Not Jesus. See?
Not Jesus. See?
I just stumbled across an update on the case of the Nikolayev baby, which was “snatched” from its parents by police officers and placed into CPS custody because the couple wanted a second opinion on a medical procedure. Video footage of the baby being seized from its mother’s arms went viral, and people around the expressed their outrage by what appeared a flagrant display of CPS abuse of power. The young couple was portrayed in the media as loving and attentive parents, deeply concerned with the needs of their sick baby and heartbroken by California CPS’ overreaching their authority by “illegally abducting” their child without so much as a court order.
As a mother, I’d found story especially chilling, particularly the implication that the State has the power to seize one’s child on a whim. Like many, I reacted with anger and disgust towards California CPS, Sacramento police, and the hospital employees who’d “sicced” CPS on the poor family in the first place.
California CPS was almost universally condemned for their actions, ordered to return the infant, and subjected to extensive auditing. At no point did it seem that CPS may have actually been justified in their course of action… until now.
You see, it turns out that there was more to this story than was ever reported in the media. Due to privacy regulations, CPS has never been able to tell their side of the story or explain the rationale behind their decision to seize baby — nor were they able to address the factual distortions and allegations of conspiracy which spread through the press like wildfire.
But this past November, court documents were released which paint a substantially different picture of what really occurred in the case of baby Sammy Nikolayev. It now appears that CPS may have been fully justified in their actions.
Directly from the medical records, dated March 27th:
Again, court docs:
Apparently the problem with the “second opinion” from Kaiser was that they either failed to fully understand the severity of this baby’s condition or else they were not made aware of certain facts — like that the baby had not been medicated for a full three weeks. I’m guessing it was a combination of both.
The Kaiser pediatrician who treated little Sammy expressed his full confidence that the five-month-old, eleven-pound, “hydrated-appearing,” baby would “gain weight/become fully hydrated” under the Nikolayevs’ care and instructed them to follow up with a pediatrician. Not a pediatric cardiologist, nor any of the specialists who had been working with the baby — just a regular, garden-variety pediatrician.
More from Reason.com:
So how did the Nikolayevs go from “competent and concerned” with Samuel’s care to being raided and having their baby removed within 24 hours? Court records reveal that the Sutter Memorial social worker, who had originally reported the case to CPS, didn’t trust the work done at Kaiser.
I’d say it’s pretty clear that CPS had some legitimate concerns, and that the baby may very well have been in imminent danger, which would legally justify CPS’s decision to act without a court order. Yet at this point the Reason article takes a surprisingly sharp and questionable turn, citing a letter to the parents from the pediatric cardiologist dated May 9th:
The Reason author believes that because the baby would not have been placed in imminent danger by Mom’s declining the surgery, CPS had no caused to act without a court order. I’d say that’s a pretty foolish conclusion to draw, one which completely disregards all the evidence presented in the first half of the article suggesting the baby was not being properly cared for. Whether or not the surgery was an emergency is in fact irrelevant; Sammy Nikolayev was removed from his parents’ custody due to allegations of severe neglect against his mother, not because the parents refused the operation.
Click here to read the full article from Reason.com
CLICK HERE to read part one: Death is Not a Medical Condition
The body of thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath was scheduled to be removed from “life support” (or more appropriately, ‘decomposition inhibition‘) at 5:00 pm PST on Monday. I don’t think anyone was overly shocked when the judge — whose rulings have suggested that he too may be suffering from a slight case of brain death — granted the family’s petition for an extension on the restraining order against Children’s Hospital Oakland. The hospital must now keep the corpse hooked up until 5:00 pm PST on January 7th, 2014, thus denying a bed and life-saving technology to the next critically ill child.
What’s it going to take, motherfucker? Another kid to die because a ventilator wasn’t available? The hospital is, of course, still expected to foot the bill, which at this point is likely reaching into the hundreds of thousands.
That’s right, folks; a cadaver is receiving “medical care,” which millions of Americans cannot afford because their monthly premiums are too high (plans in my state run as high as $1,300), their annual deductibles are outrageous (mine is $4,500), their coverage is limited (I’m currently fighting to get my son’s school epi-pen refilled), or because they do not have any health insurance whatsoever. How many of us regularly opt out of going to the doctor when we’re sick or are declining medical procedures that we simply cannot afford? You want health care in this country? Go fucking die. (No, really.)
