Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers “At the Table“ for 19 Years and We Never Really Knew Her! 

Elizabeth Rogers of Law and Order

Actress Leslie Hendrix (a.k.a. Character Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers) had the best damn acting gig in the world for 19 years on Law and Order and its many spin offs!  She was known as the longest running recurring character in “the franchise.”   So, why did she never appear in the credits?

I should know, I think I’ve watched nearly all the episodes of Law and Order, and Criminal Intent, and Trial by Jury multiple times.  I watch an occasional Special Victims Unit.  However, I got bored with the SVU characters and story line. (How many ways can you portray sexual assault? Whereas, homicide is endless in my creative opinion!)

But, getting back to Elizabeth Rodgers, (I even had to look up her character’s first name, as everyone called her Rodgers – that’s it!)  It’s akin to you working at your job in a big corporation for 20 years and no one putting your name on your office door! Law and Order was supposed to be cutting edge and groundbreaking for women. Who cares if she wasn’t in every scene? She was still important.

Why did they only give us a mere morsel of a character?  Are medical examiners not interesting and supposed to be relegated to “the back room?” Not at all!  She was pivotal to many shows in a cliffhanger sort of way.  No we weren’t supposed to know too much about the characters personal lives in Law and Order, but over many years, you do come to know them.

Rodgers was a very smart, wise cracking medical examiner who let certain detectives “do their own examinations” and “take their best guess.” Romance?  It was hinted that she had a thing with Detective Lenny Briscoe (played by the late Jerry Orbach).  She supposedly wanted to be “a real surgeon,“ but couldn’t tolerate cutting real live people. She may have been somewhat bitchy, but who wouldn’t be under her working conditions?  Rodgers enjoyed the banter with her colleagues and she was a consummate professional on the witness stand.

Perhaps they could have done a spin-off similar to “Quincy, M. E”. of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s – a cheesy, imitation by today’s standards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI3pd-dNN-0.  There are a few shows currently featuring medical examiners currently, but they don’t possess as much pizzazz.

The real actress, Leslie Hendrix is originally from San Francisco, is passionate about live theater and has also appeared in a few movies.  In May, she appeared at the Hartford Stage Company in the play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,  a Tony Award winning comedy.

Leslie Hendrix originally auditioned to be a lawyer and didn’t even know the profession of medical examiner.

Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers, her mystery is maintained.  Even though she “was only part-time” and didn’t receive the credit for her talents, I hope she was paid well!

A medical examiner’s findings are very important to a homicide case by offering the jury physical evidence of what happened to the victim. Although sometimes hard to listen to, or to see, families have the right to know what happened to their loved one, it’s their right. Another crucial right for surviving victims is the opportunity to report to the court the impact their crime has had on their lives, and the lives of those connected with the victim.

In the courtroom the victim impact statement is often the only voice the deceased may have, and it must be created and presented professionally, difficult to do when experiencing the most vulnerable time in a surviving victim’s life.

My professional Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service is available to anyone looking for help from someone who has had the experience as a crime victim.  You owe it to yourself and to your loved one.

 

 

References:

http://lawandorder.wikia.com/wiki/Leslie_Hendrix

http://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/questionsandanswers/lesliehendrix.htm

http://www.tvguide.com/News/Law-Order-Hendrix-1034092.aspx

http://articles.courant.com/2014-05-30/entertainment/hc-review-vanya-sonia-0530-20140530_1_masha-and-spike-christopher-durang-vanya-and-sonia

 

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Bizarre Weapons of Choice with the Act of Homicide

Blowpoke

Recently while researching a new blog topic, I was scanning through my copy of “The Staircase” on my tenth or so viewing, it suddenly occurred to me the “purported” weapon (which may have killed Kathleen Peterson, former wife of author, defendant Michael Peterson) was the blessed blow poke, light, hollow and capable of producing abrasions, was certainly unique as a weapon, if not bizarre.

In fact, the blow poke was not discovered until the closing argument phase  in October 2003, of Peterson’s initial trial. It was located by accident in a cobwebbed filled darkened corner of the garage and oh what a tangled web it caused! Meant as a Christmas gift for several family members, it “fueled the fires” of this trial nearly as much as Peterson’s bisexuality.

