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Negligence Equals Murder Sentence?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Nov 27, 2002.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Ms. Tabitha Pollock was <a href="http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/AppellateCourt/1999/3rdDistrict/December/HTML/3961077.htm">convicted of first-degree murder</a> and sentenced to 36 years for failing to anticipate that her boyfriend would murder her daughter.

    The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously overturned Ms. Pollock's conviction, saying the prosecution's theory - that she should have known that her boyfriend, Scott English, who is serving a life sentence, was going to murder her child - has no basis in the law.

    Ms. Pollock was only released because the <a href="http://www.law.northwestern.edu/depts/clinic/wrongful/History.htm">Northwestern University's Innocence Project</a> took up her appeal. The case <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/27/national/27MURD.html?pagewanted=all&position=top">raises the question</a> (free NYT registration required) of whether some judges, prosecutors and communities ask too much of mothers and are prepared to punish them, even at the expense of the surviving family, when things go wrong. There are <a href="http://www.qctimes.com/internal.php?story_id=1003569&t=Local+News&c=2,1003569">other similar cases.</a>

    Here is the scary part. Colleen M. Griffin, an assistant attorney general, said the government was <a href="http://www.qctimes.com/internal.php?story_id=1003674&t=Local+News&c=2,1003674">eager to retry Ms. Pollock under the narrower standard</a>, which requires proof that she actually knew of life-threatening abuse. The concept of negligent first degree murder is preposterous. Given that these women have lost a child, why are the prosecutors chomping at the bit to lock them away?

    Or am I blind at the obvious?
  2. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    People are so focused on 'justice' that they are blinded by it. Why are people so hungry for blood? Even if the woman thought that he MIGHT be capable of doing something like that, what could she have done? Should she have called the police to report that he MIGHT murder her daughter? This is the real world - not <i>The Minority Report</i> starring Tom Cruise.

    I am so tired of hearing about people being held accountable for other people's actions. Ever since I learned of bartenders being accused of murder when a drunk driver kills someone, I have had a very bad taste in my mouth for lawyers and judges.

    Will locking this woman away in prison really serve society in any way? My neighbor's boyfriend beats her up all the time, but I quit trying to break it up when it happens. When he finally kills her, am I guilty of first degree murder? GIVE ME A BREAK(borrowed from John Stossel). The very same people who would hold her accountable are probably guilty of the same types of 'crimes.' I can't believe OJ Simpson is a free man, and this woman is in jail.
  3. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    If the state can prove she knew of life threatening abuse she should be charged, although 1st degree murder is kind of a reach. When you are in love you want to think somebody can change so I think a good defense can shoot it down. Like most lay people my actual knowledge of the law is too much from the boob tube, but I was under the impression that first degree implied premeditation.

    And why do they prosecute. I hope it is not just for political pull at the next election. I would hope it is to send a loud and clear message to mothers to put the child's welfare first.
  4. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    If this lady knew her child's life was in danger at the hands of her boyfriend, yeah she should be in jail - for not taking care of her kid. But that's going under the assumption she KNEW the guy would kill the child.

    Maybe it's just me, but if my boyfriend so much as looked at my child funny, I'd pack up my kid and move out of state. If he touched her, he'd be dead by sunrise.
  5. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    I agree that the woman may have been negligent, but murder in the first degree? No way. I'm sorry, but this woman does not deserve 30+ years in prison, and she is not a danger to society. I'm not sure if she even needs rehabilitated! What purpose does locking her up serve? I see it as nothing more than the whole "two is better than one" philosophy.

    The little girl is dead. The man who murdered her will never have a chance to do it again. The woman is no threat to any of us or any children. Rather than yet another nonviolent mouth to feed and shelter in our overpopulated prisons, why not let her get on with her life and hopefully contribute something to society instead? I see this as nothing more than revenge. Most of us are guilty of "not doing more" than we could to help other people. I could have tossed another dollar into the Salvation Army can on my way out of Wal*Mart today. I could have tried harder to help my alcoholic father quit drinking and smoking while he still had most of his health. People could have prevented the Columbine tragedy because the signs were there. Well guess what? There are SIGNS of another Columbine every day in one school or another in this country. If we acted on every sign, every kid would have his own personal psychiatrist and lawyer.

