Showing posts with label Domestic Violence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Domestic Violence. Show all posts

Friday, June 11, 2021

Domestic Violence Against Black Men

Based on my own experience, logic, research, and history I have always believed that the differences that exist between men and women are not moral or ethical ones. 
I have known women who have any or every moral failing imaginable. I've also known selfless angelic women. Women as a group are no more moral than men. I'd like to believe otherwise but the evidence doesn't support that conclusion. 
Women may express themselves on average differently than men but anyone who holds on to Victorian ideals of female moral superiority is either deluding themselves or trying to trick other people. This even extends to the evil of domestic violence.
Professors like Dr. Tommy Curry and Dr. T. Hassan Johnson, who have actually done the research, have found that domestic violence, particularly in the Black community, is more bidirectional than many of us would like to admit. In other words men and women initiate domestic violence at close to the same rates and for many of the same reasons. 
The assumptions that philosophers hold about IPV and child physical and sexual abuse are really universalized descriptions derived from what social scientists and feminists asserted as causal amongst white families and in white communities. When we look at racial groups, IPV victimization rates between Black, Latino, and Indigenous men and women in the U.S. are roughly equal and have a much different etiology than IPV victimization between whites. Much of the intimate partner violence in racial groups is bidirectional, not unidirectional, as Duluth assumes, meaning that both partners are abusers and victims.
I was reminded of the truth of this statement by two recent hideous instances of domestic violence in which Black men were the victims.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Michigan State Senator Virgil Smith and Domestic Violence

The Bible tells us that only the person without sin should throw stones. It also informs us that we should judge not lest we be judged. That might be good moral advice but of course a working society requires that we do judge certain sins and crimes and punish those who engage in them. That's just the way it is. Although I think everyone has dealt with lust, jealousy and anger at some point in their life not everyone lets these sins get the better of them. You have to maintain control over your actions. The result of losing your temper could be disastrous for you and those around you. Michigan State Senator Virgil Smith (D-Detroit) is finding this out the hard way as new details and conflicting stories are emerging about a confrontation between Smith and his ex-wife that turned physical.  Two sides emerged Monday in the story of a lurid domestic shooting involving a state senator with longtime family connections to the the halls of power in Detroit and Lansing. State Sen. Virgil Smith told police that opening fire at his ex-wife’s Mercedes-Benz with a rifle early Sunday morning was “the most stupid thing” in his life. In a statement Smith gave to investigators, he said his ex-wife, whose name is being withheld by The Detroit News, “was banging on (the) bedroom window,” at about 1 a.m., a Detroit Police report said. Smith said he opened the front door, and his ex-wife, “kicked the door open and pushed (past) him. 

“(The ex-wife) went into (Smith’s) bedroom and observed a female ... in (Smith’s) bed. (Smith) stated that (the ex-wife) attempted to attack (the girlfriend),” the police report obtained by The News said. “(Smith) grabbed (his ex-wife), they fell backwards, knocking over the television. (Smith) stated that (his ex-wife) attempted to attack (his girlfriend) again.” Smith told police “he grabbed (his ex-wife) and forced her out of his house,” the police report said. Smith then told investigators he went back into the bedroom to check on his girlfriend, and then returned to the front door, “and observed (his ex-wife) throwing a chair at his house windows.  “(Smith) then stated he did the most stupid thing in his life, he shot (the ex-wife’s) vehicle,” the report said.  

A second police report, containing the ex-wife’s side of the story, was taken by police at 4:41 a.m. Sunday. She said Smith had invited her to stay the night at his house, and, when she arrived, “she was met by a naked (Smith) and an (unknown) female,” the report said. “At this time she became angry and upset, and both started verbally arguing. “At some point during the argument (Smith) grabbed her by the back of her head and shoved her face first into the carpet. Victim stood up and was struck by (Smith) 4-5 (times) in the face with closed fist causing cheeks on both sides of her face to swell.” Smith’s ex-wife told police she ran out the front door, and he chased her with “an (unknown) type long gun and followed behind. She observed muzzle flash (three times) as suspect began firing at her,” the report said. The ex-wife said she ran into a nearby alley as Smith fired the rifle. She said she went into the nearby home of a friend, “who allowed her to call 911 and clean her wounds.” 

The friend later tried to retrieve the ex-wife’s 2015 Mercedes Benz GLA250, but that it was “unable to start due to gunshot damage,” the report said. Evidence technicians later found three suspected bullet holes in the vehicle’s hood; two in the driver’s side headlight; two in the driver’s side front fender; and one each in the driver’s side door, windshield, and rear driver’s door pillar, the report said.

