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Gender Justice?

James Hanback, Jr.
March 12, 2002

Peeping Justice

When women have no culpability, everyone suffers

"How do you write women so well?"

"I think of a man. Then I take away reason and accountability."

--Jack Nicholson to a female receptionist in As Good As It Gets

By James R. Hanback Jr.

Last year, a 25-year-old Texas woman, who may have been driving while
under the influence, slammed her car into a homeless man, who crashed
through her windshield, then lay there helpless, dying and unable to move.
She drove home and parked the car in her garage while the man pleaded for
help. Two days later, he was dead and she had enlisted the aid of friends
to dispose of his body.

Authorities who have examined the body of 37-year-old Gregory Glenn Biggs
say he probably would have survived had his wounds been treated. He had
suffered no mortal injuries, although his legs were broken and he was cut.
Over the two days in the woman's garage, Biggs slowly bled to death.

The few words her attorney has offered in defense of Chante J. Mallard, a
nurse's aide and the driver of the car that struck Biggs, are that she was
"emotionally distraught" and made a "wrong choice."

Well, what average individual wouldn't be distraught after fatally
wounding another innocent individual? And wrong choices (like driving
under the influence) have landed lots of other folks in legal hot water.

In a perfect world, Mallard's case should not attract the attention of
those who analyze gender issues. In a perfect world, we would simply sit
in front of our television sets, shake our heads at the shame of it all, and
let the justice system handle the case the way it would any other homicide.

Certainly, Mallard has every right to a fair trial, a competent defense,
and the opportunity to convince a jury she is not responsible for killing
Gregory Biggs. It's the American justice system at work. Unfortunately,
the courts have picked a particularly bad time in our culture to bring
this kind of case to trial. Mallard has a better-than-average shot at not
being held responsible for her crime than she would be if she owned a
penis, and evidence for that assertion has been all over the news.

Most prominent in the news recently has been Andrea Yates, the Texas
mother who in June methodically drowned her five children in the bathtub.
Her defense for her actions is insanity, and countless "experts" have
testified to her lack of wits (although they tend to contradict each other
over whether her condition is postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis,
schizophrenia, or a combination of the three). Her case is expected to be
in the hands of her jury this week.

There's been an outpouring of sympathy for Yates from folks on the left,
including the National Organization for Women and talk celebrity Rosie
O'Donnell. Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to maintain that Russell
Yates should be held responsible rather than Andrea, on the grounds that
he knew her condition and yet "allowed" her to continue to care for the

Meanwhile, her prosecutors struggle to prove that she was coherent and
knew right from wrong when she committed the acts, and thus does not fit
the legal definition of insane.

If anything positive can come out of Yates' case though, it is the spotlight
shown on the hypocrisy of the U.S. judicial system when considering cases
in which women are perpetrators versus when men go on trial for similar
crimes. And it has made those who consider such hypocrisies all the more
vigilant about exposing them for what they are. After all, the man who
murdered serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in prison was schizophrenic. It didn't
stop us from putting him in prison for his previous acts of inhumanity.

The down side is that the problem seems to be getting worse rather than

Take for example Covington, Ohio, mother Jaymie Hutchins, who during an
argument in a parking lot shot in the groin the 40-year-old man accused of
molesting her son.

Hutchins was charged with first-degree assault, and the district attorney'
s office in her area seemed intent on pursuing the charge. Why? Well, for
one thing, Hutchins neither shot the man out of fear for her life, nor
while protecting her child, but as a heated act of revenge against the
individual whom she believes abused her son. It was purely an act of
vigilantism. Larry Eugene Howell, the man accused, has not yet gone to
trial on the charges, and is therefore innocent until proven guilty.

Hutchins' defense? She was "emotionally distressed" over the abuse of
her son.

Imagine the district attorney's surprise when the grand jury refused to
even indict Hutchins on the charges, in spite of the obvious fact that she
squeezed the trigger and admitted to not having done so in self-defense.

Keep in mind that a grand jury's job in the American system of justice is
not to decide guilt or innocence, but to determine if enough evidence
exists to take the accused to trial for the crimes with which he or she is
charged. Knowing that, it is easy to see how that Ohio grand jury failed
at its duties in this case. Rather than finding that Hutchins did shoot
Howell, and on those facts indicting her on the charges, the grand jury
took her "emotional distress" defense (which should have been brought up
in trial, not a grand jury hearing) and ran with it.

Not only that, but Hutchins received an outpouring of support from her
community and its newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer. According to that
paper, the lady was flooded with money from supporters for her defense and
to assist her family because she was the sole provider. The paper itself
depicted her as a victim of her own circumstances, and not one who simply
took the law into her own hands.

Not only has the grand jury vindicated the violent actions of a vengeful
woman upon a man not yet proven guilty, but it has in so doing also opened
the door for other women to avoid charges when committing such acts, no
matter against whom. In other words, they have implied that it is now
legal in Covington for a woman to shoot a man out of rage and revenge.
As well, they have implied a guilty verdict against Howell, who is, again,
not yet proven guilty in his own trial.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is apparently a viable argument in
the United States legal system.

Is it just coincidence that these cases all involve women as the accused?
Could it simply be that American culture in general has become more
accepting of human mental conditions and is in a transition period between
determining who is sick and who is evil?

Not likely. For contrast, consider Tommy Davis, an 8-year-old Ann Arbor,
Mich., boy who was charged two weeks ago with three counts of assault with
a deadly weapon.

Davis, who said he wanted several other boys to stop picking fights with
him, reportedly pulled a toy gun from his pocket and pointed it at them.
Davis' mother told the press that her son had experienced problems with at
least one of the three children before.

The fact that the toy gun is not, in reality, a deadly weapon, and the boy
was attempting to end an ongoing problem with the other children
apparently are of no concern to prosecutors, who are forcing the boy to
face criminal charges in the incident.

If convicted, he could face probation or a stay in juvenile detention.

In the eyes of the law, it seems, men and women still are not equals. An
8-year-old boy should be held responsible for his actions no matter the
circumstances, they say. An adult woman who knows right from wrong?
Well, she's a victim of her heart and mind.

2002 by James R. Hanback, Jr.
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