    There are a kajillion things that I COULD HAVE DONE for other people, but I didn't. I'm sorry, but get over it. People need to take responsibility for their own actions, and we need to quit trying to place blame fragments on everyone associated with every situation that goes bad.
  6. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I am not even sure if this is teaching her some lesson either. It's bad enough she lost the kid, lost her husband via jail, and now she has to serve because love is blind, for 36 years ?

    This vindicative society is beginning to scare me, folks.
  7. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Before we get all teary eyed and go hug her, she did have it within her means to have prevented the death of her daughter. I personally do not think that she needs to get nailed with all those years, as I'm quite sure her melon was already a Sunday stroll though some serious dementia.

    My own inclination is that she should first be prevented from giving birth to anymore victims and that her liberties be curtailed to the point that she is forced into long term psychiatric control. She is obviously incapable of handling the care, feeding and nurturing of young life and does bear some responsibility for her daughter's demise.
  8. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Whoa, freaky - this is exactly what I was going to write - though the word "dementia" wasn't going to be part of my post, the rest is almost to a "T" what I was going to say.

    I would be interested in knowing what evidence was presented by the prosecuter to prove she knew the man was going to kill her. If he said "I'm going to kill your daughter", and she didn't take the threat seriously, it's partially her fault. As a parent and legal gaurdian of a child, it is her duty and obligation to tend to every single need of that child - including her safety. If someone threatened my life, I'd call the cops and press charges and get a restraining order and get a lawyer, etc etc. If her BF threatend this child's life, did this lady do anything at all to protect her? That's the question.

    I find it difficult to muster up any sympathy for women who allow their children to get abused by anyone - regardless if it is a boyfriend or their own father - because of love.

    Warning - shit's about to get personal now. You've been warned.

    My family has a history of domestic violence - my mother's first memory of her father was when she walked in on her mother and father having a physical fight - because her father was trying to rape her mother. My mother - who was 3 at the time - remembers biting her father in the leg, and he turning around and punching her in the head, knocking her clear across the room. It was years later that my mother found out through her sister (who was hiding at the time, and peeking in) that their father then went after my mother, who was knocked unconscious because of the blow, and my grandmother, who had taken years of abuse at the hands of her husband because she loved him, saw that her husband was about to do something horrible to her youngest child, and she took one of those iron skillets, those old fashioned frying pans, and knocked that man OUT. Split his head, blood and everything. And took her two little girls out of the house, ran into a bus, and got as far away as she could with a 3 year old and 6 year old - alone, naked (she was only wearing I believe her undergarments, if I remember correctly what my mother told me) and started a new life clear across the country.

    I myself went through it with my first boyfriend - so I know what it's like. I wasn't beaten to a pulp, but things started getting....weird. When I woke up in his bed, nude, and feeling like a truck hit my head, I knew what had happened and that was enough. I was out of there. You stay with them because you think you love them and you think you can be the one to change them. Well, it's not like that. The longer you stay, the greater the chance of you getting killed. Unfortunately for that little girl, the man turned his attentions to her - and her mother failed to protect her.
  9. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Rred, the difference between what you could do for your neighbor or salvation army and what this woman could have done for her child are world's apart.

    You're not responsible for your neighbor, nor are you responsible for the Salvation Army. Even though your dad is blood, you're not responsible for him, either. That woman was responsible for the care and welfare and well being of that child. If she chose this man to be her boyfriend and lived with him, and allowed her daughter to live with him, and he was abusive towards her, she then knowingly kept her child in a dangerous environment.
  10. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Ok, I just read the synopsis of the case, and the woman knew her boyfriend was abusing all 3 of her kids.