My thinking is that if Smith did not want his ex-wife at his home he never should have opened the door. Nothing good came from that decision. Perhaps he thought he could calm her down. Or perhaps he and the ex-wife were indeed planning to have some adult fun but the ex-wife did not know another woman would be there or didn't know that that particular woman would be there. Who can really say what's going on in someone else's private life. I have always thought that if someone is an ex there is likely a good reason for that status. Why change it? The problem for Smith is that although the differing stories around the confrontation inside the house may be unverifiable, the ten bullet holes in the car and his own alleged admission of firing the gun would seem to make this a pretty simple case of assault. The only reason to use a gun is if you're defending yourself from another person's deadly force. Even if Smith's crazy ex was throwing chairs at his home windows I don't see how that would legally or otherwise justify shooting at her or her car. But once some people lose their temper and HULK out so to speak, there is no reasoning with them. Still, as far as I'm concerned it's a fair expectation that a State Senator should be able to avoid situations that are more likely to show up on Worldstar than C-Span. I wonder why the other woman in this tale has not sought to press charges for assault? 

Should Smith's fellow Senators expel him from the State Senate?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Highland Park Police Love Triangle

The town of Highland Park, Michigan is not really a suburb of Detroit as the entire town is within Detroit. It is almost smack dab center in Detroit. Although it is an independent municipality, it has more or less the same class and racial demographics as Detroit and many of the same financial and tax issues. Center Line is a suburb of Detroit though, it, like Highland Park is surrounded by a larger city, in this case Warren. Warren and Center Line have (changing) demographics which still remain quite different from those of Detroit and Highland Park although neither Warren nor Center Line is a rich area. Thus concludes the SE Michigan geography lesson. I mention that only to point out that no place has a monopoly on stupidity. Although nationally you might have heard of this story as "Detroit area" or "Detroit cops" apparently none of this took place in the City of Detroit proper. So thank goodness for small favors.

I won't judge anyone else's private proclivities. You put a camera in anyone's bedroom you might be surprised at what you find. All I will say is that when your private behavior causes you to have to pull guns on people with whom you were previously doing the do, perhaps you might want ask yourself if you are really making good decisions. Because I'm thinking you're not. Fortunately nobody in this story was shot though but that was mostly through dumb luck. Situations like this while possibly humorous because of the exposed private affairs are also important reminders that police are not necessarily any more worthy of respect than other people. Though as they are usually armed they can be more dangerous than other people. But police or not some things are just dumb. Stupid is as stupid does. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. Watch the video below the jump.


A love triangle involving two Highland Park police officers ended with an armed standoff, and one of the officers has been charged with trying to kill his wife and another woman.

The domestic drama began when former Highland Park Police Reserve Officer James Johnson's wife says she found a used condom in the trash last month. 
After the discovery, Vivian called Highland Park Officer Varee Roberson over to their Center Line house. She was angry James had been with yet another woman after the three of them had engaged in sexual activity together back in June. 

Fox 2 News Headlines

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jayru Campbell Felony Charges Dismissed

We talked previously about former Cass Tech QB Jayru Campbell and his run-ins with the law. Now I don't know about you but if I had just gotten out of jail for assaulting someone I would make sure that at least for a while I would lay low and you know, try not to assault anyone. However Jayru Campbell apparently has a brain that doesn't work normally. Just hours after getting out of jail for body slamming a school security guard, Campbell assaulted his girlfriend, allegedly because he was concerned about text or other messages on her phone which hadn't come from him. While I can certainly understand a man or in this case a boy being deeply concerned that his girlfriend has concluded that his best just wasn't good enough, the fact remains that putting your hands on people in violence is usually a bad idea. It's a horrible idea when you were just released for doing the same thing. This shows everyone that whatever you experienced in jail, the experience apparently wasn't bad enough or long enough to make you realize that you never wanted to go back. Campbell did manage to dodge a bullet so to speak when the judge decided to dismiss the most serious felony charges that Campbell faced. It's quite possible that the prosecutors overcharged. I can't say yes or no to that. I'm no attorney. It's also possible that the judge bent over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who doesn't deserve it. It's true that there are far too many people, particularly black men and boys, who are wrongly caught up in the criminal justice system. It's also true that there are some individuals of all races and both genders who do need to spend some time away from the rest of us until they know how to act. Check out the video below and let us know what you think.

Detroit Cass Tech football star Jayru Campbell received a surprise in court today.
Campbell, who has had previous run-ins with the law, had his most serious charges dismissed for assaulting his girlfriend.
In 36th District Court Judge Ruth Carter dismissed charges of intent to do great bodily harm, unarmed robbery and fraudulent use of a computer Monday.

The 17-year-old is still facing a domestic violence charge, a 93-day misdemeanor. He remains in jail for a circuit court probation violation hearing. Some have questions wondering what kind of message today's decision in court is sending.
Beth Morrison, the head of Haven, a metro Detroit organization for victims of domestic violence was disappointed but not surprised by the dropped felony charges

Fox 2 News Headlines

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stephen Smith, Michelle Beadle and the Ray Rice Situation: Was Stephen Smith Defending Domestic Violence?

