Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jaycee Dugard Case Raises Questions, Sparks Anger, Gives Hope

Earlier this week the country was reminded of a little girl who was kidnapped eighteen years ago near South Lake Tahoe in California. Jaycee Dugard was eleven years old when she was snatched up by a man and woman on her way to the school bus stop. Her step father watched in horror as the car sped away, and Jaycee was gone. Last week, it was discovered that Jaycee Dugard was not only still alive, but living in Antioch, California just a few hours from where she was taken. Now a twenty-nine year old woman and mother of two, Jaycee Dugard is the center of attention and tons of unanswered questions.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido are accused of taking Jaycee. Phillip Garrido is a registered sex offender who was convicted of rape once before and sentenced to fifty years. Unfortunately, he only served ELEVEN years and was released. He is accused of kidnapping Dugard with his wife and keeping her captive in his backyard in a series of tents and sheds. He is also said to be the father of her two children, ages 15 and 11, which means she had her first child at the age of 14. The discovery of the secret life he was leading has now opened doors for other unsolved murders, rapes and kidnapping cases. He may be the key to other crimes and the fact that Jaycee was found alive has given hope to other parents of missing children.
The parole officer in charge of Garrido and local police are under major scutiny. A phone call to authorities in 2006 saying there were children living in the backyard of a registered sex offender were not properly investigated. The rest of the neighbors knew something was strange but "minded their own business" and figured that any registered sex offender would be properly monitored by law enforcement. Now those same neighbors are shocked to hear the details of this young woman's life that took place in their "own backyard".
There is so many questions to this case that need to be addressed. For now, Jaycee has reunited with her mother. Her and her two children will need privacy along with counseling and support from everyone. Some ask why she never tried to reach out to someone or run away,or why she tried to hide her identity at first. Well, think of what she has been through. Think of her as a frightened eleven year old girl. She didn't ask for this. Not one part of it is her fault. Let's make sure the right people take the blame for what happened. That means Phillip Garrido, his wife Nancy, and the authorities for not protecting Jaycee and her children. They had opportunities to do so. How is it that Google maps shows you the property and all the tents set up but no one else thought it was a cause for alarm? Why is it that this man was getting regular visits from a parole officer who failed to note the "compound" in the backyard? It's pretty scary that our legal system not only lets sexual predators out of prison but that they aren't even monitored and watched like they should be to keep the rest of us safe.
The Garrido's are facing 29 counts. They have plead not guilty and are being held in El Dorado County. One news source spoke with the lawyer representing Nancy Garrido who said his client is "distraught". Distraught? WHO CARES?!?! This woman took part in the kidnapping. She lived a lie, and kept 3 people in her backyard for years. Her husband raped a little girl and fathered two children with her. She stood by and did nothing. The only people allowed to be distraught in this case are Jaycee and her children. They are now living in a fishbowl with the whole world watching. They have been brainwashed and forced to live in squalor, hidden away from the outside world. Hopefully they will eventually lead healthy, happy and productive lives. They will be introduced to the modern world and to the people who truly love them. Jaycee's family has prayed for her return. They have held vigils and begged for help from the community. They have been torn apart by this ordeal, so we can only hope that the healing starts soon, that bonds thought to be broken are repaired and that they are all able to move forward. Maybe this time someone will also make sure Phillip Garrido stays behind bars. We need some kind of guarantee that he will not be allowed to hurt another person. His victims, all of them, deserve that and so does the general public.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cost of Freedom?

For those tying to find a better life here in the United States, the price is high. Often times there are people who will help others cross the border illegally into the United States but with ill intentions. They have alterior motives and take advantage of the men, women and children who are trusting them with their life. Smugglers who do this are called coyotes. They prey on the desperate individuals who will do anything to get to America.
In southern California, a man and woman were dumped in the desert by people like this. They left the man naked and abandoned, raped the woman and left her at a different location. Imagine how many others have gone through the same kind of situation, and yet they are probably too afraid to come forward due to their circumstances, and being here illegally. There is a smuggling ring currently under investigation that the men responsible for this are involved with. The couple that was deserted were just the latest victims. Others have also been held hostage and beaten, some have died. The coyotes try to hold these people for ransom and demand more money. When these people cannot meet their demands, they are victimized. The couple had already paid $5,000 and couldn't come up with anything more. How many others have paid this and more, just for a chance at freedom?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pardoned for Rape and Murder?

How is it that four men confess to a murder and rape of an eighteen year old girl, are found guilty, serve some time and then three of them receive a conditional pardon? This is what happened in Virginia. The fourth man served eight years and was released. All four men were given life sentences, so what happened? Looking at the details of the case, it's hard to say. The men say they were coerced into confessing to the crime and there was not any DNA evidence to connect them to it. A different man, Omar Ballard, confessed and was found guilty after his DNA did match. The Innocence Project, a group that works to free the wrongly convicted worked on the case. Working with multiple firms and resources, they were able to convince Govenor Timothy Kaine to pardon the men. Because Kaine decided that the men had not completely proven their innoncence, he said he reduced their sentences rather than give them a full pardon, which explains the "conditional" pardon. The men are also going to serve a lengthy probation, and will register as sex offenders.

Now, if they are guilty, then they should not have been released for any reason. If they are innocent of the crimes they were accused of, then they shouldn't have to register as sex offenders or be put on probation. What part did these men play in the rape and murder? Even after Ballard confessed, the prosecutors continued with their case against the others. They had plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. The young women's parents also believe the men are guilty and are upset with the pardons. These parents went through the trials, heard the confessions. Were they toyed with emotionally to get a conviction? Why were the charges and case pursued if someone was already linked to the crime and said to have no accomplices? An explanation is still needed. It is just not clear what really occured, or what led to this decision.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Former President Jimmy Carter Makes a Statement

Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States is standing up for women. Presdident Carter recognized the unfair teachings of his church and has severed ties with them. In doing so, he has made an enormous statement and shown his support for women's rights all over the world. He explains how many religions and cultures view women as secondary citizens, without rights or advantages available to men. President Carter also goes on to talk about how everyone benefits when the females in this world are treated equally and given opportunities to live a happy, healthy life. President Carter is a huge public figure who is educated about the issue at hand and makes an impact on others when he takes a stance on such a senstive, yet important subject. For someone with his stature to come forward and ask all of us to question or challenge the teachings some of us have been brought up with, is a giant step for women. It is time to spread the word, and get the rest of the world to follow suit! Check out President Carter's article: