Jewish World Review Sept. 23, 2002 / 18 Tishrei, 5763
Surely neglect and child endangerment charges are being considered, especially since the state caseworker allegedly filed false reports on Rilya while working at another job the state apparently didn't know about. Surely, the Florida authorities are close to doing something -- after all, it's been two years since she disappeared.
And then there is 5-year-old Samantha Runnion and 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam. Vicious men murdered both of these little girls in California. Danielle's killer, David Westerfield, has been convicted and could be sentenced to death in November. But listen to this: The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that two lawyers for Westerfield offered prosecutors a deal before the trial began. Westerfield would tell authorities where he buried the little girl's body, and in return the state would not seek the death penalty against him. According to the newspaper, the deal was just hours away from being completed when the police found Danielle's remains on their own. Prosecutors then rejected any agreement.
But the knowledge that their client had indeed killed the little girl didn't deter Westerfield's lawyers one bit. They went into the courtroom and told the jury that Danielle's parents might have let someone into the house and that someone might have murdered the little girl. The attorneys made a big deal about the so-called "swinging lifestyle" of the Van Dams, humiliating them in front of the entire nation. And all the while these lawyers knew that their client brutally molested and murdered the Van Dam's daughter.
Intentionally misleading a jury with a fabrication is a violation of the California Bar's code of ethics, but more importantly, what these attorneys did is so reprehensible that words cannot describe it. Suppose they were successful in creating reasonable doubt with their fabricated scenario and Westerfield was acquitted? Well, he would have walked right out the door and perhaps joined O.J. Simpson on the golf course.
So where is the outrage against those lawyers? Are they pariahs in Southern California? At this point they are not, and a number of other attorneys are even defending their conduct. Depressing and sickening.
Finally, there is the case of little Samantha Runnion, who was kidnapped in front of her home and brutalized beyond belief, her battered body found in the dirt. Police have arrested a man named Alejandro Avila and say they have overwhelming evidence against him. The interesting thing about Avila is that two years ago, he was acquitted of molesting two 9-year-old girls -- both of whom testified against him in court. Avila also volunteered to take a lie-detector test and failed miserably.
But his lawyer confused the little girls on the stand and concocted a scenario that Avila's former girlfriend coerced the girls to accuse him. Of course, there was no evidence of that at all. Nevertheless, Avila walked.
Fox News sued to get the names of the jurors in the case so that we could ask them what swayed their decision. But the court ruled against us -- the names will remain sealed. So Americans will not be able to find out how Avila's acquittal came about.
Avila's lawyer says he just did what the law demands -- he put on an aggressive defense.
But that argument is bogus. What is happening now is that many defense lawyers are creating scenarios based purely on imagination and the judges are allowing them to get away with it. All Americans should be mad as hell about this, but the silence is deafening.
Just consider one final thing: You have a baby daughter. She is murdered. Her alleged killer is on trial, and his attorney is portraying you as an irresponsible parent -- someone whose actions may have led to the killing. But the attorney knows this is a lie, just as you know it is. So what do you think about this attorney?
There is no justice in America when the authorities in Florida refuse to track down those responsible for the disappearance of Rilya Wilson. And there is no justice in this country when attorneys are allowed to brutalize a grieving family and tell lies in an attempt to free a child killer. Two little girls are dead, and another is probably gone as well. And dying right along with them is the American system of justice.
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09/17/02: Singing a different tune