CNN’s In Session is reprising a first-degree murder case in which the adult daughter of abusive parents abetted her adult brother’s murder of their mother. The salacious “episode” is titled “Mummified Mother Found Buried Under Rock Garden,” and the CNN commentators describe the “show” as a “Front Row Seat to Justice.” But a murder trial isn’t something a sane person wants a “front-row” seat to (since the front row includes the defendant’s chair), and in this case there is no justice involved.
Florida v Stacey Kananen could be a poster child for the ill-conceived Senate Bill 714 about which I wrote recently. S.714 allegedly seeks to publicize the following serious problems in the American justice system:
- the absurdity of the United States having the largest prison population in the world, of which the largest part are incarcerated on minor charges such as drug possession
- the role of DNA evidence in false convictions
- the fact that prison sentences are becoming more and more lengthy
- and the severity of punishments varies greatly from state to state
Stacey Kananen’s conviction adds one more relatively harmless person to the prison population; she was overcharged with first-degree murder for being an accessory to murder, thus causing her sentence to be out of all proportion to her crime; the only evidence against her was her brother’s confession and accusation, which was produced rather late in his own prosecution (why anyone would believe a confessed murderer about the complicity of anyone else, on his testimony alone, is beyond my understanding).
The law also needs to understand the role of childhood abuse in producing psychopaths and sociopaths. Society as a whole would be a much safer place if families could be rescued from the psychopaths and sociopaths who too often enslave and torture them. In the Kananen case the only serious psychopath or sociopath may have been the father, although it does seem as if the son is seriously damaged goods.
Sidebar: Nowhere in S.714 is there any mention of the absurd legal definition of insanity, which puts schizophrenics in prison because they claim that a voice told them to kill the evil ones (thus proving they know right from wrong. How else could they identify the evil ones?).
No, I don’t know how to rescue such families without permitting the government to intrude in every family’s privacy. The “human services” in government as often overlook abuse as they intervene to good effect. I’ve been told that fads in social work often return abuse victims to their abusers’ care with little more than a promise “to be good.”
Florida’s laws, in particular, strike me as bizarre. In Florida (until the Supremes “corrected” the state) laws put a minor in jail for life essentially for a parole violation. In Florida a mother who neglected and then apparently abused her child until she died (Casey Anthony) can be put on trial for capital murder, while a woman in Illinois who cut the baby out of another woman’s womb (and murdered her) because it was her boyfriend’s child is simply sent to prison. In Florida, witnesses in trials involving family members are subjected to public scrutiny and ridicule on CNN, with their tearful words hyphenated by commercials about a TV series on jerks jumping off roofs into basketball hoops.
Most states seem to have a plethora of overzealous prosecutors who grandstand in the courtroom in order to be reelected. I can’t explain Stacey Kenanen’s prosecution for first-degree murder as anything but that. (This, it seems to me, a non-lawyer, is the best argument against allowing cameras inside courts.)
Stacey Kananen’s brother admits to having suffocated his mother and then burying her body in his sister’s backyard. He claims she first tasered their mother (to subdue her, I guess, even though he weighed 400 pounds at the time), but he also admits to having been jealous and resentful of Stacey’s better treatment by their psychopathic, alcoholic father.
Freaks and geeks have always been crowd-pleasers—in the Middle Ages it was bear-bating; in the 19th century it was the tattooed lady (before you get another tattoo take a look at some old photos of these women) and geeks who bit the heads off live chickens. Now that we’ve supposedly evolved into a more humane society, I would expect better.
It’s difficult to find anything that isn’t freakish in the entertainment media. Animated Avatars with blue skin and long necks (remember Cecil?) fall prey to the evil human creatures (in other words, us). Paris Hilton gets drunk and goes to jail. TruTV brings you Dumbest and In Session, which ignores all the really vital legal issues in this country in favor of bringing you the tragedies that occur in ordinary people’s bedrooms and backyards (and which ought to stay there. That’s what they mean when they say “Let sleeping dogs lie”).