By extension of thought, I then wondered what other curious weapons I might unearth from the act of homicide. When one thinks about it logically, non-standard weapons must be weapons on convenience, that is to say, handy and used without much thought in the heat of anger. “It was there; I grabbed it and killed him/her. I didn’t mean to.” Yeah…right!

Making a Selected List and Checking it Twice for the Naughty Weapon

 

Perp- Unknown

Victim – Murate St. Hilaire

Corkscrew Child found father stabbed in side of temple;

 

Perp – Unknown

Victim- Chen Liu Nail

Gun- 35 Nails in head Children found body in a marsh

 

Perp – Debra Hewitt

Victim – Boyfriend Duane Ball

Her own Prosthetic Leg Homeless and accused of two other murders, she beat him to death, balancing on “good leg”

 

Perp- Marvin Hill

Victim- Christina Eubanks

Toilet Tank Lid ? Rape, strangulation after a love affair; Bashed head Dumped Body in creek; 51 year Sentence

 

Perp – Ana Lilia Trujillo

Victim – Alf Stefan Andersson

Stiletto Shoe Jealous attack- more than 10 holes in his head

 

Perp-Duane Hurley – 55 yrs

Victim- Daniel Kovarbasich- 16 yrs

10 Lb. Pickle Jar Child Rape; them bash head & stabbing; 5 years probation

 

ATTEMPTED MURDER- OMG!

Perp – Female Name withheld

Victim – ? Married Spouse Poison Vagina

Brazilian Woman- Refused Divorce by Husband

 

Perp –Karen Walsh

Victim Maire Rankin-81 Yrs

Crucifix Neighbor killing & Sexual Assault to “Throw off Police” on Christmas Day!

 

Perp- China Arnold – Mother

Victim – Paris Talley –I month old

Microwave   “Worthless Drunk” cooked daughter; no external Burns; DNA found  in Microwave

 

Perp – Richard Krafts

Victim- Helle Krafts-Wife

Wood chipper  Wife asked for Divorce- Forensics of tooth, pink Toenail & hair, blood type conclusive evidence

 

Conclusion: What can possibly be said after such a variety of weapons? Please don’t get any ideas…. Work out your differences! (You didn’t hear it from me!) May the victims all rest on peace. They certainly deserve all the peace they can find!

 

References:

http://rawjustice.com/2010/09/13/12-most-unusual-murder-weapons-used-in-rea…
http://listverse.com/2013/07/21/10-bizarre-murder-weapons/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Helle_Crafts

 

 Bizarre Weapons of Choice with the Act of Homicide

 

 

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“The Murky World” of Jury Consultants

jury consultants, members of jury

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

“Reading  people is neither a science nor an innate gift. It is a matter of knowing what to look and listen for, having the curiosity and patience to gather the necessary information, and understanding how to recognize the patterns in a person’s appearance, body language, voice, and conduct”         …….Jo-Ellan Dimitrius  

Jury Consultation is one of those “behind the scenes professions” of which the general public is not always aware. It is controversial, can be seen as ineffective compared to other methods and only afforded to those who are wealthy.  If you’ve ever seen a passing mention of this profession on TV, it is always glamorized.  Even so, perhaps some basic features  and illustrative examples can make an otherwise dry topic “come alive” and help us to understand this murky world to some degree.

An Introduction from Audrey Cleary- Villanova University

  • Juries decide thousands of cases every year. Even though the majority of court cases are not settled by juries, predictions about juries influence decisions to pursue or avoid jury trials;
  • Therefore, the jury system maintains a central importance in American law. Given this importance, it is not surprising that the selection of jurors has, for many, become a scientifically-rooted service for which attorneys and litigants will often pay handsome fees.
  • Definition – Scientific Jury Selection:  is the application of behavioral and social scientific principles to the selection of jurors most sympathetic to a particular side in a court case.
  • It has experienced a growth spurt since its inception in the early 1970’s and received substantial publicity in the news media for its use by the defense in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial in 1995;
  • It is  a virtually unregulated field of endeavor;
  • Evidence from academia largely indicates that scientific jury selection does no good, yet the market for such services continues to flourish;
  • Traditional jury selection in most jurisdictions consists of three stages:

Creation of a list of citizens eligible for jury duty, followed by selection of a sample of those persons to be summoned to court. The third  stage is the process of voir dire where potential jurors are questioned either individually or in a group, sometimes by attorneys but often by the presiding judge.

