Natalia J. Garland
Death comes to Joseph Smith. The 39-year-old father of three
girls was sentenced to death for his crimes against 11-year-old
Carlie Brucia. The death penalty was recommended by the jurors
(in a 10 to 2 vote) in Sarasota, Florida, after five hours of
deliberation on December 1, 2005. The same jurors had, on
November 17, 2005, also after five hours of deliberation,
convicted Smith guilty of: (1) murder in the first-degree; (2)
sexual battery of a child less than 12 years of age; (3)
kidnapping with infliction of bodily harm.
As I wrote
previously in my essay, Violation of Probation , what is
striking about Joseph Smith is his criminal history. He had a
record of arrests and charges dating back to 1993 in Sarasota
County, had been released from prison in 2003, and was in jail for
another crime when he was arrested for Carlie Brucia's murder.
How did it happen
that Smith repeatedly committed crimes, but was free to abduct,
rape, and strangle a young girl? Who was responsible for evaluating
Smith's history and determining his ability to live in harmony
with society? The criminal justice system must improve both its
methodology and accountability. Laws must be enforced, changed or
enacted to protect citizens from repeat offenders who show no
ability to learn from consequences, to rehabilitate, and to live
without harming others.
As mental health
workers, we are responsible for writing a detailed psychosocial
history of our patients. Not only do we encourage discussion of
feelings, but we also look for concrete information. Whether we
are treating a victim or an offender, we need to ask questions
which penetrate the behavioral context of alcoholism and addiction,
domestic violence and other forms of abuse, and arrests and
convictions. We must notice connections, repetitions,
progressions, and any inconsistencies in the information shared
Many facts can be
obtained by asking questions that begin with who, what, why,
where, when, how. Below is a list of question starters that
might be helpful in obtaining information.
When did it happen?
Where did it happen?
With whom _____?
Why were you/they/he/she there?
How is _____?
How is it that _____?
How much _____?
How often _____?
What was the least _____?
What was the most _____?
How many times _____?
What kind of _____?
Where did you get the _____?
When did it begin?
When was the last time it happened?
How long did it last?
What was the sequence of events?
What happened next?
Who else was there?
What did they do?
Who/what were the major _____?
Which one _____?
How old were you when _____?
What year was it when _____?
How would you describe _____?
How would you explain _____?
What examples could you give of _____?
What was the purpose of _____?
How was _____ connected to _____?
What was the relationship between _____?
An unofficial rule
for assessing behavior patterns is this: once is an isolated
incident, twice is a pattern. This is more applicable to crimes
such as D.U.I.'s. It is possible that someone could get a D.U.I.
for reasons of excessive drinking on one occasion, something very
out of character for that individual. But, a second D.U.I. would
very likely indicate alcohol addiction. A pattern has already
been established. Patterns need to be taken into consideration
when forming diagnoses, treatment plans, and recommendations.
There are, of
course, some behaviors which should not be tolerated even once:
murder and other forms of violence, including sexual assault. We
do not need to see a pattern of murders to know that such a person
is a danger to society.
Let us keep in mind
that not all unacceptable or criminal behavior results in arrest
or conviction. An individual may have driven while intoxicated
many times before getting his first D.U.I. He got caught once, but
may have had severe alcoholic problems for many years. Asking
the who, what, why, where, when, how questions can help to
uncover what lies beneath the official record of actual evidence.
Another tip is to
ask the same questions again. If the patient is lying or
concealing information, he will have to remember his lies in
order to repeat them. If you listen carefully, he will probably
confuse his lies somewhere in the interview process. Also, when
soliciting facts, the patient is relying on memory. Reviewing some
of the questions and answers with him may help to clarify his
recollection of stressful events.
Questions must be
asked with all the tact and skill expected of mental health
workers. This is not an interrogation, but the building of a
trusting therapeutic relationship between patient and worker.
(Written 12/05/05: bibliography available.)
Until we meet