But I digress.
The family claimed that they had found a New York “hospital” which was willing to take the corpse, and the judge proved mentally inept enough to believe them. But in fact, this so-called “hospital” does not yet even exist.
The Brendan House will be located in Suffolk County New York and offer residential treatment to patients with catastrophic brain injuries. What the family and its attorney neglected to tell the judge is that construction of this facility only began this past October, and they are not expected to open their doors before April 2014. The facility’s own website indicates that they have raised less than half the money needed in order to complete the project. According to their Facebook page, as of December 22nd, they had finally finished installing the windows. (No word on when/how they intend to procure decomposition-inhibiting equipment and hire a staff.)
You’re probably wondering what the hell kind of brain trauma center would fail to make the distinction between brain injuries and death. NBC’s local affiliate reports:
Scerri’s website biography states she owned a beauty salon and then became a “leader in the health field began years ago when she started a support group for women with infertility problems.” The site said she opened the center when her father suffered a TBI in a motorcycle accident. Steve Scerri is listed as the vice president of the company; his past business experience includes founding a cemetery center and three self-storage facilities.
Well, that explains a lot.
The family has announced their plans to contract a private jet to transport the body to New York. When? Who the fuck knows. But one thing is certain; it isn’t going to happen.
As previously mentioned, the state of California only licences hospitals, mortuaries, and coroners to transfer dead bodies. Special permits may be obtained from the coroner’s office, yet state law dictates that corpses transported by private carriers must first be embalmed. Moreover, the family has yet to obtain written permission from the coroner’s office, despite the attorney’s claims to the contrary.
In other words, they plan to illegally move the corpse. Now I’m no legal expert, but it seems to me that we’re looking at the following violations of California law:
California Health and Safety Code section 7355:
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), the bodies of persons who have died from any cause shall not be received for transportation by a common carrier unless the body has been embalmed and prepared by a licensed embalmer and placed in a sound casket and enclosed in a transportation case.
(b) A dead body, which cannot be embalmed or is in a state of decomposition, shall be received for transportation by a common carrier if the body is placed in an airtight metal casket enclosed in a strong transportation case or in a sound casket enclosed in an airtight metal or metal-lined transportation case.
California Health and Safety Code section 754(b):
”every person who deposits or disposes of any human remains in any place, except in a cemetery, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
In addition to facing charges in the state of California, everyone involved in this madness — the family, the attorney, and any transport company stupid enough to help them — would be faced with similar charges under New York law:
New York State Code Section 4200:
Except in the cases in which a right to dissect it is expressly conferred by law, every body of a deceased person, within this state, shall be decently buried or incinerated within a reasonable time after death.
Now ask yourself this: do you really think the family and its attorney are serious about moving this body, or could they possibly have ulterior motives? I’d say that question is sort of a no-brainer… or a dead-brainer. (Sorry!)
Possible reasons for this charade:
1. Money. Mom nearly doubled her takings within twenty-four hours of the judge’s ruling. As of New Year’s Eve, she’d managed to score $40, 570. (Remind me to start my own GoFundMe account… mama needs a new mattress.)
2. Publicity. By mouthing off to the media, both the family and its attorney are setting the stage for an emotional distress lawsuit against the hospital, to be served up cold along with the inevitable malpractice suit. They’re hoping to rack up pity points with the public — Poor Mom, she’s done everything she could; those mean ol’ doctors! — while they in fact sit around with their thumbs up their asses and dollar signs in their eyes.
3. Popularity. Have you seen the sorts of idiots who’ve come out in support of Mom en masse? Of course you have. The scheming bitch is enjoying her status as a national celebrity. As long as the judge continues to allow her to preserve her daughter’s corpse using expensive equipment that was intended to save lives, she’ll remain a champion of the epsilon semi-morons and the right-to-lifers. (The notion of a corpse having a “right to life” makes me think of this scene from Life of Brian.)
4. Revenge. Mom has made it abundantly clear that trolling the hospital is high on her agenda. Her daughter is dead, and she wants someone to blame. (Never mind her own part in all of this — or the part she may have played — I’ll get to that soon.) The entire family has set out to smear the reputation of Children’s Hospital Oakland, lying through their teeth about the hospital actively interfering with their plans to move the body, when in fact they have no plan.