Man got his woman to take his seed /He got the power oh she got the need/ She spends her life through pleasing up her man/She feeds him dinner or anything she can/
She cries alone at night too often/ He smokes and drinks and don't come home at all/
Only women bleed only women bleed only women bleed/
Black eyes all of the time don't spend a dime clean up this grime/
And you there down on your knees begging me please come watch me bleed Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper
As you may have heard Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then fiancee and now wife Janay Palmer got into some sort of physical altercation in an Atlantic City hotel. Unlike the one way slap and kickfest between Solange Knowles and Jay-Z the public lacks video evidence of what exactly took place but apparently whatever fight took place the new Mrs. Rice lost decisively because we do see the video of Mr. Rice dragging the unconscious Mrs. Rice by her hair and lifting her up after he apparently knocked her out. The police arrested both Rice and Palmer. Each had assault charges filed against them. Janay Palmer's charges were later dropped while Mr. Rice's charges were increased. However as a first time offender, Mr. Rice was eligible to enter into a diversion program, which will allow him to avoid jail or prison. FWIW his wife indicated that she didn't want to pursue charges. In fact at the press conference in which Rice apologized to everyone except her, she said that she regretted the role she played in the incident. Ok. I can't imagine ever becoming violent with a woman. The very idea disgusts me. It's a virtual impossibility. Work it out or walk away. I was raised in a very traditional household. However I am also disgusted by the idea of a woman spitting on me or hitting me as Mrs. Rice is reported to have done to Mr. Rice. I think that everyone should abide by a no-hands rule in interpersonal conflict. When you start a violent confrontation you don't know what the other person might consider an appropriate response to your physical aggression. I have never understood people who hit or beat a spouse or intimate and then go to sleep in the same house as the person they just assaulted. I think that's dumb. You might get some hot grits thrown on you. You might not wake up with everything still attached. You might not wake up at all. So again, no violence against either party should ever be tolerated. This is for both moral reasons and those of pure self-interest. 

So with no jail time upcoming, the only question was what would NFL commissioner Roger Goodell do. Goodell has a media image, one aided by his own pronouncements, as a tough take no prisoners type of guy, who was going to lay down the law to bad guys. Beating your wife certainly is something a bad guy would do. So many people both in and outside of the NFL were a bit taken aback when Goodell announced that Ray Rice would be suspended for two games and have pay withheld for a third game. Some people wanted a tougher sanction. Oft irritating ESPN personality Stephen Smith is paid to be opinionated and loud. So he gave his opinion about the Rice situation. However he walked into a buzzsaw of controversy when he seemingly suggested that women can be taught or advised not to inflame situations. Likely the word that caused the media storm of controversy and set off a wordy twitter battle with fellow ESPN employee Michelle Beadle was "provoke". As expected Smith had to apologize for his statements which he duly did here. It was a pretty good apology as apologies go I guess. I would guess that his bosses at ESPN made it clear that it was not helpful to the network or his continued employment at the network for anyone to think that Smith or the network condoned beating up women. If I go tell the police that I was assaulted I would be taken aback if rather than ask who did it, their first question was "Well what were you doing to cause that? We need to investigate that first sir before we go bother other decent people on your say so." So I understand that discussion of "provoking" violence likely won't be well received by anyone who was the target of said violence.

Nevertheless I feel that Smith and his detractors are talking past one another, purposely or not. If I walked up to a man larger, stronger and entirely more dangerous than myself and said insulting things about his mother, punched him or spit in his face there's a good chance that after I got out of the hospital people might ask me why I thought my actions were appropriate. And those would be fair questions. There are many people who see the NFL as the last remaining he-man woman hater's club. But I don't think that's the case. There are plenty of other situations where businesses or organizations have looked the other way when a man who brings in money behaves poorly or even arguably criminally with women. Former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, who among other things, pleasured himself in front of a female journalist, and fashion photographer Terry Richardson, who has been accused of everything from generalized sleaziness to sexual harassment and assault, are just two examples of men not working with, in or for the NFL who somehow have managed to until recently avoid mainstream media attention, even after having done or allegedly done acts that are just as bad as what Ray Rice did. The ugly truth of the matter is that just like every other business, the NFL is looking to make money. That's the primary concern. If Charney were still making money for his company American Apparel he would still be in the big seat. And Richardson is skilled enough at what he does to still have legions of admirers and fans. And if Ray Rice rushes for 1300 yards this year, most Ravens fans won't care too much about whatever happened in that elevator. That may be sad and even immoral but it's just the way it is. So I don't think we should pretend that the NFL alone has a problem. 

Domestic violence is all over the place. It's a societal problem, not just a NFL or sports problem. Everyone should be aware of it and seek to stop it, regardless of the victim's gender. I think that is what Smith was trying to say. I think that as soon as Smith used the word "provoke" people thought about the classic stereotype of a woman cutting a man verbally and a man lashing out at her physically or for no reason at all because he's a cowardly POS. Those events still take place. I've seen a few, unfortunately. But times change. There are some quite dangerous women walking around out there. If you were the man unlucky enough to be intimate with Sadie Bell, you had better be ready to defend yourself at all times, up to and including fisticuffs or more. That's reality. 

ESPN on Tuesday announced a one-week suspension for one of its most controversial commentators, Stephen A. Smith, in the wake of his widely-criticized remarks about domestic abuse that referred to possible "provocation" by victims.

