the corpse daughters

In January of 2006, one of the most heinous crimes the mind can conjure actually happened in my home town: A father fatally stabbed his twin daughters to death while playing a game of hide-and-seek (even typing that sentence is enough to send waves of disgust through ones body). Incidences of infanticide occur periodically, but all don’t attract the national attention this one has from the media (I guess the other situations might not have “ratings-friendly” stories, so they stayed strictly local). What made this particular case interesting to mainstream Americans was the fact that the crime was committed by an 45-year old white bank executive living in an affluent part of town.

The father (Charlottean David Crespi) readily confessed to his guilt, and the media (and society for that matter) immediately began concocting excuses for his behavior. Scanning the television and newspaper stories in the early days of the crime, you could almost hear the media screaming “There must have been something wrong mentally for this guy to do something this diabolical!” Anyone who has lived in these United States as an African-American for even a decade could’ve predicted this response when you take into account the identity of the perpetrator. Before I go further, let me state that I believe depression is a real, tangible, destructive mental disorder requiring treatment and care, so I aim not to minimize its reality by referring to it as an “excuse”. The point of emphasis I want to make is that depression is considered a legitimate and honest alibi for the commission of a crime, but that mostly depends on the identity of the perpetrator.

Mr. Crespi may well be depressed and it may have contributed to spurring his bout of homicidal mania, but because he is a rich, all-American white man working in an executive position, his declarations of depression are greeted with understanding, empathy, and even sympathy. How many Black or Latino men and women are basically given the benefit of the doubt if they committed similar crimes? This has been tried with Black or Latino defendants and has been generally met with doubt by prosecutors and juries. In fact, there is a Black man named Guy LeGrande scheduled to be executed in North Carolina for the 1996 murder of a Stanly county woman, and despite his clinically-diagnosed psychotic disorder and off-the-wall behavior in court (he represented himself during the trial wearing a Superman t-shirt), the jury summarily sentenced him to death anyway. For some reason, pleading insanity doesn’t work very well if you’re not rich, white, and not expected to act in a criminal manner. There have been protests staged to hopefully stop Legrande’s execution (which is still scheduled to take place December 1), but Crespi never needed an organized movement to help spare his life. Hell, he even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show today (from prison, of course) to assist Oprah in her discussion of depression and how it affects the suburban home. Go figure!

Black people in the United States know and have always known that the justice system is biased against them; such is the legacy of slavery, white supremacy, Jim Crow justice, and racial disharmony in this country. Black skin immediately evokes prejudgments of guilt, while white skin usually evokes the benefit of the doubt, and for many of us, this mental process happens before we can consciously stop it. The ever-present tendency to see Black or Latino men as automatically guilty in the US justice system is as strong as ever, and it has been adversely affecting the quality of life for both communities for far too long. It also says more about mainstream America than mainstream America would like said, but…

Let us consider the possibility of mental illness equally among defendants. The presence of psychosis in people of color is real, but its presence is almost never considered or taken into account in the real courts of jurisprudence and the courts of public opinion. Let’s not allow notions and beliefs of white supremacy and Black/Lation inferiority cloud what would seem obvious for white defendants.









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~ by free71 on November 14, 2006.

2 Responses to “the corpse daughters”

  1. Hell yeah my damie. I sent this in the Observer this am:

    Oprah has sunk to a new low and it’s not her weight. She recently interviewed David Crespi from jail and his wife on the show both at the same time. How many more times are we going to hear about how tragic this psychotic crime was and how Crespi was so depressed? How many more times are we going to make excuses for cold-blooded murder? If David Crespi were black or any other color except white we would never have heard the humanistic, emotional tripe coming out of this tragedy. Depression is not a defense to murder. I’ve been depressed and never killed anyone.

    White people and their Oprah-like accomplices are always making excuses for themselves. They accuse other races of not having personal responsibility but where is theirs? If whites were responsible then they would admit to how racist this society is and pay slavery reparations to the black community so the playing field could begin to level out. That would be responsible. Whites, however, prefer to sit back on their perch of power and perpetuate negative stereotypes about everyone except Asians, who they prefer simply to mock and ridicule. Deeply insecure, fearful people always have to have someone to look down on to prop themselves up.

    Peace
    -G-

  2. […] pointed out in an earlier post (”the corpse daughters”) that anytime a white person (not necessarily a celebrity either) does something that is severly […]

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