5. Guilt. The surgeries Jahi McMath underwent were high risk and questionable in their effectiveness. They were entirely elective. (More on that in a moment.)
6. Possible Smokescreen. And now we get down to what may truly be the heart of this matter.
As stated before, despite nearly every media outlet having reported the operation preceding the girl’s death to have been a routine tonsillectomy, she had in fact undergone three separate elective procedures to address her sleep apnea:
An adenotonsillectomy; a uvulopalatopharyngloplasty, or UPPP, which is tissue removal in the throat; and submucous resection of bilateral inferior turbinates, which is nasal obstruction.
Unlike a “routine tonsillectomy,” an adenotonsillectomy involves removing the adenoids along with the tonsils.
In addition to lying about the “routine tonsillectomy,” the family has attempted to hide behind HIPPA legislation to conceal the truth and further attack the hospital for botching something so simple as a tonsillectomy.
Jahi McMath was morbidly obese, which was likely the cause of her sleep apnea in the first place. (Why choose a healthy lifestyle for your kid when there’s the quick-fix of surgery, right?) But what I find astounding is that Mom chose this surgery while undoubtedly aware that Jahi’s obesity would have put her at significant risk for complications. In fact, at least one of these surgeries — the uvulopalatopharyngloplasty — has been demonstrated virtually ineffective for obese patients. Are you going to tell me diet and exercise weren’t an option?
After the surgeries, Jahi would have been ordered to wait at least a full week before ingesting solid food. Does Mom really seem the type to listen to the doctors? Again, consider what we know:
Jahi McMath was a morbidly obese child who obviously wasn’t used to being told ‘no’ when it came to food. Mom has refused to listen to nearly everything the hospital has told her, from the fact of her daughter’s death (which I’m sure she knows) to the steps she must take in order to transfer the body (identify a facility, arrange for transport, obtain a permit). And if this case couldn’t get any more bizarre, Mom’s latest complaint against the hospital is that they are denying food to her daughter’s corpse:
“To watch my daughter just sit there and not have food… I’m just so happy that she is kind of a thick girl so she still looks good. I tell her every day, ‘Jahi, you losin’ weight girl, but you still look good.’ I just think it’s inhumane to not feed my child, to not refer to her by her name, and stop us in our tracks.”
If she’s eager to feed her daughter post-mortem, what does this suggest about the likelihood of her having fed the girl post-op? I think it’s highly possible that Jahi, already at risk for complications, was slipped a little treat by her mother sometime after the procedures.
If Children’s Hospital had suspicions to this effect, they would be noted in the girl’s medical records. An autopsy soon after death might have easily confirmed such suspicions. Yet the longer Mom insists upon carrying on with this dog and pony show, the lesser the chance of an autopsy determining what ultimately killed her daughter. And I think that’s what Mom is really after.
One more thing: I nearly forgot to mention The Video. But that’s okay, because Mom did too, until Monday.
The family now claims that the corpse is responding to its mother’s voice and touch, and that they are in possession of a video which demonstrates as much. According to the girl’s grandmother — Mom’s mom — and a fucking nurse:
“She’s moving her body. Her vital signs are good.”
I can’t help but be reminded of Nicholas Coke, the anencephalic that survived on Medicaid for a record three years, and the claims of it being “responsive,” particularly to its birth unit and her mother. (Another group of morons that the media loved to coddle.)
But the fact that Grandma — a fucking nurse — would have the audacity to refer to vital signs while speaking of a corpse really says a hell of a lot about these people.
Mom knows, Grandma, knows, and the lawyer (who has slipped up and referred to the corpse as a “body” on a multiple occasions) most certainly knows. They’re merely taking advantage of all the idiots out there who are mentally incapable of distinguishing between death and a medical condition — or who otherwise refuse to do so for ideological reasons.
Bottom line: this family is vile, opportunistic, and sooner or later someone is going to have to step in and put an end to this madness. A children’s hospital in an impoverish area is being legally coerced into wasting thousands of dollars per day and equipment which could be better put to use saving a child’s life. Just about every aspect of this case offends basic human sensibilities, as do the morons encouraging this family with their ridiculous rallies and donations to Mom’s manicure-and-party fund.
