Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mom gets 15 years to life for "failing to protect" 22-month-old son from killer dad (Sacramento, California)

This case illustrates in a nutshell the double standards used to judge mothers and fathers.

This mother, despite being charged and convicted of 2nd-degree murder, just as the baby's father was, didn't actually inflict direct violence on this infant child. It was the sicko daddy,
PAUL HARPER SR., who beat the baby to death. Mom was found guilty of "failure to protect" against a man she was terrified of. (And who very likely beat her himself.) Mom is serving more years in prison than many of the killer dads we've posted about here at Dastardly Dads. Of course we don't even know that Mom realistically had the opportunity to save this child, despite all the history of abuse she had suffered herself. And even then, had she bravely left her husband, would Dad have been given joint custody/visitation by the California family courts? Would the court-appointed shrinks have found her "depressed" or "alienating" or "a liar"? Very possibly. Or might dad have killed both of them out of control/revenge? Also very likely.

We all like to imagine that we would be the hero in a situation where lives are threatened. In Aurora, Colorado, all the NRA fantasy people like to think they would have been the big brave action hero who would have brought the shooter down. Despite the fact that it was a dark theater with a movie going which included gunfire sounds, despite the smoke bombs the killer allegedly threw into the crowd before he started shooting. Despite the confusion, and the screams. Dream on.

Even in the the most violent of political regimes, only a small number of people will ever directly confront the powers that be. Most people--for better or for worse--just keep their heads low and try to get by. After the regime is finally overthrown, future generations--who never experienced the terror--often denounce these survivors as cowards who "allowed" the state-sanctioned violence to happen. But even if these survivors are guilty of moral cowardice on some abstract level, they are seldom sent to prison. But mothers are.

And in cases where the mother, girlfriend, or stepmother committed the actual abuse or murder, the fathers are seldom found guilty of "failure to protect" even when they knowingly dumped or abandoned the child to a female caretaker with a documented history of mental illness or abuse. Very often, we see that fathers pull the "clueless daddy" card--"I had no idea she was beating those kids!"--and the courts buy it.

Saturday, Jul. 21, 2012

Sacramento mother given prison term, writes emotional letter to dead son

By Andy Furillo

The letter contained misspellings and bad grammar, but the emotion expressed by Theresa Harper rang true and clear, even if the thought behind it came too late to save her baby's life.

To her 22-month-old son, Paul Harper Jr., the incarcerated mother said, "I am so very very sorry."

It was his father – her husband – who beat the boy to death in their Del Paso Heights apartment. On Friday, Theresa Harper, 26, paid for her failure to protect when Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White handed her a 15-to-life prison term.

Paul Harper Sr., 31, like his wife, pleaded no contest May 29 to second-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 2009, killing. Harper told police he slugged his son in the head because he thought the little boy was "mean mugging" him – shooting him dirty looks. The toddler prompted the standoff by refusing to eat his lunch.

The calendar called for Paul Harper to be sentenced Friday, too. But when he was brought into the courtroom, he asked to withdraw his plea and fire his lawyer, Kenneth L. Rosenfeld.

Following a closed hearing, Harper Sr. decided to stay the course. He will be sentenced Aug. 31. Rosenfeld remained on the case.

"People taking a significant amount of medicine for mental conditions, they tend to have mindsets that ebb and flow," Rosenfeld said outside court. "Today is an ebb. Tomorrow might be a flow."

Police and prosecutors said Harper Sr. assaulted his boy when the defendant admittedly got the impression his son was trying to act like the man of the house.

"I told him to stop acting like you('re) running things," Harper told police. Then, "I popped him in the side with my knuckles." Then he hit him again.

The coroner said Paul Jr. died of blunt head injuries and "battered child syndrome" leading to fatal aspiration.

In comments to her dead son she put in her letter to the court, Theresa Harper said she was "so scared of your father." She said she should have protected him "like a real mother is supposed to do."

"If I did," she wrote, "you (would) still be alive."

She said "there is no excuse good enough in this world for not protecting my baby."

She said she took full responsibility for the death. She apologized to the rest of her family "for not listening to you guys when you said I should have divorced him because he is no good."

She said she is glad her three other kids, who have been placed in other homes by Child Protective Services, are safe.

Theresa Harper's lawyer, Karol Martin Repkow, said her client "was abused herself, throughout her whole childhood. Abused. Neglected. Abandoned. This is what she knows, to get together with people who are abusive."

Like Theresa Harper said, it didn't amount to an excuse, according to an emailed statement by Deputy District Attorney Chris Ore.

"Both Ms. Harper and Mr. Harper were responsible for the death of their child," Ore said. "Ms. Harper appropriately accepted that responsibility. While Mr. Harper inflicted the physical injuries to the child, a mother has a duty to protect her children."