October 29, 2010
Will Boxer Vote for 'Empathy for Sexual Sadists' Judge?By Wendy Wright
Does Senator Boxer (D-CA) approve of judges giving a pass to sexual sadists who rape and murder girls? I ask because she has been silent on President Obama's outrageous judicial nominee who has a history of excusing sexual crimes against women.
Judge Robert Chatigny called sexual sadism a "mitigating factor" in the case of a serial rapist and murderer. He gave light sentences for child sex predators and possessors of child pornography. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected his overturning of Connecticut's law requiring registration of sex offenders.
Chatigny's egregious actions in the serial murderer case led to seven state prosecutors filing complaints that he violated judicial ethics. They accused him of exceeding his judicial authority, abandoning neutrality, acting as an advocate to rescue a sadistic murderer from execution, and defying the rulings of higher courts.
Yet President Obama nominated this man not once, but twice to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Nary a peep so far from Senator Boxer, even when the chilling details of Chatigny's aggressive -- and unethical -- interference in a serial murder case revealed his sympathy for sexual violators.
Michael Ross was convicted of murdering eight women and girls. In prison, he described his crimes for a documentary titled The Serial Killers. Clips of the video are available on the internet, so Senator Boxer can see if she agrees with Chatigny's conclusion and extreme intervention on behalf of this cold-blooded killer.
Ross explains how he tied up 14-year-old Leslie Shelley, put her in the trunk of his car, and "took the other girl, April Bernaise [also 14] out and I raped her, and killed her, and I put her in the front seat." Then he pulled Leslie out of the trunk and brutally killed her.
Of his last victim, Wendy Baribeault, 17 years old, he said, "I raped her, and I killed her. It wasn't pleasant. It wasn't a nice rape."
Incredibly, Judge Chatigny said Ross' "sexual sadism, which was found by every single person who looked at him, is clearly a mitigating factor." He described Ross as "the least culpable of the people on death row" and said, "He never should have been convicted. Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death."
Hours before Ross' execution, after Ross said he wanted to die to end the anguish of his victims' families, after Judge Chatigny's two stays of execution were overturned, and after the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence, Chatigny summoned the attorneys for a hearing in another attempt to interfere with the execution of the jury's verdict.
A transcript reveals that he pressured Ross' lawyer to seek another competency hearing (Ross had already been found competent by a state court) and further appeals -- even though Ross did not want either. When the attorney insisted on following his client's wishes, Chatigny threatened, "I'll have your law license."
As it turns out, Chatigny challenged Ross' original sentence -- before becoming a judge. He failed to disclose this obvious conflict of interest, even when point-blank asked by the state's attorney. This, the only death penalty case that he had worked on, involving a horrific serial murderer, had "slipped his mind," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a speech to a legal group, Judge Chatigny advocated for "empathy" in judicial decision-making.
Let's look at his record for what that means. His empathy applied only to the confessed killer, not the families who grieve for the young victims: Dzung Ngoc Tu, 25; Tammy Williams, 17; Paula Perrera, 16; Debra Smith Taylor, 23; Robin Stavinsky, 19; April Brunais, 14; Leslie Shelley, 14; and Wendy Baribeault, 17.
Chatigny's numerous violations of judicial ethics were exposed by Republican senators at his nomination hearing. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), visibly upset during the Judiciary Committee vote, declined to vote for or against him.
It remains to be seen if Senator Boxer will promote a judge who empathizes with child pornographers, child-molesters, rapists, and murderers, but not their female victims.
Chatigny's actions ought to earn him an impeachment, not a promotion. Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee asked President Obama to withdraw Chatigny's nomination. Instead, after senators returned his nomination to the White House, President Obama re-nominated him. U.S. senators now need to oppose him -- and strike him off the list for any position that puts women's safety or well-being under his purview.
Judicial nominations are fraught with concerns over the proper role of a judge. But surely senators -- especially female senators -- can agree that a judge should not play the role of defense counsel for sexual sadists.
Chatigny's nomination may come up in a lame duck session after the election. Shouldn't Senator Boxer tell Californians before then how she will vote?
Wendy Wright is president of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's group.