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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

196

What to Do With This Story?

You may have already read the lengthy New York Times Magazine cover story on the young man who killed his girlfriend, and the restorative justice process that appears to have brought some closure to her family. It's a powerful article; her parents are very, very strong people, and their ability to meaningfully forgive their daughter's killer is more than laudable. There were those of us, however, who read the story, and didn't see a scared young man who needed redemption and has done hard work to achieve it, but an abuser with a history of physically assaulting his girlfriend who then finally finished the job, while (by his own account) she knelt on the ground, begging him to stop. 

Feministe's Jill Filipovic talks about the difficulty of applying a wonderful tool (restorative justice) to a particular set of cases (domestic violence), and the additional burden placed on the process when the real victim is unable to speak:

Restorative justice ideally centers a victim’s needs. But what of the many victims (usually women) who are intimately involved with the people (usually men) who commit crimes against them? What of the fact that abusers are often expert manipulators, and rely on community support and “but he’s such a nice guy!” to get away with repeated acts of violence? What of the inherent power imbalance between the victim and the abuser? What of community norms that are often accepting of abuse, or that see it as a personal problem and not a criminal act of violence?

Rebecca Hamilton, in her own response, worries about the sentencing ramifications of victim-centered justice:

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.

Where do we go with this, then? Is it a moving story about two people who did what they had to do to live the rest of their lives? Is it about the transformational power of accepting your own responsibility for having committed a terrible act? Is it about a process that can be both kinder and sharper than a conventional trial?

Distilled to its essence, perhaps this is just the story of an unsecured, loaded firearm left in a family home with a young man with a history of battering a young woman he professed to love.

196 Comments / Post A Comment

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

So is this blog now a place where we discuss New Yorker articles? If so, awesome, because my family and friends are exhausted with my attempts to drag them into discussions about things I read in the New Yorker.

kinbarichan

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll: I do love a discussion of any given New Yorker article, but this story was from The New York Times.

meetapossum

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll "Did you read that thing in the New Yorker last month about how golf is an analogy for marriage?"

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@meetapossum
Yeah that sketch is basically why I don't have any friends anymore.

Jen@twitter

All I know is that the current status quo in the criminal justice system has got to change. Things like restorative justice and specialty courts (drug courts, mental health courts, etc) and the likes are not perfect but they are certainly a step in the right direction.

sunflowernut

@Jen@twitter Agreed.

PistolPackinMama

@Jen@twitter I guess I feel like, in the case of domestic violence, restorative justice would be a lot more effective if the rest of society weren't non-restoratively justifying the crime.

I don't think restorative justice and other alternatives to criminal justice as we know it should be sidelined. But in this case, the particular crime really makes it hard for restoration (of a person to their community, of the community to harmony with its values, the victims to wholeness as much as they can) to work.

Ugh.

Anyway. Thanks, Nicole, for posting this!

Jen@twitter

@PistolPackinMama Right. I'm just saying that the current business as usual model isn't necessarily the best way either. In my opinion, situations like this go beyond the courts and it's time to start looking at alternative ways of dealing with EVERY kind of crime, including domestic violence. Something has got to change. We can't continue down the current path much longer. Throwing people in jail for whatever amount of time isn't helping 99.9% of the time.

Emby

Justice is so often at odds with itself and its various definitions and justifications. Is it:
-A means of providing vengeance?
-A means of removing a dangerous element from society?
-A means of rehabilitating someone so that they can rejoin society?
-A means of deterring someone from committing a crime in the first place?
-A means of encouraging social cohesion and deterring anti-social behavior?
-A means of collective guilt-lifting for our society's failure to protect?

We have all these different interpretations and motivations for justice, and relatively few tools to accomplish them. Imprisonment is an imprecise hammer for all the various and sundry nails.

I liked Jill's notion that a tool is only useful when used properly, and this seems very much like a case in which the tool of restorative justice is being used to hammer at one specific motivation for justice, yet fails completely at other motivations. Namely, it satisfies one subset of the wronged and rings hollow to those of us who would have justice serve our collective sense that punishment is needed; that the criminal must be removed or set aside; that vengeance has not been properly exacted.

I don't have an answer here. I don't know whether justice should serve the greater numbers or the greater good, whatever that may be. I do know that our visceral reaction to this story serves to remind that systematizing justice ("our justice system") will always fail one or another contradictory motivation for seeking justice. I do know that in light of a better answer, our energy perhaps is best leveled at efforts that prevent young men like Conor McBride from thinking of violence as a solution to disputes; from having easy access to firearms.

Judith Slutler

@Emby Seriously, I've had so many issues with short prison sentences since leaving the U.S. Intellectually I know it doesn't necessarily make sense to put people in prison for decades, and I've read all about the horrors we visit upon prisoners through solitary confinement etc. It shouldn't be the way we do things.

Then I read about someone who went to jail for rape and got put away for the legal minimum punishment of 2 years in prison and I'm just like "Germans, you've got to be kidding me."

In my brain severe offense still = a long time in jail I guess.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Emmanuelle Cunt
Another very interesting idea I ran across recently is an age cap on sentences for certain violent or sex-related crimes. Most of those sorts of crimes are committed so rarely by people over age 70 that incapacitation basically disappears as a basis for incarceration, and query whether the other bases justify the costs (including medical costs to the state) of continued incarceration after age 70.

Cawendaw

@Emby It also seems like restorative justice requires a lot more rational cooperative parties to not go off the rails. I didn't get the sense that it was a disaster this time (although the real test will be in 20 years), but this particular case seemed like a perfect storm of restorativeness in that the perpetrator, the perpetrator's family, the victim's family, and the prosecutor were all involved and committed to the process (outwardly, anyway). And even here it sounds like the girl's father was on the brink of exploding when he heard the murder described. With a different set of actors, it sounds like it had the potential to traumatize the family more, or even start a feud. I like the idea of the perpetrator taking partial responsibility for his/her own punishment, but I don't know if the process is quite there yet for violent crime.

NeverOddOrEven

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll
But say someone goes in at 20 -- 50 years and then we expect them to adapt to life outside of prision? And sure, medical treatment will cost a ton if they stay in, but are we going to throw an elderly sick person out on their ass without any resources?
I just see a lot of people re-offending to get back in.

laurel

The parents' faith influencing the prosecution of the killer is repugnant to me (I'm only on page three so I don't understand how it works out yet) but this line by the mother is gorgeous: "Conor owed us a debt he could never repay. And releasing him from that debt would release us from expecting that anything in this world could satisfy us.”

Ellie

@laurel Why? If it were the prosecutor's faith that would be one thing because it would be a bias, but I think any value system used by victims' families to come to a perspective on the crime would be legit. Does it matter what their motivations are for wanting to forgive?

iceberg

@Ellie the parents faith has influenced how their daughter's murderer was prosecuted. if their faith demanded he be drawn & quartered instead of forgiven it wouldn't make such a nice story...

laurel

@Ellie I'm still reading it so I don't have the whole story yet but I find their personal ability to forgive quite beautiful. But it seems they've moved past forgiveness and influenced the prosecution and sentencing of a violent criminal based on their religious faith. Violent crime is not only a crime against the victim, it's a crime against the entire community. Given that I don't share their faith--which I reject based in part on its failings in regard to the rights of and respect for women--I'd prefer they not have more influence in criminal prosecution than anyone else.

But again, I'm still reading, so...

miss olsen

@iceberg I said this below, but the net outcome of the family's influence on the murderer's prosecution was negligible. He got 20 years plus 10 parole. That's not that unusual.

The influence of their forgiveness is likely to be more intangible, and (I choose to hope) probably for the good.

laurel

@miss olsen Spoiler alert!

miss olsen

@laurel I mean, I hope we're all reading the whole article before sounding off on how amazing or terrible restorative justice is?
ETA: I'm sorry, that sounds snippy. My work is tangentially related to restorative justice and I hear it dismissed without a second thought all the time, so I have a bit of a hair trigger in conversations like these.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@miss olsen What gall you have, madam, to suggest we read and digest before spewing opinion. Gall!

laurel

@miss olsen I'm not sure that I 'dismissed restorative justice without a second thought' in my extremely influential internet comments. But now that we're here, I'm disappointed by, according to the story, how the process completely ignored the fact that the killer had beat up the victim on multiple occasions prior to killing her.

