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2.19.2004

Dangerous Precedents 

I've briefly touched on today's topic before, but I feel it deserves to be given more coverage.

Kirstin Lobato's unfair trial has certainly cost her a great deal, and it has cost her family and friends as well. But there is something universally threatening about the events of her trial in particular which should make the question of her innocence vastly more important to women in America. And I'm not talking about the way female victims tend to get demonized in the courtroom. Though that certainly is a grave issue, it is - unfortunately - not an issue that is unique to Kirstin's trial. It still deserves to be mentioned, because it is an extreme version of that kind of character attack that has laid the groundwork for a future abuse of the system.

I've knocked Special Public Defender Kohn before, but he did do a few things right. One of these things was pointing out the lack of any history where women murderers used sustained and excessive brutality to kill, even though they can certainly be physically capable of doing so.

Duran Bailey, the victim, was badly mutilated during what could only have been a considerably lengthy attack. I won't go into the specific injuries here, but you can check out the list on 10/21/03 (the blog entry is called Reasonable Doubt - Part 6...the same blog I mentioned this topic in before). It's long, and according to the medical examiner many of those injuries occurred after death. This was a brutal, sustained attack. And Kohn was right to point out that women have never been found to commit murder in such a way.

Whether or not it is psychological or biological or sociological or some other -ological, I have been unable to find a precedent to contradict this. Reports and studies on the matter - of which there are only a few - consistently conclude that when women murderers kill it is not done to great excess and length. The kind of overkill that Duran Bailey was subjected to seems to be the realm of men.

I've asked before (and the query remains open), but if anyone knows of another case where a woman has been proven to use such viciousness, please let me know. As far as I can tell, Kirstin's case makes history by setting a precedent where a woman has been convicted of that kind of gruesome murder. Lawyers can go back and claim that "the State of Nevada v. Kirstin Lobato shows that a women have used excessive and sustained brutality in the past to commit murder." This opens up legal paths that would not have seemed valid before her case. For example, it can change the way criminals are profiled, or make a similar charge in some future trial seem perfectly valid when it is actually not very likely at all.

If this trial showed anything, it showed how unethical prosecutors can be when they want a conviction. Kirstin's case is ammunition for such people.

On the surface, this may not seem that newsworthy. But it can lead to subtle changes that resonate throughout our legal system, eventually putting an unreasonable level of suspicion on other women for other crimes. Kirstin's conviction is the first crack in the wall, but having that conviction happen despite her innocence is a tragedy that goes beyond even her plight.


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