To anyone reading this who has been foolish enough to donate: she’s laughing at you all the way to the bank.
On December 12th, 2013, thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath died. (I’m linking to the Dreamin’ Demon thread because it has accumulated a wealth of articles, links, and other relevant information.)
Her death occurred following three separate surgeries of the throat and nasal passages to improve sleep apnea (including a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty), but which the family has insisted was nothing more than a “routine tonsillectomy.” This is not the only point on which the dead girl’s family and the hospital cannot agree. Despite the fact that this girl has been declared brain dead by six different physicians — two hospital-based, three independent, and one court-appointed — the family is insisting she be treated as if she were still alive.
“They told me without your brain, you can’t take your own breath, well, she’s trying, so that means something’s working.”
Yeah, Mom — it’s called a ventilator.
Have I mentioned that the maternal grandmother is a nurse?
Mom’s first move was to take the hospital to court, insisting she be kept on life support. On December 20th, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against the hospital to allow the family to seek yet another opinion. Yes, that’s right; while the corpse was being kept hooked up to life support at the hosptial’s expense (because insurance does not cover the dead), a judge issued a restraining order against them, citing “a lack of trust” between parties. This allowed Mom time to seek out an alternative opinion. She found that opinion all right, in the form of Dr. Paul A. Byrne.
Dr. Byrne is a neonatologist and author of multiple books on how brain death is not death. He is the founder of the Life Guardian Foundation, whose mission statement is “To protect and preserve God-given life from its conception to its natural end.” Furthermore, he is opposed to organ donation and transplantation and believes the only “true death” is the one defined by the Catholic Church, citing 14th century rulings to make his case.
Not surprisingly, Byrne’s professional opinion was that the girl was still alive. The hospital responded by pointing out Dr. Byrne’s ideological agenda, that neonatology is not neurology, and the fact that he never actually examined the body.
Fortunately, the judge ruled on Christmas Eve that he was sufficiently convinced that the corpse was in fact a corpse (what tipped you off, chum?) and that it could be disconnected from life support as early as Monday, December 30th.
But mom was not yet done — not by a long shot. She then went to the media and declared her intention to move her daughter’s body to a nursing home. On December 26th, the family claimed that they had found the corpse a new home:
“They told us there is a bed, they care for children like her all the time. They believe they can provide her with care and support and treat her as if she’s a living person.”
A facility full of dead kids? That’s a little hard to believe. What’s even more difficult to believe is their claim that insurance would cover the cost of the dead girl’s “care.”
But in order for the corpse to be moved to this unnamed facility, Children’s Hospital Oakland would first need to perform a trachiotomy and implant a feeding tube, which they are not prepared to do for a fucking corpse:
“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice.”
(Perhaps if Mom had been a little nicer…?) Though the hospital initially refused to even consider transferring the corpse to another facility, they reversed their decision the very next day (December 27th), advising Mom of three prerequisites for transfer:
(1) Identify the facility she claimed had agreed to accept the body.
(2) Make arrangements for transport.
(3) Obtain approval from the county coroner — which is a legal requirement.
I’m guessing the hospital attorneys figured that by giving Mom a project, she’d stay the hell out of the way — undoubtedly realizing that such a transfer would be legally impossible anyway.
In the state of California, only hospitals, coroners, and morticians are licensed to transfer corpses. Exemptions may be issued by the coroner’s office, but according to California Health and Safety Code 7355:
“the bodies of persons who have died from any cause shall not be received for transportation by a common carrier unless the body has been embalmed and prepared by a licensed embalmer and placed in a sound casket and enclosed in a transportation case.”
Later that day, the family claimed that the unnamed facility had “backed out” of the agreement after learning Children’s Hospital’s position on the situation. (What, that the “patient” is dead?) They then claimed that there were two more potential facilities lined up — one in California and the other in New York.
Mom then went ahead and set up an account with GoFundMe.com, seeking to raise $20,000 to have her daughters corpse airlifted… well… somewhere:
“I was just informed that the hospital my daughter was going to be airlifted to has backed out due to lack of Cooperation from Children’s Hospital Oakland.”