PomPom

@miss olsen Hey, just wanted to say thanks for whatever work you do related to restorative justice. I'm a criminal defense lawyer who used to be a domestic violence counselor and the combination of those experiences increasingly leads me to feel like restorative justice is Where It's At in terms of making the right kind of progress with the criminal justice system.

PistolPackinMama

@laurel I sometimes think that releasing ourselves from the idea that anyone but ourselves will give us closure is probably the solution to a lot of problems in the world.

And yeah... so, what about people with different faiths, or none? What about them?

laurel

@PistolPackinMama I might be less distrustful of the process as described in this story if the conference was expanded to include unrelated community members. Perhaps it might help to diversify "the circle" so that perspectives a little less dismissive of violence against women and unsecured guns might also have some weight. But I guess we'd call that a jury?

PistolPackinMama

@laurel Hah. Right?

phoebe_weatherfield

@PomPom Also, props to you, dude, from one criminal defense lawyer to another. There are definitely some weird and awkward and morally-hard-to-navigate intersections between criminal defense work and feminism that I'm still working out (I'm young in this profession), so it really, really heartens me to here about other feminist-minded folks doing this work.

frigwiggin

All I can think of that picture from 2010 on the second page: they were children. How could this happen?

bananab0at

@frigwiggin children make dumb emotional mistakes all the time. that's why they shouldn't have access to fucking guns for fuck's sake.

waitykaitie

@bananab0at children make "dumb emotional mistakes all the time" or children engage in teen dating violence with alarming frequency? a failure of the families, schools and systems who let this continue.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@waitykaitie Yes. Thank you.

bananab0at

@waitykaitie yeah i found the discussion of his abuse was very insubstantial, as if they glossed over it to better fit the narrative.

either way, while it's clear this guy's dad's anger was a major problem that ended up blowing up both families' lives, a teenager backhanding his girlfriend during a heated argument (while horrible) isn't a direct line to shooting her in the face with a shotgun while she begged for mercy. it seems like a much more complicated faceted issue than teen violence.

OhMarie

@frigwiggin A childhood/family friend (I still see his parents sometimes at events) killed his girlfriend a few years ago after a pattern of domestic violence and I have thought about this a lot. Apparently batterers often have one or more of: a history as a child witness, substance abuse, and specific personality types/ways of processing information. It's still hard, but that did help me wrap my mind around it a little bit better.

Verity

@frigwiggin In the UK, at least, teenage girls are the demographic most at risk from domestic abuse (not all of their partners will also be teenagers, but a fair few will). It's frightening.

bananab0at

It's beautiful that the girl's family can comfort themselves by forgiving the perpetrator, but what about the safety of the community? Just b/c the family isn't suffused with anger and vengeance, doesn't mean they're thinking clearly enough to decide his sentence.

The concept of "restorative justice" is wonderful for someone who makes a heated, adolescent, short-sighted mistake - although lack of access to a firearm would've been preferable.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@bananab0at It's really hard for me to think of sustained abuse and finally murder as a "heated, adolescent, short-sighted mistake," though.

bananab0at

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose i found the article super unclear on that. either way, his abuse was clearly part of a generational cycle of anger that he hadn't learned to break yet (and maybe never will). but based on context clues - how his parents and her parents treated them individually and as a couple - it doesn't read as a violet sustained pattern of abuse. i really don't want to split hairs or characterize some abuse as 'worse' or 'better' - it just seemed to me that, in this particular case, it wasn't a pattern that built up to a violent murder. to me, this is about a gun making a bad couple of days into a permanent tragedy.

teaandcakeordeath

@bananab0at
I do think that not having a firearm would have reduced the chances of her being shot, but the abuse would have been there regardless.

Yes this boy is 19 and of course 19 year olds make mistakes but if his response to the pressures of life at 19 is to beat his girlfriend then I am genuinely terrified for any future girlfriends who encounter him at more stressful times in life.

I agree the earlier an abuser learns his ways of dealing with anger are wrong the better but maybe reformative justice needs to be applied in less severe cases?

What I'm trying to say, is that he shouldn't have to learn through the justice system that it's wrong to shoot someone in the face. Not just for him but for all subsequent girlfriends and their families.

bananab0at

@teaandcakeordeath based on all the comments here, i feel like i'm reading the article way wrong. it doesn't say he 'beat' her. both families, particularly hers, were so involved in their lives, and they knew nothing of any abuse... it led me to conclude that the abuse wasn't so violet and severe as to befit being capped off with a murder. i'm not defending abusers or saying they can't be secretive or manipulative, i'm saying that there's a big difference between this and something OJ Simpson-esque. the cycle of abuse is a disgusting embarrassment to modern society, but angry teenagers with teeming hormones with access to guns is straight-up fuckdiculous.

iceberg

@bananab0at It says he backhanded her a couple of times but neither family ever knew, I think?

bananab0at

@iceberg yeah that's what i thought, too. i really don't want to be the asshole minimizing abuse, but it seems like that aspect is being blown out of proportion from the rest of the very real horrible things that contributed to this tragedy.

teaandcakeordeath

@bananab0at
I definitely agree teenagers with guns is just a terrible terrible idea.

Also I found myself getting incredibly emotionally angry at this which means it's a good thing that I dont work in the justice system as I wouldn't really be able to judge well so I may have taken a leap with saying he beat her.

I think the thing I struggle with (outside of this case) is where that tolerance for abuse gets to the point where it is definitely unacceptable. I do honestly think that people can change for the better (when Im not angrily waving my pitchfork) when therapy happens early but I felt like shooting someone in the face should hit that line. Particularly as regardless of whether he had previously physically hurt her or not, he was in a relationship that generated enough anger that he went through the urge to shoot her.

I guess this is coloured by the fact that sometimes with abuse cases it seem's that there are not enough consequances (Chris Brown) and Im not really sure what the best system to treat this is, but whilst this might not be a premeditative murder, I really dont trust that a person who can murder his girlfriend this way can ever be considered safe around other people.

teaandcakeordeath

@bananab0at
Just saw your last point (will stop harrassing you!) but I agree that so many things (previous abuse, gun laws, access to mental care) contributed to this happening and it would be more helpful on a larger scale to look at ways of adressing those in order to prevent tradgedies such as this arising than thinking of the hundreds of ways to punish people.

bananab0at

@teaandcakeordeath yeah, i agree with a lot of this, too. it's just a hard thing to even discuss b/c nothing you can say will ultimately lead to a solution. it just makes me uncomfortable when people reduce this to a domestic violence issue b/c GUNS!!! GUNS are a danger to everyone, whether they're in a cycle of abuse or not! talking about domestic abuse isn't the magic bullet to give victimized women power and resources to rescue themselves from a horrible pattern. but talking about guns, and pointing out how this girl would be alive right now if her boyfriend didn't have access to one, it should be discussed more. b/c if enough people started calling it out, then maybe we can start talking about how to fix it.

and, having had only a tangential exposure to what domestic violence is like, and how it continues to happen, maybe i'm not qualified to offer an opinion. but one thing i think about is that when you lump all "abuse" together, it loses its meaning really quickly. a woman living in constant fear, who's life, children, and identity are at stake is very different from something like what this article describes. to write this off as an 'abuser' lumps in serious sociopaths with teenage kids who have bad examples at home but also a chance to rehabilitate themselves completely and lead normal healthy lives. this guy definitely deserved to face down both families and then go to jail for a long time, he deserves serious punishment for the shooting. but also GUNS deserve punishment, and people who defend owning guns deserve punishment, and his parents deserve punishment for keeping a gun in the house.

i just find it hard to believe that, the way this article described the two families, that these two were fated for a lifetime of violence and despair. the gun is what made it turn out that way.

bananab0at

@teaandcakeordeath you're not harassing! i thoroughly enjoyed this discussion :)

i really liked your point about where the line is for tolerance of abuse, b/c it can start so small and build so much. and that thing (the frog boiling alive analogy) is such a cognitive barrier for victims that it's seriously worth discussing. and yeah fucking chris brown should choke to death on his bic lady razor-severed ballsack.

