Media Bias and a Manslaughter Conviction

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9 Responses

  1. Natan Slifkin says:

    Rabbi Menken, thank you for clarifying things – more precisely, for clarifying that matters are not as clear as the JPost article that I saw had indicated!

  2. Moshe says:

    The court’s decision of the punishment is here:

    Here is the decision of guilt:

    I have not yet gone through it – it will take me a few days, and I will then try to write up a cohesive post on the subject which I hope to post here.

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    I just looked up the manslaughter statutes in New York State. The sentence for the less severe manslaughter crime (in which there is not an intent to cause serious injury, just recklessness) is 3 1/2 to 15 years.

  4. Menachem Lipkin says:

    There may be some media bias against chareidim (and many other groups) but if R. Menken’s analysis above is accurate all it shows is bad journalism not bias.

    If you want to say that there’s bias in that the media selected this case at all, all I can say B”H. B”H that child abuse in the frum community is still considered by the media to rare enough to be news. Sometimes we get bias confused with newsworthiness. Newspapers are in the business of, as they say in Newsies “selling papes”. The more unusual or sensational the headline the better.

    The original post and accompanying video showed some clear media bias in favor of Obama. However, it does not further the case of exposing media bias to “cry wolf” in cases where it doesn’t exist.

  5. george lithco says:

    In Dutchess County, New York seven children were shaken by a variety of caregivers. Three died. One was my son. The charges and sentences for the three caregivers who inflicted fatal injury: manslaughter second/10 years (served 6 years); criminally negligent homicide/3 years (2 years served); criminally negligent homicide/6 months home confinement, 5 years probation (6 months served). All of the perpetrators were women, and two of the perpetrators who inflicted fatal injury were grandmothers.

    I have seen the sentences in cases vary from probation to 40 years.

    The measure of justice varies immensely, and depends in large part upon the myths that the fact-finders and judges impose upon these tragedies to explain it to themselves.

    There are those who cannot explain how an apparently loving parent can inflict such injuries, and believe that grief over the loss of a beloved child is more than sufficient punishment by itself. There are those who believe that the victim is entitled to punishment, regardless of how benign the caregiver’s motive.

    What is truly unfortunate is that parents do have the opportunity to learn about preventing inflicted injuries. Since 1998, an education progam for new parents in the Buffalo, New York area has educated new parents about the vulnerability of young children to inflicted head injuries. Since then, the incidence of inflicted injuries has dropped by 50%.

    It is much better to light this candle than to curse the darkness and argue whether justice has been served every time one of these tragedies occurs.

    In addition to debating the merits of this case, I’d encourage you to spend an equivalent amount of time contacting local hospitals, child care organizations and parenting groups to find out whether new parents are being educated about the danger, and what they can do to help protect their child from that danger.

    If you don’t have enough time to do both, I know which I would choose.


    Two footnotes:

    In October, the Jerusalem Post reported that the head of the National Council for the Child warned that the number of crib deaths (SIDS) appears to be increasing in Israel. Parents (especially those like the defendant in this case) also need to know that there is an effective way to reduce the risk of SIDS.

    There are two aspects of the medical “controversy” alluded to above.

    One is whether a thorough forensic investigation was conducted in each case and alternate plausible explanations for a child’s death have been considered and ruled out. That is necessary to ensure justice.

    One the other hand, there is a coterie of defense “experts” who basically seem to earn a living by testifying at trial that there is no such thing as shaken baby syndrome. Unlike the bulk of experts who participate in these cases, those “experts” seem never to have encountered a set of facts that is inconsistent with their explanation.

    No greater credence should be given to denial theory in these circumstances than other contexts.

  6. Harry Maryles says:

    I really think you have taken the concept of being Dan L’Kaf Zechus to an extreme.

    Your analysis of the verdict and trial …and the media reportage… does not prove bias on the part of the court or the media. All it does is show how one can in some way assume bias and show possible innocence on the part of the convicted father.

    I do not believe that there is anti Charedi bias at work here in this very high profile case. I believe instead that the judge is most likely an ‘honest broker’ who found this man guilty of a crime based on the evidence presented… and sentenced him to an appropriate punishment believing that justice was served – taking under consideration all the facts.

    Her sentencing comments may not have been expressed in the best possible way but, in my view the most likely scenario is the one that came out in court… and not the ‘anti Charedi bias of the judge and complete innocence of the father’ version of events you seem to believe is the case.

  7. Noam says:

    I spent 7 years as a resident covering neurosurgical emergencies at a pediatric hospital. It is very difficult, if not near impossible, for a baby to suffer severe brain injury from being ‘dropped’ because the care-taker fell asleep. If one makes the rational assumption that the caretaker did not fall asleep standing up, and was sitting, the distance to the floor is just not that great. I cannot recall even one child just brought to the er, not to mention dying, from the trauma of being dropped from a sitting position.

    “Shaken baby syndrome” is usually applied when there is lots of brain trauma without significant external signs of trauma. various hypotheses have been advanced as to how this can occur. One of the most compelling is that there was significant trauma, it just isn’t as obvious as one would expect. That in fact ‘shaken baby syndrome’ occurs when the shaking results in banging the baby’s head against a hard object. Another proposal can be found here:$=relatedreviews&logdbfrom=pubmed

    A very common warning sign of child abuse in the er is when the injuries to the child are way out of proportion to the history supplied. One example would be if the history given is the child fell out of the arms while someone was sleeping, and the child dies from brain injuries. Well trained or experienced pediatric er staff are very attuned to this sort of disconnect, and their instincts are frequently correct.

    Based on the fragements of details published in this case, it is very doubtful that the child died from a mere ‘drop.’ If that is the history given, it is very likely that the child died from abuse. However, in many cases abuse is hard to prove, and obviously not every child who dies from head trauma has been abused. Given the lack of absolutely certain evidence, it is reasonable to give a lighter sentence than one would if there was more certainty. On the other hand, given the facts at hand, it is much more likely than not that abuse was involved in the poor child’s death. The lighter sentence probably reflects the inability to prove what everybody knows(or at least very very very very strongly suspects) to be true.

  8. Robert Lebovits says:

    Noam writes,”Based on the fragments of details published in this case, it is very doubtful that the child died from a mere ‘drop’ “.
    Isn’t that precisely the author’s point, that the details provided – or excluded – from sensational stories often mislead the reader to conclusions that later prove to be false? Whatever sort of president we have for the next four years, it is undeniable that the mainstream media cannot be relied upon for unbiased reporting. The Pew Center studies have exposed consistent slants that cannot be written off simply as “poor journalism”. And it IS worse in Israel where a David Halevy will openly boast of withholding information from the public so as to improve the chances of concessions being given to the Palestinians.
    Does this issue belong in Cross-Currents? In regard to the content of the stories, perhaps not. But given that we are often quick to judge the (alleged) behavior of accused wrongdoers in the frum world based primarily on what we read or hear in the media it is very appropriate to be reminded that stories are often revised as more becomes known. Maybe we do “circle the wagons” when we are confronted with awful tales about our community. Yet it’s just as problematic to suspend one’s own critical thinking so as to avoid the appearance of sectarianism. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re NOT out to get you.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    If the evidence is inconclusive, the accused should walk free. No more guessing games.

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