“The hospital my daughter was going to be lifted to.” And yet the family has repeatedly claimed that the body was going to be transferred to a nursing home. This is a crucial distinction to make! By no means do I think this was a simple typo, because saying the body was going to a nursing facility would only continue to hurt her case, wheras claiming that it was a hospital makes the fund seem legitimate. As I’ve already pointed out, Californian hospitals can transport non-embalmed corpses, but nursing facilities cannot. I would not be surprised if the family’s attorney advised her to refer to explained the benefits of referring to the facility as a hospital.
So exactly was going to airlift the body? Certainly not Children’s Hospital. Mom is clearly lying about the airlift, and that isn’t all she’s lying about — but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. As of writing this, Mom has managed to raise $21,966 — a value which is steadily increasing.
I want to know where the $20,000 figure came from. I Googled “how much does it cost to airlift a patient,” and the first hit I came up with was Yahoo Answers, which suggested a flat $20,000. (How much do you wanna bet that Mom did the exact same thing?) The family claimed that one of the new facilities they were considering was located in California, while the other was in New York. Did Mom honestly expect a helicopter ride to New York to cost the same as a ride within the state of California?
Moreover, I’d love to know how Mom expects the body to be airlifted out of there. Does she plan to bribe the hospital? Fat chance of that. She’d have to go with a private carrier, which means that in order to airlift the body anywhere, it would first need to be embalmed. Again, how will Mom manage to accomplish the airlift? Perhaps a better question would be, What does Mom really plan on doing with that money?
On Sunday, December 29th, Mom claimed that one of the two facilities had agreed to take her daughter’s corpse, but that it has since backed out because of Children’s Hospital’s “interference”:
“I just found out that the facility my daughter was supposed to be going to has backed out! Children’s hospital has once again interfered with the placement of my daughter we still have a chance at 1 more facility so let us all pray.”
Donations soared after Mom posted this on the GoFundMe page. She doesn’t specify whether it was the California or the New York facility which backed out as a result of the hospital’s bullying, but that doesn’t really matter much anyway because the bitch is lying through her teeth.
After Mom’s latest GoFundMe post, Children Hospital Oakland decided they’d had enough. The hospital’s attorney issued a statement which included an open letter to the family’s attorney. The statement reviewed the three preconditions to transferring the corpse (a facility, transportation, and coroner’s permission), not one of which Mom appears to have taken seriously. Not only has Mom failed to contact the coroner’s office and come up with some sort of a transport plan (which isn’t really possible), the letter has made a rather shocking revelation, one which explicitly contradicts several of Mom’s claims and casts doubt onto many, many more:
“To date, there has been no communication from any facility named by you regarding a transfer or requirements for transfer with any of the medical professionals at Children’s. The family has not identified any facility with which Children’s can have this dialogue.”
Reread that last quote from Mom about how Children’s Hospital “once again interfered.” When she isn’t denying the facts, she’s pulling them out of her ass!
At this point, I think Mom is simply looking for attention and to cash in on her daughter’s corpse. She’s upset about the death of her daughter and feels she deserves recompense. She exhibits a pattern of lashing out against the very people who are trying to help her: accusing the doctors of insensitivity and essentially killing her daughter, conning benevolent morons out of more than $20k, and I’m now convinced that she’s simply trolling Children’s Hospital as a means of punishing them for the girl’s death:
“They have not given me a reason yet of why she went into cardiac arrest. They haven’t even given me a reason for her bleeding. They haven’t given me a reason that they couldn’t stop the bleeding,” she said. “The only thing they keep pushing for me is to get her off their ventilator.
Because you won’t let them do an autopsy, you fucking moron!
Mom has been lying from the very start:
1. She lied about the operation being a routine tonsillectomy.
2. Odds are good that she either lied about the three unnamed facilities or else she lied to the facilities, which would account for why two of them have apparently backed out and why she doesn’t want the hospital in contact with any of them.