HeyThatsMyBike

@teaandcakeordeath I'm going to totally agree with you that access to a gun is only one part of this whole story. There is actually a chance that this young girl would still be dead even if the kid didn't have a gun, though there's also a good chance she wouldn't be. We just don't know. He shouldn't have had access to a gun, but that's only one part of the story.
A friend of mine was murdered 5 years ago at age 25 by a friend of hers from college. He had recently broken up with a long-term girlfriend (after my friend's murder there were rumors that there had been abuse in that relationship), and made a pass at my friend while they watched a baseball game at his apartment. She apparently declined, and he responded by strangling her and then stabbing her repeatedly with a barbecue fork. He then sat with her dead body for about 8 hours before calling the police. Rumors of abuse aside, it is a fact that this man was thrown out of college for repeated violent outbursts. I'm sure if this young man owned a gun, he would have utilized it rather than choosing the more difficult method of killing her that he ultimately used, but in this case, his violent behavior was the real problem. And even sans gun, my friend is still dead.

Obviously each case is different and this is apples to oranges in many ways, but I totally agree that there are issues beyond just gun laws/ownership here. And to be clear, I 1000% agree the gun part needs to be addressed (in this case and is SO SO many others), but also believe that doing that alone isn't going to solve the problem by a long shot.
In any case, this story is infuriating and sad in so many ways. The poor girl.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@HeyThatsMyBike
Jesus. Christ. What happened to your friend is absolutely horrifying. I'm so sorry.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@bananab0at What? It doesn't read as a pattern of violent, sustained abuse? Even through the rosiest-tinted glasses I've ever seen a reporter use, the two had an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship that involved Conor devolving into rages that escalated to physical abuse several times. How does that not translate to sustained abuse?

teaandcakeordeath

@HeyThatsMyBike
I appreciate you told that story to discuss a wider issue but I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your friend and everything you've experienced.

HeyThatsMyBike

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose @teaandcakeordeath
Thanks, guys. I really did bring it up to illustrate a larger issue, but I really appreciate your sympathy. It is a shitty, terrible story and there are still times that I can't stop thinking about how absolutely terrified she must have been. He is currently serving 25 years. My friend was awarded a posthumous Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree last year, as she had just started vet school when she was killed. She is still missed by many.

teaandcakeordeath

@bananab0at
I think focusing on the gun issue, particularly with the recent Colorado/Connecticut events is more timely and would hopefully add more pressure for legislative change which would be more effective in the shorter run.

But I think the reason for bringing up that domestic violence aspect is important just because it is still something not well understood, particularly as said elsewhere you do have teenagers who sometimes glorify it and then develop extremely unhealthy long term emotional patterns.

What I would wish for with all of the media coverage of domestic violence is for people to understand earlier that they are locked in to an unhealthy pattern, so that maybe in cases such as this, the boyfriend could have recognized he was doing something wrong when (or rather well before) the back handers started, to prevent him from developing that anger streak in to become an abuser on the extreme side of the scale.

teaandcakeordeath

@HeyThatsMyBike
It is a terrible terrible story and it doesnt seem possible for there to be justice in a situation like this. It must have been painful so thank you for sharing. It is the worst example I can think of as to why abuse and mental illness needs to be recgonized and acted on.

My deepest heartfelt sympathies.

bananab0at

@teaandcakeordeath yeah, good point ... the more i think about it, the more complicated it gets. b/c putting aside the incendiary 'domestic violence' label, what you really have is an angry godfearing gun owner who starts a family without resolving his anger issues, passes them along to his son, who then shoots his girlfriend in a fit of pique. and so that dovetails with the mental illness angle b/c this cycle could've been forestalled with deep introspection and some talk therapy. but, not to overgeneralize, angry godfearing gunowners don't typically resolve their emotional issues through therapy.

again, this all comes back to the parents. the parents were involved in their kids' lives and their relationship, and should've picked up on the anger problems there. the parents of the boy were clearly aware of the anger issues in the family and did nothing to resolve those AND they kept a gun in the house. it just seems unrealistic to put the onus on the kids in the relationship to realize they were trapped in a cycle of anger and abuse. it seems like no matter how loud the dialogue is on this matter, it's hard for teens to inhabit a perspective that (a) runs counter to their parents' example that they've grown up with and (b) differentiates passion from anger in a relationship. it seems almost impossible to communicate that to teens; typically it takes years and many relationships to put that stuff in perspective.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

A wise judge once taught me that his job in sentencing a guilty party was 1) to punish the crime, 2) ensure community safety is upheld (like, if the person is a violent felon, then they shouldn't be in the community), 3) ensure that the victim and their family feels justice has been served, 4) (and last on the list) attempted rehabilitation of the guilty party.

I have little-to-no compassion for abusers of any kind, especially those who target children. I'm the family that wants them burned at the stake. This judge's philosophy worked in a more balanced way than I ever could.

iceberg

Well that was harrowing. I definitely wouldn't forgive. Not a Christian any more but "an eye for an eye" comes to mind...

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@iceberg ..."makes the whole world blind," as our pal Gandhi said. But trust, if it were my family member, I'd want All The Eyeballs.

iceberg

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose and that's why we (ETA - the family of the victim) shouldn't be allowed to influence sentencing, although as someone said above it doesn't appear to have had a HUGE effect. but precedent, etc.

Pound of Salt

@iceberg That's an Old Testament teaching. Jesus urged "turn the other cheek."

iceberg

@Pound of Salt Yes, I know. I guess I was just trying to say that I wouldn't be able to forgive someone who murdered my child but would take a more old-school gut-level vengeance approach, and that's why I don't think victim's families should be allowed a say in sentencing because objectively I do oppose the death penalty but in that situation I might be tempted to enforce it my own self.

Pound of Salt

@iceberg I agree, also because that could lead to wildly varied sentencing for similar crimes.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@iceberg
"No it doesn't. There'll be one guy left with one eye. How's the last blind guy going to take out the eye of the last guy left whose still got one eye left? All that guy has to do is run away and hide behind a bush. Ghandi was wrong. It's just that nobody's got the balls to come out and say it."

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll A world of eye patches. A pirate's paradise. But you can only wrong someone once, or else all your vision is lost. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. (That's all I've got.)

GrecoFranco

Thanks for sharing... I hadn't delved into the internet, but I was curious to see what other people would say about this piece. For me, I couldn't even look at the cover image, it just made me want to puke. The whole article made me feel so uneasy - I certainly hope this is not precedent-setting.

bananab0at

@GrecoFranco i know you didn't read the article, but re: precedent-setting, i have to disagree.

for one thing, the human brain is so adaptable that an extra-long prison sentence isn't as big a punishment as it sounds. also, it's not a linear regression where the more decades you spend in prison, the more putative it feels or the more rehabilitated you are or whatever.

secondly - and more importantly - the article makes it sound like the in-person conference this guy had to have with both sets of parents, where he had to detail his actions and face the sadness and dashed expectations, was considerably more harrowing than any time in jail could be.

whizz_dumb

@bananab0at this is where I am conflicted in my opposition to the death penalty. On one hand, I believe if 1 innocent person (in reality many more) has been killed by The State, the judicial system should not have the right to put people to death. A line must be drawn, or states like Texas need to stop killing people when there is any hint of doubt as to their guilt.