What do you think?
Is a two game suspension enough for Ray Rice?
Was Stephen Smith defending domestic violence?
Should Stephen Smith have been suspended?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wife tries to hire hit man to murder husband

I guess some people take "Until death do us part" a little too literally. I don't know how many stupid people have to get busted trying to solicit murder until the word gets out that trying to do this will almost inevitably wind up with the would be killer revealing themselves as an undercover police officer and the so-called shot-caller going to prison.  I mean I think I read at least one of these stories every six months or so somewhere in the United States. 

I'm also a little surprised that the husband doesn't want his wife to go to prison. Heck if that were me I'd want her under the prison like yesterday. For me anyway, it would be more than a little dismaying to learn that the person who is supposed to be your other half, the woman who's got your back, the one person who you can really count on, is making plans for your funeral arrangements...and you're not even sick. I mean this woman had all sorts of ideas about the best way to commit murder and get away with it.  I also think I might be a little cagey with my wife about exactly how much my life insurance was worth or precisely who the beneficiary was. But again, there's a thin line between love and hate and that's often quite evident in domestic violence cases. Six years seems a little light for sentencing but then again perhaps trying and failing to have your husband killed is better (or at least not as bad) than trying and actually succeeding in having your husband killed. Sometimes we wonder how much we're worth to the people that say they love us. I guess Mr. Merfeld knows the answer to that question. About $400,000 give or take.
An investigation into a 20-year-old West Michigan woman who later pleaded guilty to soliciting the murder of her 27-year-old husband included videotaped meetings with an undercover police detective. On the video, Julia Charlene Merfeld of Muskegon is heard telling the detective posing as a hit man that the killing would be "easier than divorcing him." Merfeld said that if he was killed she wouldn't have to worry about her family's judgment or "breaking his heart."  Two videos made in April were released to WZZM 13 by prosecutors. Merfeld pleaded guilty last month to soliciting a murder. She's jailed ahead of sentencing July 30 and is expected to face prison time. Authorities say she wanted her husband's $400,000 life insurance policy, and promised to pay $50,000 for the killing.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

Catherine Kieu and Domestic Violence: Double Standards

Driving into work this morning unfortunately there was nothing on the sports stations I was interested in listening to so I decided to check out the talk show host Mildred Gaddis. She splits her show between political sections and relationship sections, with the latter coming second. I was running very late this morning so I caught her show in the relationship segment. She, and most of her female callers were laughing at something. Most of the male callers didn't think whatever they were talking about was funny at all and that, (paraphrasing one) "the woman should spend life under the jail". I was intrigued but still didn't know what they were talking about. And I was getting closer to work. There were a few commercial breaks. Finally, after one woman caller said "the man deserved it", another woman caller said "it's too bad the garbage disposal didn't work better" and another woman caller said that "she allowed him to call 911, how bad could she be?" and yet another claimed "men need to learn how to act" ,all of which was met with roaring laughter by Gaddis, it started to click for me. They were talking about the beginning trial of alleged (although it's conceded she did it) genital mutilator Catherine Kieu , who in a fit of jealous rage, poisoned her estranged husband, chopped off his penis and threw it in the garbage disposal.

Remember this story?
SANTA ANA, Calif. - A Garden Grove man tearfully testified Wednesday that his estranged wife "murdered him" the night she allegedly laced his food with a sleep drug and tied him to his bed before castrating him and tossing his penis into a garbage disposal.
Catherine Kieu, 50, is accused of slashing off her the victim's penis with a kitchen knife on July 11, 2011.
"She murdered me that night," he testified Wednesday afternoon.
According to the prosecution, Kieu was furious that her estranged husband was dating a former girlfriend, so she drugged him by lacing his meal with Ambien, and when he passed out, tied him up, castrated him and tossed his penis into the garbage disposal.
Catherine Kieu's attorney countered that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and did not have the required mental state to be convicted of the charges she faces -- aggravated mayhem and torture, with a sentence-enhancing knife-use allegation.
If convicted, she faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole....

As I mentioned, I was way behind schedule this morning due to an unfortunate series of events so I did not have the interest or opportunity to check all of the various reactions over the past two years to this crime. But as far as I know the victim has to this day not been invited to the White House to discuss any Violence Against Men Act nor has any Senator or Congressman/woman adopted him as a cause celebre in the struggle against domestic violence. No one with mainstream media access has angrily pointed to his case as an example of the need to teach women not to mutilate. I do remember that when this story first broke, some women, just like the women I listened to on the radio this morning, thought that cutting off a man's penis and throwing it down the garbage disposal while he bleeds out was quite humorous. In fact one claimed that if she were Maria Shriver, that's what she would have done to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ok. Well we're all adults. Sometimes we may find things that are horribly inappropriate funny. Everyone has a different sense of humor after all. But see I'm a bit confused. We're constantly bombarded with messages that there's no excuse for violence against women, rape (of women) is never funny, dongle jokes aren't funny, fat jokes aren't funny, stop blaming the victim, blah, blah, blah. 
Fair enough. But violence against anyone should be deplored, not just that against women. 
And when some of the same people that would howl the loudest if someone made a joke about male on female domestic violence yuk it up over a woman permanently mutilating her estranged husband, it sends a mixed message at best. At worse it shows that some people are some horrible hypocrites.  Domestic violence against men is much more common than people realize.