At A Glance: History, Examples and Problems:

Scientific jury selection had its roots in the 1971 trial of Philip Berrrigan and six other anti-war activists of the infamous “Harrisburg Seven.” Among their charges, conspiring to destroy secret service records and kidnap former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger! Synopsis by Defense Attorney, Tom Menneker 

The Case of Joan Little – A Black Woman- Sexual Assault in Prison- Washington, North Carolina. The first two weeks of the trial were consumed by jury selection. Because it was a capital case, prospective jurors were screened carefully by both sides about their views on the death penalty. Although prosecuting attorneys relied on traditional questions to inform their exercise of peremptory challenges, the defense employed a variety of jury-selection techniques that were anchored on a mathematical model portraying ideal jurors that had been constructed by the social scientists on the defense team.

In the 1980’s,  jury selection expanded to trial consulting including focus groups and consumer profiling. An example, David Rudolf hired a jury consultant for the first trial (January 2003) of defendant Michael Peterson (Murder of his wife December 9, 2001). Although the eight part  documentary “drama” The Staircase”  by director, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade is slanted toward the defense’ perspective, you can readily see the true narcissistic character of Michael Peterson.

The defense team had thousands of dollars with which to put up their defense (although they had  “a budget”.) The team began their strategy in closed door sessions in a hotel by beginning with a written accounting of “Good Facts; Bad Facts.”

Jury consultant Margie Fargo, had these telling analytical  words to say when listening to comments of their focus group or in defense strategy meetings throughout the piece:

  • “This is not New York. This is THE SOUTH” regarding the topic of Michael Peterson’s bi-sexuality;
  • “His accent is too hard to understand and the jury may lose interest.” referring to the testimony of  Dr. Henry C. Lee;
  • “The defense hasn’t put up any emotion. It’s been science, science, science. They want to know the story. That’s a problem.”
  • In Michael Peterson’s words: “The DA has to win and on the other hand my lawyer wants to win. The truth is lost.”

With the thousands of dollars spent, and time spent strategizing, going to Germany to do “damage control “regarding the other woman who “mysteriously fell down the stairs,” the defense still lost the case. Was the money for jury consultants well spent? Some say that wealthy, New York Defense Attorney David Rudolf  whose best friend is Barry Scheck, was distrusted by the North Carolina jury.

The Trial Consulting Industry

In 1999, trial consulting was estimated to be a $400 million industry, with over 400 firms and over 700 practitioners  with varying degrees of expertise  in the areas of behavioral psychology, sociology,  the law, and communications and marketing.

Methods Used for Scientific Jury Selection include:  survey questions, focus groups, mock trials, pre-trial investigations and voire dire assistance.

This  “science” is perhaps more of an art in that predicting verdicts depends upon many variables.  Demographics and personalities are reported to account for at most 15% variability in verdicts.  In other words, there is no true way to predict the tendency of juries based on any variable!

Ms. Cleary’s research states that, more than any other factor, the quality of evidence determines the outcome of a trial. Therefore, the implication is that jury consultants might be better served to offer their expertise to attorneys in the area of evidence presentation versus jury selection! Well said!

“Jury of One’s Peers”  A farce? How can the process be fair when  some attorneys pay a lot of money for hand selected jurors and the fact that                            “some Americans, namely, persons who do not register to vote or hold driver’s licenses, are regularly excluded from jury selection”

Other issues brought to bear include the Constitutionality of “a group selected for their biases.” The scientific jury selection really is about “the perception of fairness” versus actual fairness.  The fact is there are no true standards that regulate participating professionals in trial consulting. Why not? SJS proponents essentially say it is better than nothing and that trial consultants don’t rely on “stereotypes of group attitudes” as attorneys do.