On the other hand, you say life in prison isn't so bad and that gives me pause because I do want despicable acts to get a proper punishment. I want entirely different prisons for horrible people who commit murder/sexual assaults/violent crimes. We can call them torture dungeons. Some people deserve hell on earth. But then, if 1 innocent person gets sentenced to "torture dungeon" then I'd feel pretty bad...and I'm stuck in a loop.

bananab0at

@whizz_dumb yeah i have no idea about the death penalty. on the one hand, the state assassinating innocent people b/c it can't be assed to do good police work and due diligence is disgusting. on the other hand, our taxes paying for someone to lift weights, play dominoes, and watch tv for committing an unspeakable crime isn't a great solution either.

and on top of that, you have stuff like this where's there's a pattern or a predisposition to a certain behavior, or even worse an irrepressible compulsion. like those cases where pedophiles are autopsied and it turns out they had a tumor pressing on their brain that caused that behavior. it's just fucking awful and the more you think about it, the more guilt seems to spread to the system, not just the people. you know what i mean?

the one thing that gives me solace in all this is that the sort of fringe-y vigilante justice sometimes can take care of this stuff. like pedophiles being absolutely tortured by their fellow prisoners. it's like you can't trust the system to mete out justice, but you can trust individuals to do it. even if it's really shitty individuals.

whizz_dumb

@bananab0at Yeah, fuck the system maaan. No really, it's broken, someone fix it. Also, I agree, that vigilante justice stirs up a good feeling and it's kinda weird.

PistolPackinMama

@whizz_dumb I dunno. Life in an Alabama prison would suck hard. It's adaptable, but still. I've had my share of interactions with dudes serving life sentences, or really long ones, like 30+ years, and the possibility of parole is about the only thing that made things bearable.

The mind is adaptable. So is human behavior, but folks know they are adapting to being dysfunctional, ostracized people.

Also, I don't really care much about how felons who are on the life/death line. It's my own personal desire to not be forced to tacitly accept state-mandated killing for justice in my name that makes me anti-death penalty. I don't want anything to do with it.

[The possibility of parole they probably won't get, I should add.]

miss olsen

@bananab0at I hope you're not being serious here.

1) The misconception that "prison isn't sooo bad, they get to watch tv and everything" profoundly distorts our conversations about justice (and leads directly to our current tacit acceptance of prison rape).

2) If you don't think criminals are being punished adequately, become a judge or a lawmaker or an advocate. But don't, don't, don't decide that one criminal torturing (your word is apt) another criminal satisfies any of the goals of modern-day justice.

That doesn't "take care" of anything at all. That vigilante violence IS the violence that pervades and contaminates our society and leads, directly or indirectly, to a whole host of horrible consequences, including what often looks like willful inability to see domestic violence for what it is.

bananab0at

@miss olsen 1) i was exaggerating, but since you're talking about justice - do you think prison is a 'just' punishment for a heinous crime? if the discussion is about crimes worthy of the death penalty, you think prison is a commensurate punishment? prison isn't a fun place, whether you've committed the crime you're punished for or not, but is a dangerous sociopath sufficiently dealt with by society by virtue of being locked up?

2) again, i have to disagree with how you define justice. b/c the people in charge of doling it out can sometimes carry out grave misjustice in service of political, reputational, or financial goals. i was (attempting to... i'm not a very clear writer) point out the flaws in the system, and that some things that are outside the broken system can be better tools. ad hoc justice, yeah, can sometimes be more appropriate to the situation, when the system in place to handle that situation doesn't handle it properly.

i'm not talking about vigilante violence, it's about justice being served outside the parameters of the weird, antiquated rules and systems we've inherited.

by the way, prison rape is also a byproduct of a broken justice system.

miss olsen

@bananab0at I deleted a long theoretical comment, because really all that matters is that the system is broken, we have the capacity to be really awful to one another, and this case is really sad and really complicated. Think we're in agreement there.

bananab0at

@miss olsen full disclosure: i get the hairpin email notification if someone replies to my comment, so i did read what you wrote and yes i do think we're mostly in agreement. i take your point that prison violence is NOT an acceptable alternative to a fair trial, and that it's not some fairy godmother solution. i just got really het up thinking about how - with so many problems in how we adjudicate, treat, and talk about people with various mental issues who commit various crimes - we're still SO FAR from addressing any of those problems. the New York Times devotes 10pgs to how revolutionary it is to discuss a problem and its solution in a holistic way with both the victim's family and perpetrator present! i just channeled my anger into a little bit of a hostile exaggeration, sorry.

miss olsen

@bananab0at Oh, no worries. I channel my anger into long internet comments and taking things super-personally and super-seriously. That's a great characterization of the times piece btw :)

Jess McCabe@twitter

I was worried about this too. But then I got to the end of the story, and saw that he got 20 years plus 10 on parole [edited because I didn't recall correctly!]

Perhaps it's because I'm British, and we're not used to 100-year sentences, but that felt like it was a reasonable sentence.

miss olsen

@Jess McCabe@twitter Yes. From Rebecca Hamilton's quote above and some of the discussion you'd think Conor was serving an unusually short sentence, the length of which was decided by the victim's family.

In 2000 the average prison term for convicted murders was 20 years, by the DoJ's stats.

Let's be clear: the process was perhaps unusual, but the outcome was not. The prosecutor ultimately chose the recommended prison time, and it's right in line with national averages.

I'd be interested to see the author check back in with Conor over the years. The rehabilitative value of prison is roughly zero, usually; it'd be interesting to see if the forgiveness/restorative process helps Conor resist the usual trend, which is for prison time to make people more violent and more likely to commit additional crimes.

iceberg

@miss olsen I don't disagree with you but I would add that even though it didn't affect the sentence THAT much, wouldn't it set a disturbing legal precedent? What about the abused wife who pleads for her husband's sentence to be reduced?

miss olsen

@iceberg I don't know; I'm not a lawyer. I'd love to hear from someone who could answer that.

iceberg

@miss olsen Yes! I meant to add that. Any lawyerly Pinners who could weigh in on this one?

Pound of Salt

@iceberg The abused wife who pleads for her husband's sentence to be reduced - that reminds me also of the debate over legalizing assisted suicide for the terminally ill. There's a fear that women in particular would feel the pressure to do it so as to not be a burden on their families anymore.

RNL
RNL

@iceberg It's a plea agreement, so it's not precedent-setting (at least as I understand it, and caveat: I didn't read this article with "legal eyes", and while I'm a lawyer, I don't practice in teh US and I don't practice criminal law. But I do practice in a common law system).

It's a like a settlement in a civil case. Settlements and pleas are not decided law. They don't go into the pot of stare decisis, and can't be relied on in subsequent cases.

iceberg

@RNL thank you for your insight!

phoebe_weatherfield

@iceberg Hey! Lawyer/Pinner here. I'm going to preface this by saying that I work in a state where victims have some specific rights (both under our state constitution and a state Victim's Rights Act--for example, the right to be heard at sentencing and the right to be present whenever the accused has a right to be present). RNL is right that this isn't precedent-setting in a legal sense. A future DA in this particular county in FLA, let alone a future DA in another state, wouldn't be legally bound to do this sort of thing again. My experience (full disclosure, I'm a public defender), honestly, is that how much a victim's perspective matters in how the case resolves is highly fact-specific. It depends on the nature of the allegations, how serious they are, the accused person's criminal history, the DA's impression of the victim's demeanor...and plus, DAs (again, in my state, YMMV) have the authority to continue to pursue a prosecution even when the victim would prefer the case be dropped for whatever reason, and likewise could dismiss the case even if the victim objected. The idea that a victim can simply "not press charges" isn't really accurate in a lot of places--if they call the cops, and make a statement, a person can still be prosecuted, even if the victim later says "I didn't want them to be arrested" or "I would like the charges reduced." Granted, you could potentially run into other challenges prosecuting a case with a truly recanting victim, but that's some law nerd stuff I won't subject y'all to unless you're really interested. So, suffice to say, I think it may have the potential to set a problematic tone, both from a victim's perspective, and potentially from a defendant's perspective (another comment for another day), but it doesn't bind future actors to a particular course of action. But as someone who works in this system, a I've gotta admit that i find restorative justice intriguing, to the extend that it might facilitate rehabilitation in a way that prison just plain doesn't for most folks. Anyway, I hope that's helpful! I love talking about this stuff so please ask more questions if you'd like!