    That's child endangerment. She never once called the police on her boyfriend. End of story. Maybe not first degree murder, but she is partially responsible for what happened because she let it continue.
  11. Copzilla

    Copzilla dangerous animal Staff Member

    Quick study of culpable mental states to a crime -

    *Intentionally - They knew it, they wanted to do it, they planned it, and they did it. Premeditated fits here.
    *Knowingly - They did something with the knowledge that it was a crime and were indifferent, or knew a crime was happening (in the event of the parent) and let it happen. A crime of passion (in the heat of the moment) fits here.
    *Recklessly - They committed an offense or an act with the knowledge that it was dangerous, OR should have known it was dangerous, and chose to do it anyway, resulting in a more severe problem. Child Endangerment fits here, Intoxicated Manslaughter fits here.
    *Criminally Negligent - They let the crime occur by omission. Starvation of a child, refusal to obtain medical help, refusal to obtain education, not following maintenance schedules on a big rig, etc...

    Culpable mental states are not to be confused with the offense itself. It's an ELEMENT of the offense.

    The offense of First Degree Murder may state that it's a murder done intentionally, or in the event of a child, handicapped or elderly, one done knowingly. The degree of offense simply states what the penalty group is for that offense. For First Degree murder in my state, it's 5 years to 99 years or life, where second degree is 2 years to 20 years.

    Then remember that she'll only do a fraction of her time. Even if she gets 50, she'll only do 15. Life is 20 years before eligible.

    This is how she was charged. I don't think it's inappropriate for a mother to face first degree murder for knowing and not caring. She won't be put to death, but she'll spend the better part of 10 or 15 years thinking about her dead children.

    Before people dog out the prosecutors, remember that their role is to aggressively prosecute the crime. In the instance of children being killed, they will usually seek to prosecute as high up the chain as they can take it, because parents really have no excuse for not nurturing and providing their children with a safe, loving environment. See one child crime scene and this fact will be burned in your mind forever.
  12. Copzilla

    Copzilla dangerous animal Staff Member

    Ahhh, I digress... Truth in Sentencing invoked, she would have been required to serve all 36 years she was sentenced. Still, after reading the article through and through, I don't care. The end result of her abuse and neglect was a dead child, an innocent and helpless person ravaged and killed. She deserves it. She deserves worse, actually.
  13. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    Hehe...I think that statement could be applied to millions of people in this country. 95% of all our problems would be solved if unfit parents would stop reproducing. How can we legislate who gets to have children and who doesn't?

    And by the way...I think it's an excellent idea! Putting it into action is the tough part. ;)
  14. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    I understand, but many women in this country are in the exact same position that this woman was in except for the fact that this woman's man murdered her child. Other than the whole murder thing, this is very common. Should we lock up all the other mothers out there who are currently putting their children in harm's way by being in relationships with violent men?

    Perhaps one way to fix this would be to allow people who WITNESS abuse to press charges? Even if the woman(or man) who is getting abused won't press charges, why can't anyone else?
  15. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    Yes, I agree...PARTIALLY responsible. She is not responsible for the murder, but she definitely was negligent. I just don't see how negligence should lead to a first degree murder conviction.
  16. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    In many states/provinces, the laws require that police, when confronted with evidence of domestic violence, arrest the perp. You can call in an anonymous tip in these situations

    In Ontario (Canada) and in many US states, the charges -- once laid -- belong to the prosecutor, not the victim. This means the victim can't cancel the charges due to fear, influence or just "wanting to go back" to the perp.

    Perhaps it's time to start advocating that these laws be enacted in every state?
  17. Copzilla

    Copzilla dangerous animal Staff Member

    Negligence is complicity when the duty to act is ignored. This woman had knowledge and a duty to act, and fail to do so.

    Besides, this was an ongoing scenario. That really needs to be taken into consideration. She didn't just place her children in harm's way. She kept them there over a considerable amount of time. This was complicity in abuse of a worst case scenario.
  18. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    A side comment if I can here. I've always thought that you provided some great information, (like the oil tanker thread among others) and would like to thank you for participating more. If I recall correctly, you used to lurk more than post, I think you should post much more.

    Your insight is quite informative.
  19. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Actually, anyone having knowledge of the abuse and not reporting it can be charged with misprison of a felony.
  20. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member


    Thanks so much; that's probably the nicest encouragement I've had online, ever.

    I'm glad to chime in where I think I have useful information or a helpful point-of-view/ opinion.
    (<i>Gasp! A Canadian with an opinion? I could lose my passport! ;) </i>)

    Thanks again! I'll be around!

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