If we're going to teach people that domestic violence is wrong it has to go both ways.  No matter how angry (justifiably or not) someone may become because their partner isn't doing what they want or is cheating on them or whatever, there must be a firm no hands rule enforced equally regardless of gender. Violence, particularly horrific violence that changes someone for life, isn't funny. Kieu is someone who should be locked up for life. Her victim is someone who deserves sympathy, not mockery. Your spouse, significant other or provider of thy nookie is "yours" only in the sense that they want to be. You don't own them. You can't punish them as if they were children or dispose of them as if they were property. When people forget that, male or female, they get into trouble. The fact that Gaddis ,and many but not all of her listeners, thought this story was funny and that the man somehow deserved it, says something not very good about gender relations. I can't imagine too many male media personalities making fun of a maimed female victim and keeping their jobs.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Limits to Religious Freedom: Circumcision and Herpes

I'm not religious although I don't think I'm necessarily anti-religious. People can believe what they like and within certain constraints act as they like based on their religious beliefs. If you want to believe that there's someone in the sky watching you or some Force in the universe that is interested in the doings of human beings, it doesn't really impact me. Go for it.  I came down on the side of the Catholic Church over the contraception provision controversy. Basically I think that as long as you aren't hurting anyone else the state should pretty much stay out of your affairs. I think that's a general good rule for most citizens and it's a constitutionally protected right for religious institutions. You mind your business and I will mind mine. Good fences make good neighbors. Each captain runs his own crew. We all have to tend our own gardens. Live and let live. And so on.
There are limits. You don't get to sacrifice babies to Baal. You don't get to force your children to become temple prostitutes for Ishtar. The Catholic Church has no constitutional right to priest-boy sex. Although your religion might find dogs unclean you can't go around banning or killing other people's dogs. And it's iffy because parents do have the right to oversee and direct medical care for their minor children but if a parent wanted to use prayer instead of medicine to treat a gunshot wound to a child I would not lose sleep if the state intervened, treated the child and arrested the parent. Those sorts of actions would make me hostile to religion, not just because the religious person is accepting myths that to me make no sense, but because they are harming other people. That's the red line I think.

So if you tell me that your religion requires that a grown man undertake bloody oral genital contact with a baby so that said baby becomes an acceptable member of your religious society , then I'm gonna reach for my baseball bat and keep a close eye on you while I call the cops. Because that is FAR across any sort of red line.
A baby died at a New York hospital in September after contracting herpes from a controversial circumcision ritual.The infant died at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, where the cause of death was listed as "disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction," according to the New York Daily News.
Now, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office is looking further into the case, the Jewish Week reports. The boy is the second New York area infant in recent years to die from complications related to the Orthodox Jewish ritual of metzitzah b'peh, during which "the mohel places his mouth on the freshly circumcised penis to draw blood away from the cut,"according to the New York City Department of Heath.For its part, the state health department — then headed by Antonina Novello, appointed by Republican Gov. Pataki, who himself had strong ties to the Orthodox community — reached its own agreement with chasidic leaders in June of 2006, hailed by Rabbi Niederman in a press release as a “historic protocol” and the one to which Zwiebel referred to above.
The 2010 letter to rabbis from the commissioner of the state health department, referenced above, noted that “over the past five years” there have been “several documented cases” of herpes simplex Type 1 viruses in newborns who underwent metzitzah b’peh in New York City. 
When it came to light that two more babies had been infected (apparently not by Fischer), Frieden issued an “Open Letter to the Jewish Community,” which recommended — but stopped short of requiring — a cessation of the practice altogether, instead endorsing alternatives to the practice, like using a sterile glass tube (which is done in modern Orthodox circles). 

Now putting aside the generally accepted hypocrisy that male circumcision is just fine while female circumcision is a Stone Age evil that must be stamped out, it seems to me that whatever your feelings might be about the propriety of chopping away genital tissue from newborns, at the very least you would have to admit that a man having oral contact with a boy's bleeding penis as part of a religious ritual is not safe and shouldn't be legal. 
Unfortunately because of political considerations in New York this has not attracted a huge amount of media attention. Finally law enforcement is looking into it because of the death of the babies, but honestly it never should have come to that. This is something where religion and state must clash and the state MUST win. The men who performed this deed should be identified, arrested and prosecuted with the full vigor of the law. The city and state of New York need to give out information about the health dangers of this practice and convince parents not to allow it. And finally if the parents refuse to change their behavior they ought to be arrested and charged the same way we would charge any other parent who harms a child. I don't see a lot of grey here. It's black and white for me. Man putting his mouth on boy's privates= man going to jail.
But what do you think?
1) Should this practice be outlawed? Do you see religious freedom problems?
2) Should the parents and/or rabbi go to jail?
3) Is focus on this practice anti-religious?
4) If outlawed would this interfere with parental prerogatives?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Battered Woman Syndrome-Real or Not

What does self-defense mean to you?