3. She was almost certainly lying about long-term care for a corpse being covered by insurance.
4. She clearly lied about a plan to airlift the corpse to that first facility.
5. She’s repeatedly lied about Children’s Hospital “interfering” with the corpse’s “placement.”
6. She’s clearly lying about what she plans to do with the GoFundMe money.
Even if Mom were to succeed in transporting her daughter’s corpse to some nice, cushy nursing home without violating California law, she would be guilty of a misdemeanor the moment the body was deposited. According to California Health and Safety Code section 754(b):
“every person who deposits or disposes of any human remains in any place, except in a cemetery, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Thankfully even California has some pretty solid laws against leaving dead bodies lying around; now if only people would acknowledge them.
The corpse is scheduled to be removed from life support at 5:00 pm this evening — that’s 8:00 pm EST. I’d not be surprise if it’s further delayed, as the family’s attorney has been hinting about seeking a Federal injunction. But even if the removal goes through as planned, we won’t be seeing the last of Mom. I’ve no doubt she’ll be suing Children’s Hospital for botching this “routine tonsillectomy” that wasn’t actually a routine tonsillectomy.
The media outlets which covered the “Poverty Thoughts” essay have avoided addressing this scandal, or else they’re simply making passing mention of it at the end of some long-winded article full of excerpts from the original essay. The truth is, Linda Walther Tirado lied about everything, and what’s more, she’s still collecting money on GoFundMe.com. As of posting this, she has managed to collect $62,138. Utterly despicable.
And just what does she plan on doing with all of the money she’s raised? I imagine she’ll used it to redecorate. She is evidently turning her kids’ room into a forest, “because I own this house and I can.”
Angelica Leicht of the Houston Press exposes this woman as a fraud with frank details of her luxurious lifestyle:
Also, click here for a look at the “roach-infested motel” in which Linda Walther Tirado and her family currently reside.
Nothing, and I do mean nothing infuriates me more that wrongful convictions. Whether we’re talking about false allegations of child abuse, murder, or rape, innocent people are being locked away for years — sometimes decades — for crimes they did not commit. Families are severed, lives are destroyed, and people are being hung out to dry by the very system that was supposed to protect them. There can be no greater injustice than that.
While the American code of justice demands that the accused be considered innocent unless (or “until”) proven guilty (the presumption of innocence is inherently flawed, but I’ll leave that alone for now), criminal cases involving children and/or highly sensitive issues (such as sexual assault) become so emotionally charged that it is virtually impossible for the accused to receive a fair trial. As I’ve said before, moral outrage interferes with justice. And crimes against women and children never fail to evoke a powerful emotional response which threatens to overshadow all evidence and objectivity. Feelings are substituted for facts, and the burden of proof shifts away from the Prosecution and onto the Defense. Justice is sacrificed for the sake of vengeance. In a nutshell, if the crime of which someone is accused involves children and/or rape, they are virtually guaranteed to be denied their right to fair trial.
Yes, I would rather see ten possible baby rapists go free than a single innocent person convicted.
The question is, who should ultimately be held liable for wrongful convictions? I think the answer to that is quite obvious: whichever parties were responsible for the miscarriage of justice.
A Virginia man spent 27 years behind bars for multiple rapes he did not commit. These convictions were based solely on eye-witness testimony — that of his alleged victims. It all began when a woman who claimed to have been raped days before spotted him at a grocery store and alerted police that she recognized her assailant. Police brought him in, and he was soon “identified” as the attacker of four other women. (Another of his alleged victims realized she was mistaken after the conviction.) Now, by no means am I suggesting that rape victims ought to bear the burden of proving their own cases in a court of law, but given the horrific consequences of false rape accusations, they do bear the responsibility of being certain whom they are accusing. Also, as The Forensic Examiner points out, “Although it may not be ‘politically correct’ to question the veracity of a women’s complaint of rape, failing to consider the accuser may be intentionally lying effectively eradicates the presumption of innocence.” In this case, the witnesses are clearly responsible — along with the juries which convicted him on the basis of their testimony. What it ultimately came down to was Mr. Haynesworth’s word against each of theirs, and the juries chose to convict an 18-year-old black man on the legal basis of he-said-she-said. Unfortunately, you cannot actually sue a jury, and I’m going to assume that it’s faux pas to sue a rape victim, because it appears this gentleman has yet to file any litigation. (Instead, he settled for a mail-room job from Cuccinelli .)
