New York city police officer Anthony Battisti was acquitted yesterday of orchestrating the 2009 attempted murder of his ex-wife, Patricia Battisti. Prosecutors contend that Battisti offered Timothy Gersbeck $5,000 to get rid of his former wife because he was tired of paying child support and wanted sole custody of their children. Gersbeck, an acquaintance who did odd jobs for the officer, admitted attacking Patricia Battisti with a screwdriver outside her Franklin Square home last January. The victim’s son and boyfriend came to her aid before he could complete the act. Gersbeck pleaded guilty and agreed to testify in exchange for a lighter sentence. He told the court that Battisti “hired” him and suggested using either a shotgun or a screwdriver to commit the crime.
On Law & Order, witness identifications in lineups are rarely challenged by the defense. In reality, attorneys often challenge lineup IDs—both through motions to dismiss, as well as during trial. Lineups are naturally flawed. Given the amount of detail witnesses need to retained in order to make a positive ID, it’s crucial that lineup participants are gathered as quickly as possible. What are the odds of quickly finding a handful of people that look similar enough to keep a defense lawyer at bay? Not too good. Given the possible pitfalls concerning the length of witnesses’ memories, the natural pressure people feel when viewing lineup, and the general subjectiveness of this type of evidence gathering, it’s not surprising that lineups are frequently challenged. As a backup plan, police often have witnesses view a photo array prior to a lineup. —from True Stories of Law & Order
By Robert Schnakenberg Things that go together: baseball and hot dogs, baseball and warm beer, baseball and…crime? Oddly enough, when you scrounge around in the Baseball Underground as much as I have, you find there are more than a few diamond legends with shady connections and lengthy rap sheets—whether it’s Ty Cobb assaulting fans or Billy Martin accosting marshmallow salesmen. In honor of major league Opening Day, here are a few crime and justice-themed excerpts from my new book, The Underground Baseball Encyclopedia. Big Ed Bites the Big One Delahanty, a lumbering slugger of the Dead Ball Era, earned an immortal place in baseball lore due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death in 1903. The hard-living home run king was kicked off a Chicago -to- New York train one night for being drunk and disorderly. He then either jumped, fell, or was pushed—depending on whose story you believe—off the International Bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada and into Niagara Falls . His mangled corpse was fished out of the water a week later. Over the years, some have speculated that Delahanty was murdered for the diamonds he was carrying, or that he staged his own suicide to look like an accident so that his daughter could recover on his life insurance policy. The mystery may never be solved, but it can be hummed. In 2008, Delahanty’s demise was immortalized in song by the indie rock supergroup The Baseball Project, on a track called “The Death of Big Ed Delahanty.”
While all three of types of murderers kill multiple people, there are major differences between each type. Although every rule has its exceptions, each generally has its own characteristics, the knowledge of which is instrumental to finding, arresting, and prosecuting the perpetrator. Serial killers are usually motivated largely by violent urges revolving around sex. They tend to carefully plan out each murder and take time to “cool off” between each one. Predators in the most literal sense of the word, serial killers are usually diagnosed a psychopaths (as opposed to psychotic) and tend to come across as normal, even likable, people who lead ordinary lives. Experts disagree about the number of victims a person must murder before being deemed a serial killer, but three is generally the accepted number. A mass murderer kills multiple people in one place. Motive doesn’t figure as much into defining someone as a mass murderer. Anyone from high-ranking Nazis during World War II to Julio Gonzalez, who set a fire killing eighty-seven people at the Happy Land social club in the Bronx, can be considered a mass murderer.
Truffaut takes us to juvvy in his classic The 400 Blows In the past decade we’ve heard a lot about juvenile super predators—sociopathic kids that allegedly pose a danger to us all. Of course, there are kids who kill, but they are the exceptions. The reality is that most juvenile offenders commit non-violent misdemeanors such as vandalism, petty theft, and property damage. Most juveniles are tried in juvenile court. Juvenile courts are now part and parcel of our criminal justice system. But this was not always so. Before the 18th century, juveniles–some as young as seven years old—as were tried in adult criminal courts in the United States. Those juveniles found guilty were given adult sentences. It wasn’t until 1899 that the first court for juveniles was established. Based in Chicago, Illinois, this juvenile court was inspired by parens patriae—the doctrine that held that the state was responsible for the parenting of any child or individual in need of protection. Gradually, the rest of country followed Illinois’ lead; by 1945, all 50 states had adopted juvenile courts.
Forget the roses. This Valentine’s Day nothing says “Be mine!” better than one of Brandon Bird’s cool Law & Order-themed cards. Throw in a box of chocolates and a cheeky I ‘Huang’ to be with you t-shirt and you’re good to go. And if the romance cools, you can always let Fred Thompson break the news to your soon-to-be former flame. p.s. You can see more of Brandon’s work at brandonbird.com.
In our True Stories of Law & Order books, Juré and I wrote about some of the biggest bastards in the annals of crime. Now, Juré has moved on to a different type of “bastard”—people burdened with the stigma of being born illegitimately who still managed to put their thumbprint on history. While some of the men and women in her new book seem to have been nice enough bastards, some fit the bill in both senses of the word. So check out her new book. It’s called Great Bastards of History: True and Riveting Accounts of the Most Famous Illegitimate Children Who Went on the Achieve Greatness and it’s great. —Kevin Dwyer
True Stories of Law & Order series authors Kevin Dwyer and Juré Fiorillo weigh in on crime, justice, and their favorite television show.