To me it's a pretty simple concept. Someone is threatening your life, the lives of those you love or of innocent bystanders and the only way to end that threat is to use deadly force against the person or persons making that threat. This means that either you can't leave, you are under no reasonable obligation to leave (i.e. you're in your home or your car) and the threat is imminent or immediate.

This last to me is pretty important. It's not really self-defense in a legal or moral sense of the term in my non-lawyerly mind if someone threatens you on Monday and on Saturday you see them and shoot them in the back while they're unarmed. Now of course they may have deserved it but that's not really self-defense. Or is it?

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York jury cleared a woman who shot dead her retired police officer husband of murder on Thursday in a case that had been seen as a test of the battered-woman defense.
Barbara Sheehan, 50, was acquitted of second-degree murder after three days of deliberations by the jury in state Supreme Court in Queens but was found guilty of a lesser charge of gun possession.
Sheehan's lawyers successfully argued that she fired only after her husband threatened to kill her, and Sheehan and her grown children had testified about the violent household ruled by Raymond Sheehan, 49, a former New York City Police sergeant. Both the prosecution and defense said the beatings and bruises came to an end on February 18, 2008, when Sheehan shot her husband 11 times in their Queens home.
Legal experts said the case was a test of the battered-woman defense, in which the history of abuse is explored to explain a woman's mental state at the time she is accused of committing a crime.
Key to the battered-woman defense is the issue of self defense. New York state law justifies the use of lethal force in response to an immediate threat to life. Under the battered-woman defense, lethal force can sometimes be justified even if the threat may not appear immediate. Court documents said the shooting happened after Sheehan refused to go on vacation with her husband. She testified she was scared because he had threatened to kill her if she didn't go.
Prosecutors said Sheehan shot her husband 11 times using two guns the former police officer had at home. Her husband was in the bathroom shaving before Sheehan shot him.

I don't doubt that abuse was going on. Likely these two people didn't need to share the same home any longer. And I have never ever ever understood how anyone can go to bed and sleep if their partner is SERIOUSLY upset. Because after all, sleeping in front of someone who is seething with anger at you just doesn't seem super prudent on anyone's part, no matter their gender.

There was no abuse in my immediate family though I have since known people who were either abusers or abusees and sometimes both. It's a tricky situation. The best rule imo is to say "no hands for any reason at any time". On the other hand I know that people do have fights and each person has the right to defend themselves. Everyone's tolerance for intimate violence is different. I simply can't imagine staying in a situation where someone was verbally, let alone physically abusing me.

That said, I do not like one bit the concept of "battered woman syndrome".
From afar, it appears as if a few of these woman kills man stories aren't about self-defense as much as they are about someone deciding they aren't going to take it any more or being angry over past humiliations and abuse. And I really don't like the idea of any sort of syndrome being available as a defense to someone only depending on their particular inalienable characteristic. The law -especially laws around killing people- should be blind to that sort of thing as much as possible. I've been on the planet a while now and one thing that I know is that although men and women differ in some key ways, morality isn't among them.

Shooting someone eleven times while they're shaving and then saying they deserved it because of previous incidents, I don't know. Is there a "battered man defense"? Would anyone seriously believe or sympathize with a man who killed his wife or girlfriend because he was "battered" and felt threatened? I don't think so. What's YOUR take?

1) Do you believe that battered woman syndrome should be permissible as a defense?
2) Is there ever any reason for a woman or man to hit each other?
3) Should abused spouses have to try to leave the situation before they can kill the other and claim self-defense?
4) Should you be able to kill people for what they might do as opposed to what they are doing?

Monday, July 25, 2011

DSK Accuser Speaks Out!

The Guinean woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, Nafissatou Diallo, has come out publicly to tell her side of the story. You can watch her here on Good Morning America. She also gave an interview with Newsweek here. This is evidently pretty unusual for an alleged rape victim. Given that everything seems to indicate that the prosecutors do not intend to move forward with the case, this could be her method of pressuring them not to drop the case. Diallo will be doing a Nightline interview on Tuesday.