Just last year, Alton Logan ended up settling with the Chicago Police Department for $10.2 million after having spent 26 years behind bars for a murder. While it’s difficult to put a monetary value on half a life spent behind bars, I’d say Logan’s lawsuit was appropriate, considering the Chicago Police had concealed evidence which would have exonerated him. But far more reprehensible was the conduct of defense attorneys Dale Coventry and Jamie Kunz, who knew their client was the real murderer, yet kept this knowledge a secret for 26 years. Why, then, were they not also sued? Because they were “legally bound” to do so.
More and more cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome are being re-opened as the integrity of this “condition” is called into question. (One blogger has liken this “legal diagnosis” to the Satantic daycare sex-abuse scandal mentioned above.) It’s a valid comparison, really — in both cases, convictions have been based on dubious medical evidence from poorly qualified professionals, as well as on the moral outrage of the jury. And whatever happened to the “reasonable doubt” clause? When key witnesses are discredited, diagnoses are questioned, and medical professionals are called to testify outside their area of expertise, you have to wonder whether the jury fully grasps its own purpose. In wrongful convictions of Shaken Baby Syndrome, as with the ritual Satanic abuse case, I would hold the juries squarely at fault. But again, you cannot actually sue a jury.
Look, I get that there are reasons for judicial immunity. It protects both judges and juries from harassment by way of frivolous lawsuit and is intended to keep them objective in their rulings. At the same time, however, judicial immunity protects them from being held accountable for the ill consequences of their decisions. When a practice designed to promote objectivity is having the opposite effect, the question of, “Why are we still doing this?” must necessarily be raised.
It’s one thing for circuit judges to be protected by judicial immunity; as professional jurors, they are held accountable by other measures, such re-election or the potential for impeachment and removal from office. Juries, on the other hand, enjoy their immunity without any of these safeguards in place. True, they are only there to serve for a single trial, but if anything, I would expect this to make them even more flippant in their decisions. Compared to judges, juries demonstrate far less foresight and concern over the consequences of their verdicts — and what they might mean for the defendant. At the end of the day, they’ll go home to their crockpots and ESPN, while the defendant rots in prison for the rest of his life for a crime he appears to have committed. (The judge, at least, is back on the bench by Monday morning.)
Am I rallying against the use of juries in our judicial system? HELL, no — I’m rallying against irresponsible jurors.
I stand in favor of abolishing judicial immunity for both juries and judges in cases of wrongful conviction — but with some limitations. Obviously, the “wrongfulness” would first need to be established and the conviction reversed (I mean, how many people in prison are claiming to be innocent?) and another hearing would have to be held (hopefully at the bench!) to determine whether in fact the jury and/or judge were liable, and if so, by what degree. Then, and only then, would this open them up to civil litigation and/or penalties.
I also want there to be stiffer penalties for false accusation. When you have women like Crystal Magum being spared charges of filing a false police report, perjury, and obstruction of justice, what kind of message does this send out to would-be accusers?
There also needs to be better accountability for the individual investigators and their superiors. While I like to think that police corruption is a statistical rarity, it does happen, and not enough appropriate measures (emphasis on ‘appropriate’) are taken. For instance, it took the city of Chicago nearly thirty years and $56.25 million to finally do something about former police commander Jon Burge.
Convictions based on expert or medical testimony (such as Shaken Baby Syndrome or rape/molestation claims) need to re-examine both the source of the evidence (e.g., a doctor’s credentials and credibility), as well as the integrity of the evidence itself. Has the doctor who examined the child been trained in pediatrics? Did the emergency room doctor fully explain “Shaken Baby Syndrome” to the jury or even consider alternative diagnoses? Is he accustomed to establishing other modi operandi besides SBS?
Now obviously, this isn’t a one-stop, cure-all solution to preventing any new wrongful convictions, nor does this offer sufficient recompense to those who have suffered wrongful imprisonment. (How can that be compensated?) But it does provide a starting point for judicial improvement. Ultimately though, what it comes down to is better accountability within the justice system. Because even in light of the vast improvements in forensics and genetic technology, it is left to the police to collect the evidence, the DA to make the case, and the judge and jury to determine the defendant’s future. Objectivity must be paramount, a guilty verdict should not be presumed, and someone needs to be watching the Watchmen.