NeverOddOrEven

@phoebe_weatherfield
Not a lawyer, but I work in the DA's office in another state and everything you've said holds here as well.

silviesays

This is going to sound sanctimonious as hell, but those people did what was right for them. What I have to say about it is worthless.

polka dots vs stripes

@silviesays I kind of agree with you (re: what we have to say about it is worthless), except Ann was not the only victim here. Violent crime affects a community at large, and the way we decide to deal with the perpetrators of violent crime influences the communities we and our children live in. We all have a say in how criminals should be treated, sentenced, etc etc, and our opinions on something like this (as well as scientific data about recidivism, drug treatment programs, mental health services, etc) matter a great deal.

waitykaitie

Nicole just came here to say THANK YOU for posting this! (I haven't commented in a long long time but felt compelled to come out of hiding). Reading this article over the weekend, I felt shocked and appalled that the phrase "domestic violence" wasn't even mentioned until the 7th or 8th page of the 10 page article online. I work at a DV agency so the issues here are obvious to me (DV is a cycle! Incidents are rarely isolated!) but in seeing the overall response to this article, I've realized how slow people are to identify this as an abusive relationship, and how the presence of DV complicates the otherwise commendable philosophy of restorative justice. Once again, my thanks!

smidge

@waitykaitie I was shocked by that too. How many times does a guy have to hit his girlfriend before it becomes DV??

Verity

@waitykaitie Same! I work for a DV charity too (although I do admin stuff rather than actually dealing with service users face to face), and it seemed really minimised.

Nicole Cliffe

I wanted the article to come with a copy of "The Gift of Fear."

Nicole Cliffe

@Nicole Cliffe How can we encourage young women to leave abusers so charming and manipulative that they can get your parents to visit them in jail after they kill you?

iceberg

@Nicole Cliffe Yikes.

Stephanie Boland@twitter

@Nicole Cliffe Yeah, never in a million fucking years would my parents hug someone who did that to me, and I'm really glad of that.

hallelujah

@Nicole Cliffe I thought before reading this that it was going to be some long journey of forgiveness for the parents. Hugging & laughing with your child's murderer BEFORE YOU EVEN TAKE YOUR DAUGHTER OFF LIFE SUPPORT? I feel sick. I hope there's not some afterlife where you can watch your family and friends & the poor woman had to witness that.

itiresias

@Stephanie Boland@twitter RIGHT? My mom would visit the dude just to spit on him. Forgiveness is definitely good for the soul and necessary on many levels, and this system of justice seems like it makes a lot of sense for many crimes that the courts spend too much money on..but harming, much less killing another human, fuck no.

Regina Phalange

@Nicole Cliffe I think that's a really unfair characterization of the relationship between Conor and her parents. I saw zero evidence they'd been "manipulated" into visiting him, or into doing anything around this process. They seemed to have a lot of agency.

granola

@Nicole Cliffe My sister's boyfriend beats her and will probably kill her someday and we are powerless. His family knows but thinks he is a wonderful, sensitive boy. Even when she's angry at him, she forces herself to agree with them because she knows his family would never side with her. She's beginning to believe her own lies.

The difference is that we will not forgive him, or any of them.

Nicole Cliffe

Oh, granola, I'm so, so sorry. My aunt and her lover ran a women's shelter for decades, and that combination of anger and frustration and sadness and impotence is the hardest part of working with individuals in situations of domestic violence.

granola

@Nicole Cliffe @PistolPackinMama @Courtney Jenkins@facebook Thank you. I haven't been able to talk to anybody aside from immediate family regarding this, and you have no idea how much I appreciate kind words from outside. I'm actually a little shocked at just how much I appreciate them.

PistolPackinMama

@granola Oh, god, granola, I am so very sorry. I hope your sis finds a way out.

Courtney Jenkins@facebook

@Nicole Cliffe GOD, this.

Courtney Jenkins@facebook

@granola I was your sister at one time. I almost got killed. I got out and I am okay. He was charming, he had everyone fooled. I know exactly what that's like.
I am begging the universe today for your sister's safety.

thebestjasmine

@Stephanie Boland@twitter My mother might actually kill him. I love my mother.

Mira

I really don't know what to think about this. It sounds like the murderer's father was abusive, too ("He learned how to be angry," what, and then also why did you keep a gun around?) and I wonder what the story is there.

I think the prosecutor comes out of this story well - willing to listen, but also mindful of the purpose of the criminal justice system and the community at large. I'm glad he took a more sober view of things, because I don't think we should be basing murder sentences on the religious views of victims' parents. The final sentence basically just knocks five years off the 25-year minimum for second-degree murder with a firearm in Florida, so the outcome doesn't seem totally outrageous. In that sense I don't really understand how any of this was a "diversion" from the criminal justice system; it kind of just looked like an extra-harrowing pre-plea conference to me. The killer's still in jail, where he belongs, for a long time.

polka dots vs stripes

if he had ever thought his shotgun would have harmed another person, he never would have kept it.

This made me so angry. Guns kill people. Don't have a gun in your house unless you're comfortable with it possibly being used to kill someone, and it might be someone you love. If you didn't have a gun in your house? Ann is still alive.

iceberg

@polka dots vs stripes YUP.

Mira

@polka dots vs stripes Co-sign. Lots of things about the murderer's father made me angry, but that quote was just...come on. Guns are for killing. That's what they're designed to do. I can't even imagine the thought process of someone who would keep one available around two children, one who's developmentally disabled (!!!!) and one who's in a volatile, violent relationship. It's outrageous.

polka dots vs stripes

@Mira The total denial of the kind of relationship these kids had was also shocking to me. This was not love, this was abuse, and that was totally glossed over by the parents and the journalist. Conor's father only after Ann's death admits "oh hey maybe he learned this from me," and I don't think it ever occurred to him that their relationship was/could turn so violent.

Nicole Cliffe

And he lived in their home on and off. I was literally shuddering thinking of her potentially trying to leave him under those circumstances, and hoping that wasn't what their fight was actually about. Not that it matters. He's telling his version of the story, even now.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Nicole Cliffe That's the super frustrating part. He's got total control of the narrative, because the only other person who knows what happened is dead.

LMac

@Nicole Cliffe I was so struck by how both sets of parents admitted that they were not good together, and their relationship was filled with constant fighting that was clearly more intense than just teenage drama. But then her parents say they thought he would be the father of their grandchildren? Who puts that kind of pressure on two 19-year olds with a hostile and volatile relationship? Ugh, horrible.

Oh, squiggles

@polka dots vs stripes Oh my god, yes! Why did you have the damn gun then? Agggh!

Judith Slutler

@polka dots vs stripes It reminds me a little bit of some of the stuff that was written after Kasandra Perkins was killed by her football player boyfriend & father of her newborn child. Obviously that was also colored by the fact that it was a murder-suicide, but a lot of people seemed to be focusing on the idea that "he loved her" "he really cared" and "he just snapped" even though he'd been out all night with another woman before murdering Perkins.

I think that restorative justice is a great idea, but how do we properly administer it in a society where we still have fucked up ideas about intimate partner violence?

teaandcakeordeath

@Absurd Bird
Not just why did you have the gun, why did you then take the gun, point the gun at her, listen to her beg with the gun pointed at her and then pull the trigger of the gun.

What the hell did you think would happen, boy?

Alli525

@polka dots vs stripes Well and also! Conor recounts "getting the gun down from a shelf." !!! I know this is Florida we're talking about, but what ever happened to keeping a legal gun in a solid, padlocked cabinet, and keeping the key somewhere only the legal gun owner knows about??

I mean, it's still owning a gun, and Conor is still to blame, but that dad F.U.C.K.E.D. U.P. and he got ZERO jail time.

