crime against all of society. When a murderer is brought to trial, the case reads The people of the state of Oklahoma, or Florida or wherever vs The Murderer. It does not say the family of the murder victim vs the murderer.

By allowing this process to occur and then honoring it, the prosecutor set the people and their just demands for a working criminal justice system that is driven by law and not emotion aside. He focused his concerns on the victim’s family and the murderer himself. His question was not is he guilty? but Will he do it again? In short, he tried to use some sort of crystal ball to foresee the future and based his sentence on whatever he saw in his forecast. All in response to a victim-driven process.

There are reasons why the law takes the murder of an innocent person so seriously. There are reasons for harsh penalties for this crime. There are also reasons why the various laws allow for ameliorating circumstance. Not every murder is deliberate and cold-blooded. This one was.

I have sympathy and respect for the parents of this murdered girl. I am somewhat in awe of their Christian faith which allowed them to forgive this young man. However, when I read things about them visiting him in jail and working to lower his sentence; about them sending him messages saying that they “still love him,” I hear echoes of the many bereaved people I know.

I can’t talk about the things my constituents tell me. But I will say that there are people who form relationships with their children’s murderers and visit them in prison and actually claim they’ve come to love them. It’s not so unusual as you might think. It also isn’t so appealing in real life.

There is no one more lost and hollowed out than someone whose child has been murdered.  They want something, some contact with their lost child, and they are searching for it in the person who murdered them.

Some victims’ families want to “confront” their loved one’s murderer and ask the question that everyone who encounters the senseless violence of these devil-driven people asks. They want to know “Why?” Why did you do this to me? How could you do this to my child? Don’t you know, can’t you see how precious, how beautiful, how irreplaceable, she was?

They want something they can never have, which is satisfaction, and closure. The closure myth, the healing nonsense we spout after public tragedies feeds this mythology of “going on” as if nothing had happened. In truth, while they may appear to go on, and in fact may do that, they will never completely heal and they will never, this side of the grave, find closure. Some wounds bleed forever.

The pain is too much, and often families try to bury the pain by either working obsessively for the punishment of the murderer, or, conversely, working to help them. I don’t fully understand this. But I have seen a lot of it. It’s as if victims’ families and their murderers are hanging onto opposite ends of the same rope. And they never stop yanking on one another.

This is tragic. The ever-widening circles of grief and woundedness that these crimes of violence create damage everyone who comes near them. While forgiveness helps and may even allow a grieving family member to lay down their end of that rope, it does not and can not ever completely assuage the loss. Murder has no end in this life. Based on our mortal understanding of things, it is a forever crime.

The grief-driven relationships that form between families of murder victims and their loved one’s murderer, whether they be burning hate or saintly forgiveness, are always at least partly a response to pain that cannot be borne. I do not take this pain lightly. I certainly do not approach miracles of forgiveness disrespectfully.

But they are not a reason to give light sentences to cold-blooded murderers. The emotions of those family members who are moved to vengeance are also not reasons to give life sentences to people who killed someone by accident, even if the accident included serious negligence or even violence. Murder is an intentional act committed by someone who intends to kill.

A victim-driven justice system is a capricious and unworkable thing. People who lose family members to murder will never be the same again. They will not ever be able to respond to what has happened to their loved one with impartiality. No one, including themselves, should expect this of them. That is not to say that their feelings should be ignored in criminal proceedings. But their feelings should not be the only or even the most important factor in determining sentencing. The reason I say this is because murder is not a private event. It is always a crime against the whole of society.

Murder is not a private affair. It is a crime against both humanity and society. Families who are suffering the grief of losing someone to murder can not be the ones who determine the punishment. In the confusion and irrationality of their grief, some of them would have people burned alive for what were accidents, while others of them would, as in this case, ask to have cold-blooded murderers with a history of violent abusiveness turned loose after serving less time than a bank robber.

Some crimes, especially crimes of deliberate and un-doable violence, are too serious to ever be forgiven under the law. I am not talking about God’s ability to forgive someone and clean their souls. I’m also not talking about a victim or their family members hanging up their hate and forgiving what has been done to them. I’m talking about the law. The law is a wall around human life and safety. Every time that wall is breached, we are all a little bit less safe.

The law is not about forgiveness. Contrary to what they say on the crime shows on tv, it’s not about justice, either. The law is about public safety and social stability. Criminal law is there so that we can lie down in our beds without fear that we will be murdered in our sleep.

Some crimes should require that people go to prison, and that they stay there. It is not a question of rehabilitation. It is a question of setting the bar on these crimes high enough so that everyone knows that the crime itself is absolutely forbidden. There is no statute of limitation for murder. Time never runs out on the investigation. That is because murder is set apart from other crimes, even in its investigatory stages.

These laws, which treat murder differently from other crimes from the moment it is committed, reflect our commonly held belief that human life should be above all other considerations. I would say that this includes the wishes of the victim’s families.

People who deliberately and cold-bloodedly kill other people without ameliorating circumstances such as insanity or fear for their own safety or the safety of others, should go to prison and stay there for the rest of their lives. Forgiveness is not part of the equation.


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