The Last Word:

“Never accept a juror whose occupation begins with a P. This includes pimps, prostitutes, preachers, plumbers, procurers, psychologists, physicians, psychiatrists, printers, painters, philosophers, professors, phony’s, parachutists, pipe-smokers, or part-time anythings.” –William Jennings Bryan (U.S. Congressman, Democratic presidential nominee, and former Secretary of State)

 

References:

“The Murky World” of Jury Consultants

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“Thinking out of the Box” to Save Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

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Insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

                          The Victim doesn’t have to take responsibility for the victim’s behavior. Anonymous Victim

We do not have to be a German physicist to know the wisdom and the insanity of the first quote. The second quote is indeed foreign and not without controversy, as it doesn’t fit the status quo.

I submit to you that 49 States in the U.S. have continued the insanity of perpetuating intimate partner violence using the same old “tried and mostly failed methods,” including  lack of judicial and law enforcement communication, AND placing blame and responsibility on the victim, time and time again such that it hurts her/him over and over and over again!

The how and why consists of apathy, desensitization to violence and not holding offenders accountable at any level, such that they know exactly “how to work the system.” It is a vicious cycle with few making it out with any sense of self, dignity, or humanity.

A light at the end of the tunnel was forged by a very insightful Police Chief named Marty Sumner, overseeing the medium-sized city (154,000) of High Point North Carolina.  Beginning in 2009, Chief Sumner wanted to address the most troublesome problem in his community, of repeat offenders perpetrating verbal and physical abuse on their partners, “running through the judicial mill like a mouse on and wheel” and, at times, escalating to homicide.  His community deserved far better.  But, how to do it?  Consulting with Professor David M. Kennedy, Director for the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. In fact the centerpiece of this model which came to be known as the High Point Model, stemmed from a paper called “Deterrence and Crime Prevention: Reconsidering the Prospect of Sanction.

With the able assistance of researchers from the University of North Carolina and team members  in High Point at every level, consisting of law enforcement, victim advocates, prosecutors, nurses, social workers, victims  and others , they have seen amazing results. They have totally revolutionized the system by at its essence making offenders versus victims responsible for the follow-up that comes after abuse giving advanced notice with harsh consequences and zero tolerance levels while prosecuting batterers for other offenses along the way as part of the process.

Consider this :

1)  Re-arrest rates In the first two years of implementation re-offense rates using this deterrence program were only 9% per 1.000 + perpetrators as compared tov a 20-34% range typically found elsewhere. 

2) In High Pont, since 2009, homicide rated dropped from 33% to 6 % (1 in 16) which were IPV related using the deterrence program. 

It was an illuminating experience to have the opportunity to interview Chief Sumner and his colleague Victim Advocate, Shay Harger of the Piedmont Family Services in Guilford Count , N.C. This program compliments the Victim based Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit- EAA  conceived and created by the late Susan Murphy- Milano.

Listen to Podcast

click to listen button1

         

  • Intimate Partner  Violence PSA’s by Amy Robinson
  • The evolution of the High Point Model- a deterrence regime
  • The Victim’s Point of View and an intimate partner’s journey  without the deterrence program
  • Protective Orders, contact  and reality
  • ExpIaining the components and “what happens after the first call”
  • Notification letters – A model from Hudderfied England
  • Number one call for service and how it plays out in time, phone calls and less serious crimes
  • The cycle of violence – “A family of origin “– Desensitization
  • “If he’s doing this in public, what is he doing at home?”
  • Susan Herman, Victim Advocate and Author
  • Community Involvement: “Continued Contact”
  • Continuous training including Lexington Police – North Carolina
  • Victim advocates need to partner with all community partners
  • Contact Chief Marty Sumner:  marty.sumner@highpointnc.gov

Selected Questions from the “Interrogation Room

  • Can they protect victim’s safety by really controlling the offender?
  • What were the “excuses” and why did they persist?
  • What responsibilities do victims have using the deterrence program?
  • How do they get the message across using  additional charges and police monitoring?
  • Which charges count with the “Al Capone Treatment?”
  • Can violence be deterred by “face to face “messages?
  • What is meant by “meeting them where they are”?

“The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessary reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.”

 

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