PistolPackinMama

@polka dots vs stripes Right? This is not the gun cabinet in the scary castle of the Beast in Disney's version of the story. That gun's agency is limited to what the holder of the gun will do with it. Give me a fucking break.

PistolPackinMama

@Emmanuelle Cunt yes. Restoring to what? In the case of intimate partner violence, what exactly are we restoring?

Verity

@polka dots vs stripes Yes. Guns harm people; that's basically the point of them. If you're not comfortable with that (and I don't think you should be), DON'T HAVE ONE. It's like saying, "Well, if I thought this ravenous, angry bear might have attacked someone, I'd never have kept it in my house!". What on earth did he expect?

geek_tragedy

@Emmanuelle Cunt

YESSSSSSss this! I think PistolPackinMama said it well when she noted above that "in the case of domestic violence, restorative justice would be a lot more effective if the rest of society weren't non-restoratively justifying the crime."

It's not like we as a society consistently recognize and penalize violence (and against women and children especially.) Talk to me about restorative justice once we have a justice system in place that can actually deal with intimate partner violence without dismissing it. Also, justice is about every member of the community. I for one am not comfortable with batterers getting lighter sentences thanks to a restorative justice that combines with our societal blinkers to keep us from recognizing the seriousness of the crime.

Ann and Conor's relationship was obviously messed up, he hit her, and her last words were, "No, don't!" I don't believe that vegeance is good, but also don't know how this particular process served Ann. She was a woman killed by her intimate partner, she basically died on knees, and her killer was the only one left to tell the story.

Oh, squiggles

Forgiveness is important, but that probably shouldn't be influencing the sentencing of violent criminal.

charmcity

I am reading the article in bits and pieces as I can, and just finished the paragraph on Ann's parents' heartbreaking words at the pre-plea conference. This person murdered their daughter, but they know him like a son. Restorative justice at least SEEKS an answer to the question of what we do with a human being who has committed a horrible, irreversible act; yet is still alive, still in society. Right now, we lock him up forever or for long periods of time in prisons that act as breeding grounds for violence and recidivism. YES, Conor is an abuser. NO, it is not good public policy to send someone like that through our broken criminal justice system as-is.

Mira

@charmcity I don't agree. I think it is good public policy to send someone like that through the criminal justice system. He murdered someone who was on her knees begging him not to. Where else, exactly, does he belong?

I don't think the concept of restorative justice really works in cases where the victim is dead. She's gone; there isn't anyone to restore justice to. Obviously her parents were also grievously victimized, but they aren't the victims. She is, she's dead, and someone has to answer for that.

I don't know what the answer is. But I don't think this is it. I'm glad, for their sake, that the victim's parents were able to forgive this guy. But I don't think that should weigh in his sentence.

miss olsen

@Mira I don't know where else he belongs. But we do know that it is not financially or logistically possible to send every single person who kills under any circumstances to prison for life without parole. So, some people will kill and go to prison and come out. When they come out, they are usually more violent and more criminal and less productive.

I don't have an alternative, but from a purely public policy standpoint, that is not a good outcome.

charmcity

@Mira I understand that. And I certainly don't think he should get to make an end-run around the system. (He did not - he was sentenced to 20 years in jail after a plea agreement with a prosecutor, followed by a lengthy period of probation.) I just do not agree that it is helpful or meaningful to lock someone up forever; but beyond that, as @miss olsen pointed out, the system that we have now- where a criminal is sentenced and society essentially forgets about them for the period of their sentence until having to deal with an even more violent criminal upon release- is definitely not working. I suppose I think that some measure of rehabilitation is possible, even for an abuser. Even for a murderer.

charmcity

@Mira I do totally get what you're saying re: restorative justice and the role of the victim, though. It's interesting to think about whether it's a model that can ever be applied if the victim is dead or incapacitated. This article is really my introduction to the theory. Since the law renders a victim a witness to the crime, which is prosecuted at the discretion of the state, there is an interesting tension between the law and victims' rights in the criminal justice system at all.

PistolPackinMama

@charmcity It often is. Victims are considered to be people who were impacted by the crime. Ann's parents are considered victims as Ann herself was. It's part of the definition in RJ process.

The problem as far as I see it here is, there are two issues that are being conflated (or ignored, or elided or whatever). The first is that domestic violence and abusers are protected by society's views on the crime itself. (Which is, as we all know, not really all that great. It's ignored, justified, and minimized like woah.)

The second is that the justice system is seriously flawed, in all the ways we know it is flawed. If you are a lock em up and throw away the key type, or a rehabilitate and integrate type, either way your justice system doesn't really give you satisfactory outcomes in most types of crime.

Solving the second problem still leaves us with the fact that the first isn't taken seriously. And approaching the first in a productive way still leaves you with a fucked justice system.

This case is what happens when you have the two collide.

TrilbyLane

I understand some of the reservations, particularly the idea that it shouldn't wholly be down to two grieving and traumatised parents to decide a killer's fate. Not that it was in this case; their views and the process were taken into account, which seems just to me. Mostly wanted to say that I am loath to take Rebecca Hamilton's opinions on women's rights or murder particularly seriously, considering her anti-abortion activism.

CrescentMelissa

Nicole thank you so much for putting this up on the site. So many good conversations we are having about this.

Sister Administrator

This article makes me so mad, and judgey in ways that I know aren't fair.

Last night my Mum was gossiping about family friends, and raised a point she makes sometimes, which is that as much as she might grow to like and care about whatever men happen to be in my life, when push comes to shove they don't mean shit to her.

Coming from this context, it's always creeped me out a bit when people are super close with their girlfriends'/boyfriends' parents. It's kind of a conflict of interest.

I guess forgiveness is the healthier way to deal with something so atrocious and irreversible, I don't know. But if this happened to me I feel like Mom would be absolutely unstoppable in seeking revenge.

I know I have no right to say anything about what these people do. But I can't see how this honours the memory of Ann. Especially the part about putting words of forgiveness in her mouth which she's on her death bed.

TrilbyLane

@Sister Administrator Good point - I did find the journalist's wholesale acceptance of the fantasy that it was Ann speaking offensive. That's some sentimental Lovely Bones shit right there.

datalass

@Sister Administrator Same feelings here. I'm also stuck on the inherent paternalism. I'm deeply uncomfortable with two people being in a position to grant forgiveness to a crime committed against another person.

hallelujah

@Sister Administrator That part made me rage blackout. I suppose that's a more comforting thought than her telepathizing "You could have stopped this, idiot, because I was in a clearly abusive relationship," but no more likely.

laurel

@datalass Yours seems like an important point. The parents have the right to forgive for the loss of their daughter, but the courts have the responsibility to act on behalf of the victim herself.

Mira

@laurel That's one reason I was relieved that the sentence the prosecutor offered was longer than that suggested by both the victims' parents. Although strictly speaking, the courts aren't acting for the victim, but for the interests of the state.

In this case, I can't help thinking (unfairly?) that the state of Florida valued Ann's life more highly than her parents did.

harebell

@Sister Administrator
I feel like you are making two points that need to be separate. 1) is that your mother is on your side no matter what ultimately, not your partner's, and lets you know -- and that is a really admirable and clear-headed thing for her to do. This is a great point.
2) You think your mother would "be unstoppable in seeking revenge" if a partner harmed you. Revenge, really? I mean, a just punishment, yes, I am totally on board, but revenge? I hope that's hyperbole, because ice, ick, ick. That would be like victimizing yourself a second time after the crime's over.

Sister Administrator

@harebell You are right, these are two separate points.

I do feel like, in her mind, when she thinks about this, yes, violence is involved. I can't defend that except to say that it is hypothetical and abstract and only expressive of how much she abhors the idea of anything ever happening to me.

piekin

@Sister Administrator Power to your mum. I started dating a guy quite seriously when I was fourteen, and he spent a LOT of time with my family and became very close with my parents. When I was nineteen, I tried breaking up with him, and he flew into a rage and hit me repeatedly. When I called my mom and told her she went BALLISTIC - she confronted him and told him that he was no longer welcome anywhere near my family or our home, and that she would kill him if he ever touched me again. The ferocity of her reaction gave me the strength to make a clean break - I never so much as spoke to him ever again. It pains me to think of what could have happened if I hadn't been able to turn to her for help, or if her relationship with my boyfriend had clouded her ability to stand up for me. This story makes me so upset - Ann was failed on so many levels.

