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A Death In Boston

the au pair trial is a coven of crappy people on both sides

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 05, 1997.

Two nations, divided by a common language, are coming to blows over the conviction of a nineteen-year-old au pair for the murder of her eight month old charge. Outrage has swept Britain over the verdict, nearly a quarter million dollars has been raised on her behalf, and her attorneys have barely stopped short of saying that the jurors were congenital idiots, and that they themselves were drunk during the trial and the court has no right to hold them to what they said. Through it all, the parents heave dramatic sighs.

After years of trial and error, after much huffing and puffing about cameras in courtrooms, after some near misses with the OJ case and the Menendez brothers, finally we have a trial where we can hate with good reason every single person associated with it. So, let’s start with the parents.

Here are people who are professionals, who have a child by plan and neither of whom are willing to care for it should it interfere with their jobs. They could hire a nanny, but these mostly well-trained professionals are very expensive. So, they seek out something with both status and affordability, and rather than hire local teenagers to care for the kid but who might implant a South Boston accent, they opt for a foreign teenager who might bring up the child with a British lisp. And, best of all, they only cost room, board, and $115 a week for 45 hours of care. What a deal! And the mother only worked three days a week. Actually, why did they need an au pair again? Rescheduling could have saved them lots.

They can rest assured that the teenager will have been thoroughly trained for simply dozens of minutes by the experienced au pair company, who has made a commitment to accommodating social climbing American parents.

The girl herself falls short of sainthood, and may actually be a careless murderer. But it is more likely she was simply a social climber herself, trying to use a job as a party vehicle, and had the work ethic of a, well, teenager. She complained to friends that her charge was a brat. He was eight months old. All stories about her indicate she liked the clubs and nightlife of Boston, and this had been the cause of friction with her previous couple as well as the current one. She’s nineteen and drinking, waking up late and getting to work late. Whatever the age of drink in England, surely the agency imbued their charges with the fact they cannot legally drink in the US, with its moronic drug and liquor laws. Surely they did. Surely the parents would not want someone like that taking care of the child. If true, of course. If they knew and allowed it, they are negligent as well.

The medical evidence apparently showed that the child had had a serious injury to the head some weeks before the death, and that very little could have released a clot; nobody, but nobody noticed? Not even the loving parents? And there were no recent bruises or signs of trauma at all other than that cracked skull. So she may have not done it, at least on the day in question. It could have been the victim’s siblings, or the parents, or the au pair, or someone else three weeks before.

Then the defense, which included a member of O.J.'s team, Barry Scheck. He was the one who destroyed the credibility of the Los Angeles police lab. So certain was he that the technical evidence was overpowering that he essentially thought the case was won and decided that the jury had at least reasonable doubt. If that was the case, then force an acquittal by giving the jury a choice of either intentional murder or acquittal. The jury apparently found the defense attorneys a bit much and voted for second-degree murder. This means they disregarded the uncontested medical testimony. They let it be known they would have voted for third degree if they had the choice. If true, that’s an admission of both incompetence and dereliction. For one, in so doing they admitted they had had a reasonable doubt on the verdict delivered. On the up side, now Scheck knows what the LA prosecutors felt like when overpowering technical evidence was ignored in the Simpson case.

Perhaps it is a good sign that the issue of race never arose, for the victim’s parents are an interracial couple. And what does the English middle class think of that? Specifically, what did this au pair think of it and its produce?

The au pair company wanted either a murder verdict or an acquittal, for those were the two options that would negate a civil suit against them by the child’s loving parents.

The father offered a curious quote regarding the accused and au pairs in general: “...they should never throw your kid up against the wall.” Indeed. Why does he think his daughter was thrown against the wall? The accused is thought to have shook the child. But there is that severe head injury from three weeks previous......

And then the judge allowing the defense team to say they were, essentially, incompetent, and to allow the prosecution to say they wouldn’t necessarily object to a reduction in sentence, which is to say, both parties agree the jurors were idiots, although for different reasons. But we still must mourn with the social climbing parents, denied a daughter who talked like Diana and who, with the au pair, didn’t notice their infant had a cracked skull for three weeks. Of course, why should they? Just because they are both doctors themselves....

Charming, all of it. My eyes are dry and my throat unconstricted, somehow.....