“Hello? Housekeeping.”
The maid hovered in the suite’s large living room, just inside the entrance. The 32-year-old Guinean, an employee of the Sofitel hotel, had been told by a room-service waiter that room 2806 was now free for cleaning, “Hello? Housekeeping,” the maid called out again. No reply. The door to the bedroom, to her left, was open, and she could see part of the bed. She glanced around the living room for luggage, saw none. “Hello? Housekeeping.” Then a naked man with white hair suddenly appeared, as if out of nowhere.
That’s how Nafissatou Diallo describes the start of the explosive incident on Saturday, May 14, that would forever change her life—and that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and, until that moment, the man tipped to be the next president of France. Now the woman known universally as the “DSK maid” has broken her public silence for the first time, talking for more than three hours with NEWSWEEK at the office of her attorneys, Thompson Wigdor, on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.
I honestly can't call it. Strauss-Kahn has a long history of alleged extra marital affairs. He has also been accused of rape by a French writer, Tristane Banon, whose mother also weirdly claimed she had brutal consensual sex with DSK.  Ms. Diallo holds to her story and says she wants DSK to go to jail. But since she lied to the grand jury and prosecutors does she have any credibility now?
Unsurprisingly DSK's lawyers were not amused and put out this terse statement.
Ms. Diallo is the first accuser in history to conduct a media campaign to persuade a prosecutor to pursue charges against a person from whom she wants money.  Her lawyers and public relations consultants have orchestrated an unprecedented number of media events and rallies to bring pressure on the prosecutors in this case after she had to admit  her extraordinary efforts to mislead them. Her lawyers know that her claim for money suffers a fatal blow when the criminal charges are dismissed, as they must be.
This conduct by lawyers  is unprofessional and it violates fundamental rules of professional conduct for lawyers. Its obvious purpose is to inflame public opinion against a defendant in a pending criminal case. The fact is, however, that  the number of rallies, press conferences, and media events they have orchestrated is exceeded only by the number of lies and misstatements  she has made to law enforcement, friends, medical professionals and reporters.
It is time for this unseemly circus to stop.
Do these developments change your mind about what might have happened?
Do you think it's time to do away with anonymity for alleged rape victims? If not why not?
If someone lies about one thing is it safe to presume they will lie about other things?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Supreme Court Approves Violent Video Games, Scalia PWNS Fellow Conservatives

Congratulations to all of you kids out there on your recent legal victory, even though you're probably too busy playing Call of Duty right now to know what the heck I'm talking about.  In case you were wondering, your days of playing shoot 'em up video games have been secured for many years to come by the nation's highest Court in a 5-4 decision, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assoc., which held that the First Amendment does not allow the States to ban the sale of violent video games to minors. The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan (a rare combination indeed), ruled that video games (even violent ones) qualify as First Amendment "Free Speech" just like books, movies, plays, cartoons and comic books.  Pursuant to this holding, the Court struck down a California law that sought to make it illegal to sell what it defined as "violent video games" to anybody under the age of 18, irrespective of whether the kid had his or her parents' permission or not.  What was also particularly interesting about this case is that conservative Justice Scalia, in rare form, went IN on his fellow conservative Justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who departed from his opinion on this issue.

Scalia basically starts off by acknowledging the general rule in First Amendment free speech cases which is this:  government cannot make laws that restrict our freedom of speech.  That's the general rule.  As with most general rules, there are, of course, a few recognized exceptions:  (i) fighting words, (ii) speech that incites people to violence, (iii) defamation or slander and, last but not least, (iv) obscenity.  Now when it comes to obscenity, the Supreme Court is very specific and very cautious as to what constitutes "obscenity," since, after all, one man's obscenity could be argued as another man's art.  Scalia notes that, to date, the Court has "been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of sexual conduct."  Majority opinion at 5 (emphasis supplied).  So, by Scalia's view, that distinguishes this statute from a statute that, for example, attempts to make it illegal to sell pornography to minors.  Scalia goes on to say that kids in America have been exposed to violence for centuries, and, as evidence of this fact, he cites to common children's literature such as Grimm's Fairy Tales, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Homer's Odysseus, and Lord of the Flies, which all have violent episodes at some point during their respective stories.  He concludes that California's law against video games does not pass the First Amendment's "strict scrutiny" test for 2 reasons: (i) the law is underinclusive because it was only aimed at violent video games as opposed to being aimed at ALL violent images that effect children such as cartoons, comic books, etc.; and (ii) the law is overinclusive because it would have penalized children who actually received the green light from their parents to play violent video games.

Alito concurs with the Court's ultimate decision to strike down California's law, but he doesn't agree with how the Court arrived at its conclusion.  Alito basically takes the position that violent video games are not like anything our kids have ever been exposed to before.  He goes on at length to describe how wrong violent video games are for kids, stating that:

In some of these games, the violence is astounding.  Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement, including machine guns, shotguns, clubs, hammers, axes, swords, and chainsaws.  Victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces.  They cry out in agony and beg for mercy.  Blood gushes, splatters, and pools.  Severed body parts and gobs of human remains are graphically shown.  In some games, points are awarded based, not only on the number of victims killed, but on the killing technique employed...this experience is different from reading a book, listening to a radio broadcast, or viewing a movie."  Alito concurring opinion at 14-17.

Scalia sharply disagrees with Alito's argument, saying:

Justice Alito recounts all these disgusting video games in order to disgust us - but disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression.  Majority opinion at 11.  Justice Alito accuses us of pronouncing that playing violent video games "is not different in 'kind'" from reading violent literature.  Well of course it is different in kind...[r]eading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat.  But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.  Majority opinion at 9, n. 4.