LMac

@TrilbyLane Not to mention the way he assumed the form of Jesus onto his dying daughter's body. Not that it's wrong to turn to your faith in moments of crisis, but she's not Jesus, and she did not give you power of attorney to state her thoughts and wishes when she can't express them herself because she's been shot in the HEAD.

Pound of Salt

Restorative justice can be effective, especially in impoverished communities where the justice system has failed them. But even if this does turn out to be effective in this particular case, I'm not convinced it would work with violent crimes in general. So then who gets to decide what are the right and wrong cases to apply this to?

PistolPackinMama

@Pound of Salt Sex offenders are the offenders with the highest rates of failed rehabilitation. It doesn't seem to work, the way we treat/address/imprison them. (Also, you should see what happens to sex offenders in prison. Not even other offenders will be okay with them.)

Other kinds of violent criminals have varying rates of rehab, depending on a number of factors, including support outside jail, drug treatment, and anger management help.

Young men with sentences for things like drugs are actually more likely to reoffend in some ways than murderers because dealing= economic activity. And murder comes with a long sentence, and murderers "age out" of crime committing ages while inside.

The biggest guarantee you will have that an offender won't see the inside of a jail again is education. Offenders who get a GED in jail have a reoffense rate that drops from 60% to 47%. Attaining an AA degree will drop rates of reoffense to 13%. Getting a BA will bring it down to nil, but that probably has to do with the fact that you're in so long that once again, you "age out."

The research is there to show who reoffends, what will help from reoffending, and who are the best candidates for rehabilitation programming.

I suppose a question is, are intimate partner abusers sex offenders or not?

roadtrips

@PistolPackinMama This: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/01/14/130114fa_fact_aviv (sorry, too lazy to embed the link) is an interesting story about incarceration and treatment for sex offenders that paints a relatively unsympathetic and unsentimental picture, as well as not really coming down one way or the other on the effectiveness of the program (or lack thereof).

PistolPackinMama

@roadtrips Thank you! Interesting.

hallelujah

Granted I'm fundamentally more of a vengeance-seeking type, but this article made me want to throttle everyone involved. You do you, forgive-like-Jesus, grief is nothing if not an intensely personal and unique process, etc. BUT that girl was failed by everyone around her, first by not recognizing the abusive nature of the relationship & second by coddling her motherfucking MURDERER. SO MUCH RAGE.

Courtney Jenkins@facebook

@hallelujah Right there with you. I'm crying tears of rage for this girl.

charmcity

@hallelujah Yeah, honestly, I am furious at the adults involved for not noticing the RED FLAGS OF ABUSE and obsession that were festooned all over this relationship. Their lives were intertwined to a sick degree from the time they were 14 or 15. What a disaster.

TrilbyLane

@charmcity But why does that warrant a more draconian punishment, or make forgiveness an inappropriate response? I agree that they could have noticed something was potentially wrong earlier, but I am sure they live with that every day. The boy was brought face to face with the horror of what he'd done, the parents found a measure of peace, and he is doing 20 years. It's an awful, awful, hideous thing, but I'm not sure they should be blamed for not predicting her murder, or for choosing not to bay for blood.

charmcity

@TrilbyLane I didn't say that it does. Restorative justice *might* be a partial solution to what happens after violence occurs. But I remain frustrated and angered by the fact that it could likely have been prevented in the first place. This relationship went on for years. Although the article does not address it, both sets of parents - and teachers, friends, etc. - ignored signs of DV or were woefully ignorant of them.

TrilbyLane

@charmcity Yes, I agree. Hard not to wonder if their faith made them a bit starrily blinded to what might have been going on. Although I don't especially want to take it as read that she was a cowed and terrified victim the whole time, either, because that's also an assumption she can't answer to.

itiresias

The element of faith in this story disgusts me. The father claims that immediately after his daughters death he was being begged to forgive, that he resisted at first but slowly realized it had to be done, that it was not just his daughter but Jesus that wanted him to do it "and he had never turned Him down before" - no, you heard no voices but your own appropriations of what you thought she would want, based on how she's probably had to stick up for the guy in the past during dramatic situations like him needing to come live with your family, and then you used your religion to justify your feelings to yourself. I agree that if you never move on from a tragic event, you are stuck in a suffocating spiral of hate and revenge - but I think I'd use "accept" rather than "forgive". It will never be okay for someone to kill an innocent person.

Also, I feel like since the parents bonded so much after Ann's death, some of the Grosmaires' initiative to implement restorative justice on this case was affected by wanting to help "save" the "other victim" in the case, their friends' son, so they wouldn't also have to "lose a child". While it makes sense the parents would bond, any tragedy has the capacity to bring people together because of the sheer weight and unique experience of having been through it - I think it also allowed them to lose sight of the person who was most affected by the crime.

Also, way to tell the story of the "fight" in "detail" without ever mentioning what caused it in the first place. And way to make Ann look like the angry, tireless shrew while Conor is the hapless, tired, pawn at wit's end. His description sounded to me like he wanted out of the bad relationship, SO HE SHOT HER, OOPS. But, you know, he "loved the girl" so it's all good.

TrilbyLane

@itiresias I don't know that anyone's saying that it's all good... or that the description of the fight gives any impression that Ann was a shrew. I am not defending him murdering her, IN ANY WAY, and I do think the article rather downplays what he did. But a boy who has witnessed violence at home and has access to a gun and loses the plot and does something that awful is a victim too. Way less of one, but still one. Unless you believe that deliberate evil choices, rather than profound damage and terrible mistakes, create criminals.

Scandyhoovian

@itiresias This pretty much exactly says what I've been thinking after reading the article. I'm as agnostic as you can get and the use of faith to forgive/justify horrendous crimes like this has always sat the wrong way to me, but ESPECIALLY in cases like this, where people use their own faith to forgive/justify FOR SOMEONE ELSE. In this case, Ann was unconscious and bandaged and hanging on by a thread and her father starts putting words in her mouth, insisting that Ann and then Jesus asked him to forgive the man that shot his daughter? Really? Really?

Also, your point about losing sight of the person most affected is spot-on. There's just so much here that screams of her parents using her death to sort their own lives and their own selves out, rather than addressing the core of the issue, which was that their daughter was murdered by her abusive fiance. I mean, yeah, their lives are the ones that continue on afterward and they have to find a way to do it, but it just doesn't sit well with me that they honestly didn't seem to quite GET the severity what he did to their daughter. Visiting her killer and being with him before she's even off life support just... wow.

Mira

@TrilbyLane Sometimes it is deliberate evil choices. Ideally, that's the kind of thing the criminal justice system is supposed to sort out. The details of the crime (as told by the killer, and who knows whether he's even being honest) don't really sound like "terrible mistakes" to me. Shooting someone in the face while she tries to defend herself isn't a mistake. That's a choice. I personally feel comfortable judging it to be an evil choice.

@Scandyhoovian If my parents did that with someone who murdered me, I would haunt them from beyond the grave.

TrilbyLane

@Mira I think he should be in prison for a really long time (as he is). I find the parents' response hard to fathom, especially in its swiftness, which seems to me like evidence of trauma. But I do not believe in evil and I think abusers must be regarded as victims too, and in need of help, if any progress is to be made. Feminists need to address what the patriarchy tells young men as well as what it tells young women.

lasso tabasco

@itiresias I agree with everything here. This article enraged me completely and filled me with disgust.

Another thought: Ann's parents may have needed to forgive her killer, but does "forgiving" him have to mean "hugging and laughing with him and trying to shield him from the full consequences of his actions and visiting him in prison and comforting him" ????????

Scandyhoovian

@Mira I would bring full screeching-and-chain-clanking poltergeisting to my parents for all eternity if my parents treated my murderer the way these people treated their daughter's. And also to the criminal justice people that didn't tell my grieving parents "no" and proceeded to follow through with their wishes to lessen his punishment for murdering someone.

geek_tragedy

@TrilbyLane

Why is it feminism's job to do so? Isn't it everyone's job to tell all people (and especially, all men, all brothers and sons and fathers) that violence is wrong?

Should feminism address abusers with the same urgency as survivors? I hope not.

TrilbyLane

@geek_tragedy It's everyone's job, yes, I was just using feminism as a context because it's the broad context of this site, and because I think this is a very important issue for feminists to discuss. But I include men in "feminism". I include everyone. Call it "people" or "decent people" if you prefer! And I do think abusers should be addressed with similar urgency as victims, yes, ABSOLUTELY. Why not? I want them to stop doing what they're doing. As I say, it isn't a choice where you only have a certain amount of compassion to give and have to elect where it goes. We can aid the victims, and try to understand and help the perpetrators too. Dealing with the people who makes you angriest with compassion and an effort to understand is hugely difficult, but isn't it the only way things can change?

dham

I think it's disturbing that 1. This article largely ignores domestic violence and that 2. The justice system clearly treats criminals differently based on social perceptions of the criminal.

But I don't think 20 years is a lenient sentence for any crime, and I don't believe in our prison system as a solution to anything.

sintaxis

Ugh, can we not with the whole "his father beat him too!"? Yes, we know that abuse repeats itself, but being a victim of abuse does not make a man have another "side" to the "whole story" about murdering his partner. It does not mean we're missing some integral part of the story by not knowing the gory details of the man's upbringing. Stop sympathizing with him; start sympathizing with the victim.

TrilbyLane

@sintaxis It's not a choice in that way. Why can't we sympathise with both, in the interests of help, rehabilitation, prevention, and not just throwing-away-the-key? There IS another side to why people do horrible things, and what made him the way he is IS integral to the story.

siniichulok

@sintaxis As a survivor of child abuse, I could not agree with you more! True, my parents came from abusive households, but they had a choice about whether to perpetuate it or not, and they chose to do so. I'm getting ready to have a kid myself, but unlike them I'm in therapy, I'm facing my issues, I'm committed to self-monitoring and introspection, and I know I have a healthy partner who will most certainly let me know--and will take action--if he sees any troubling signs (and vice versa). Additionally, I've found that in order to heal I have had to *curb* any sympathy I had for my parents, since it was keeping me enmeshed and in a very grim place. I don't think it's fair for victims to have to consider all angles, including that of the perpetrators. In fact, I think that doing so in general results in a lack of justice for victims (as in this case). As far as I'm concerned, the moment an abusee (if that's a word) becomes an abuser, they forfeit that right to be considered a victim in that particular situation. They are perpetrators, not victims.

thebestjasmine

@TrilbyLane Yes, I completely agree with this. It's very important to recognize the cycle of violence, in the hopes that people who might see themselves or their children or their friends in that cycle get the help necessary to break out of it. We absolutely are missing an integral part of the story if we don't know the details of the abuser's upbringing if we want to try to keep it from happening again to other people.

sintaxis

@TrilbyLane There is not "another side" to the story based on upbringing. There are contributing factors that determine and shape human behaviour and we can use analysis of those factors to try to solve problems. However, that's not a "different side" of the story that needs to be sussed out, nor does it warrant all of our sympathies. Saying it's another "side" to the story implies that it should be given the same weight or consideration, or that it's equally valid as an excuse/cause/biggest contributing factor of the abuse, and that's patently false.
The language here is important.

sintaxis

@siniichulok I appreciate you adding your personal story! I 100% agree especially with the rejection of the demand that we put on victims (esp women, esp minorities, esp children) to just ~*understand*~ the perp's background. As a victim, it sounds exactly like, "But consider his side of the story, he's not so bad, he just comes from a rough and tumble background. he can't help it". It is not the victim's obligation to give any fucks about whether or not the perp had a hard life. There's a big difference between looking at causal/correlative factors for policy making and looking at causal/correlative factors when working towards victim advocacy and justice.

Miss Maszkerádi

Nothing really to add on one side or the other of the argument, since I'm not actually sure what my opinion is, but it reminded me of a massively disturbing/thought provoking/possibly brilliant thing I once saw. Right after the raid that killed Bin Laden, in the wake of all the dancing in the streets that happened in the US, some or another blog posted an editorial cartoon, captioned "what would Jesus do," and the damn thing just showed Jesus giving Osama a big hug. It was......startling. I had allegorical angels and devils brawling in my head for days and couldn't ever figure out how to react.

TrilbyLane

I'm really grateful for all the arguments and thoughts on here. But I have to say mind's a bit blown by how much vengeful talk and belief in evil has surfaced. Ann was absolutely the victim here, and her voice wasn't heard because it couldn't be, and words were put in her mouth by her father for reasons of his own. Yes. But trying to comprehend and work constructively with perpetrators isn't coddling 'evildoers', or betraying victims; it's trying to make a better future, and fewer future victims. Isn't it??

littlevicious

@TrilbyLane I'm delurking to say that I think your comments here are spot on. This is a terribly sad story and I don't think there are easy answers to be had.

LMac

@Nicole Cliffe I was so struck by how both sets of parents admitted that they were not good together, and their relationship was filled with constant fighting that was clearly more intense than just teenage drama. But then her parents say they thought he would be the father of their grandchildren? Who puts that kind of pressure on two 19-year olds with a hostile and volatile relationship? Ugh, horrible.

LMac

@Nicole Cliffe I was so struck by how both sets of parents admitted that they were not good together, and their relationship was filled with constant fighting that was clearly more intense than just teenage drama. But then her parents say they thought he would be the father of their grandchildren? Who puts that kind of pressure on two 19-year olds with a hostile and volatile relationship? Ugh, horrible.

LMac

@TrilbyLane Not to mention the way he assumed the form of Jesus onto his dying daughter's body. Not that it's wrong to turn to your faith in moments of crisis, but she's not Jesus, and she did not give you power of attorney to state her thoughts and wishes when she can't express them herself because she's been shot in the HEAD.

LMac

@TrilbyLane Not to mention the way he assumed the form of Jesus onto his dying daughter's body. Not that it's wrong to turn to your faith in moments of crisis, but she's not Jesus, and she did not give you power of attorney to state her thoughts and wishes when she can't express them herself because she's been shot in the HEAD.

Ektara

This evening, I had a terrible fight with my ex-boyfriend, who followed me around when I tried to leave, and chased me down when I ran. I felt like a dog. He has slapped me once, when I tried to leave him. And he was wonderful with my parents. My father, who passed away last year, knew him and liked him. My mother still finds it hard to consistently condemn him, and occasionally lapses into the "he's just a boy" kind of excuses.
While I love my father, I am beginning to recognise how abusive my parents' relationship was, and how that has affected the way that my mother and I deal with relationships. We make excuses for abuse, and constantly fail to protect ourselves or our loved ones. The tyranny of love is perhaps the worst form of oppression, because it convinces us that consequences are not as important as cause. We might feel abused, but that is because they love us so much. We forget that constant declarations of undying love do not create a loving relationship.
This man shot this woman when she was kneeling in front of him, begging him to stop. Today I was crying and running on the streets near my house because a man who said he loved me wouldn't let me go home. He did not hold me back with his hands, he held me back by threatening to create a scene in front of my house, by threatening to follow me home. I have never felt such choking despair and such debilitating fear. My mother may forgive him, but I certainly will not. I wonder if Ann would.
Incidentally, I am a lawyer, who has worked with victims of domestic abuse, and has been associated with campaigns against human rights violations. And today, I am terribly ashamed of this huge divide between my politics and my personal life. I have known poorer, less empowered women to be stronger.

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