Justice Thomas, in a rare departure form his conservative brethren on the bench, completely disagreed with Scalia's analysis. Thomas takes the "Originalist" approach and argues that the "original meaning" of the First Amendment "does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors' parents or guardians."  Thomas dissenting opinion at 1.  In other words, kids don't have any free speech rights and neither do video game producers who sell their games to kids because the founding fathers didn't intend to include them in the First Amendment when they wrote it way back in 1791.   Scalia, who is usually joined by Thomas in every opinion that he writes, seems to have had enough of Thomas' so-called Originalism on this issue and comes back hard on Thomas:

Justice Thomas ignores the holding of [Erznoznik v. Jacksonville], and denies that persons under 18 have any constitutional right to speak or be spoken to without their parents' consent.  He cites no case, state or federal, supporting this view, and to our knowledge there is none.  Majority opinion at 7-8, n. 3.

It is one thing for the Justices to disagree from time to time about the precedent used by the other Justices on a particular issue.  It is an entirely different matter altogether for a Justice to say that another Justice has NO precedent for their argument whatsoever.  Folks, this is the equivalent of a Supreme Court Justice turning to another Justice and saying "Dude, you obviously have no idea what the F*#@ you're talking about!!!"

We don't tend to hear too much about Justice Stephen Breyer.  Along with the 3 ladies of the Court, he is usually the fourth member of the progressive voting block on all the hotly contested issues that are divided 5-4 down ideological lines.  But, other than that, he sort of just stays quiet and hangs out in the background, rarely writing an opinion one way or another on a given case.  Breyer argues that the California law actually does pass the First Amendment's "strict scrutiny" test because:

The statute prevents no one from playing a video game, it prevents no adult from buying a video game, and it prevents no child from or adolescent from obtaining a game provided a parent is willing to help.  All it prevents is a child or adolescent from buying, without a parent's assistance, a gruesomely violent video game of a kind that the industry itself tells us it wants to keep out of the hands of those under the age of 17.  Breyer dissenting opinion at 10.
So Breyer, unlike the Majority, doesn't see anything wrong with the law as it is written - a point so basic that Scalia doesn't really bother to launch a counter-attack against Breyer the same way he did against Alito and Thomas.

This case presents many good questions:

1. Who has the best argument of the 4 opinions and why?
2. Is the "Originalist" method of interpretation no longer a valid way to interpret the Constitution?
3. Should we as a society keep violent video games out of the hands of our kids? 
4. Do you believe that violent video games make the people who play them more prone to violence.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Leon Walker a Criminal?

If I call from work and the phone is busy
I never, never, never, never, never ask who was on the line (oh no)
If I get home late she don’t ask any questions (no she don’t, you know why)
Cause she’s got her thing going and you know I’ve got mine
-Isaac Hayes “One Big Unhappy Family”

Married people lose some freedom of action and privacy. That’s life. A marriage where one spouse is constantly telling the other one to mind his or her own business is one that probably won’t last. Her business becomes his business and vice versa. On the other hand married or not, people still are individuals and have some expectation of privacy, don’t they?

Leon Walker worried that his wife Clara was cheating on him with her allegedly abusive second husband. He decided to check her email accounts. He found proof of her affair and notified her first ex-husband, who decided to use this information in a custody dispute. Ex #1 was supposedly concerned that his child was being exposed to possible abuse by Ex #2. Leon was also allegedly apprehensive about his own child's safety.

So what right? This is nothing new. Some happy or trusting spouses have joint email accounts which either may use. They sometimes share their passwords with each other. Less trusting or more private spouses often keep an eye on each other and may even occasionally surreptitiously check emails, text messages, voicemails, etc. Morally such actions may be somewhat dubious but it’s not like the police are going to arrest you or the local prosecutor will try to convict you of hacking or spying or anything like that. Well not usually anyway….  


Free Press Article 

Legal experts say it's the first time the statute has been used in a domestic case, and it might be hard to prove. "It's going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here," said Frederick Lane, a Vermont attorney and nationally recognized expert who has published five books on electronic privacy. The fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, may help him, Lane said.
"I would guess there is enough gray area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy," he said.
About 45% of divorce cases involve some snooping -- and gathering -- of e-mail, Facebook and other online material, Lane said. But he added that those are generally used by the warring parties for civil reasons -- not for criminal prosecution.

I would think similar actions could take place in almost any breakup as people seek information that they can use for greater leverage in divorce or custody hearings. Both men and women have been known to lie. What was sharing a password two years ago when the marriage was happy could become an invasion of privacy when the couple decides to divorce. It appears to me that the prosecutor is using the law incorrectly here. So far judges have refused to throw out the charges.
I don’t understand how a man can be charged with hacking into a computer that was either paid for by him or may be joint marital property. The computer also exists in a location that is either his or jointly owned/rented.  This criminal case could make divorces even more contentious than they already are since the option of jailing someone along with divorcing them would be incredibly tempting for many people who aren’t saints. And I don’t know too many saints.

But the prosecutor has not charged the woman with the crime of adultery.

Is this an appropriate application of the Michigan computer crime law? Does this man deserve five years in prison? Would you change your opinion if the genders were reversed and the woman was facing possible incarceration for snooping? Does a spouse have a right (legal or moral) to know if his or her partner is cheating? Should the woman be charged with adultery?