Men, Myths, and Masculinity in the News 10-16-09

October 16, 2009
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Willingham juror no longer sure of his guilt in Texas case

At least one member of the jury that sentenced Cameron Todd Willingham to death in the arson homicides of his three children says she is struggling with the idea that she might have convicted an innocent man.

It has been 17 years since Willingham was convicted in Texas of setting a house fire that killed his children, a crime Willingham vehemently denied right up until his execution in 2004.

Since that time, three investigations have concluded arson was not the likely cause of the 1991 fire, including one that arrived in Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office 88 minutes before the scheduled execution.

Perry replaced four of nine members of the Texas Forensics Sciences Commission in recent weeks, just before the commission was to receive a report from the latest of the three investigations.

The controversy has led juror Dorenda Brokofsky to think twice about the decision she made in a jury room in 1992.

“I don’t sleep at night because of a lot of this,” Brokofsky said. “I have gone back and forth in my mind trying to think of anything that we missed. I don’t like the fact that years later someone is saying maybe we made a mistake, that the facts aren’t what they could’ve been.”

“I do have doubts now,” she said. “I mean, we can only go with what we knew at the time, but I don’t like the fact now that maybe this man was executed by our word because of evidence that is not true. It may not be true now. And I don’t like the fact that I may have to face my God and explain what I did.”

Perry’s office said it received a five-page fax on the day of the execution that contained an arson expert’s findings that the fire was not deliberately set.

It is unclear whether Perry read the fax.

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Establishing Paternity at Birth Gives Children a Good Start

The birth of a child is one of the most joyous events in a couple’s life. For unmarried couples, that life-changing experience carries an added responsibility – establishing paternity for their child.

Establishing paternity is one of the most important jobs the Attorney General’s Child Support Division performs, because it guarantees a legal relationship between a father and his child. Under Texas law, a child born to a man and woman who are not married has no legal father. Establishing legal fatherhood is very important. It ensures that children are eligible for child support and benefits such as Social Security, veteran’s survivor benefits and health insurance. Legal paternity also guarantees a father’s rights as a parent, such as making it easier for him to visit his children. In addition, it enables the father’s name to go on the birth certificate, which is important to a child.

Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) is one way to establish paternity. The most convenient place and time to sign an AOP is usually at the hospital when the baby is born. The child’s mother and father will likely be present together and eager to secure the child’s legal connection to his or her father.

Most parents come to the hospital planning to put the father’s name on the birth certificate. In Texas, however, a man who isn’t married to the child’s mother has to sign the AOP before his name can go on the birth certificate.

Points to Remember- Establishing Paternity The Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form is available at all hospitals, birthing facilities and child support offices, free of charge. The AOP is for unmarried fathers to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, when the mother agrees.

(Question: So what happens if the mother disagrees?)

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DNA Proves Keanu’s Not a Dad; Mom Begs to Differ

According to science, Keanu Reeves still has no children to speak of.

At least, so says the DNA test the actor submitted to in order to prove that he did not father at least one of Karen Sala’s four adult children.

But apparently, Sala isn’t willing to accept scientific certainty without a fight.

“Ms. Sala is challenging the validity of the DNA testing, so the case goes on,” Reeves’ attorney, Lorne Wolfson, told E! News.

But her client, she added, will not have to take another test.

“If [Sala] wants to challenge it, let her go right ahead,” Wolfson said. “But we are confident that the DNA testing was done properly and that the results are sound.”

Sala asked for $150,000 in monthly child support payments from Reeves, retroactive to 1988, as well as $3 million in retroactive spousal support.

Reeves maintains that he has never met Sala.

E-Online.com

Mississippi teacher gets life for killing lover’s pregnant fiancee

A Mississippi schoolteacher was sentenced to life without parole Wednesday for shooting and stabbing to death her lover’s pregnant fiancee in 2006.

The same jury that convicted Carla Hughes of two counts of murder Tuesday for the death of Avis Banks spared her life, declining to impose the death penalty.

Mississippi is among the states that consider murdering a pregnant woman to be taking two lives.

Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest asked the panel of nine women and three men to sentence Hughes to death based on the gruesome nature of Banks’ murder.

Banks, 27, was found lying in a pool of blood on November 29, 2006, in the garage of the Ridgeland home she shared with Keyon Pittman, the father of her unborn child. She was five months pregnant.

She had been shot four times in the leg, chest and head, and then stabbed multiple times in the face and neck as she lay dying, according to medical testimony.

Prosecutors alleged that Hughes killed Banks so she could have Pittman, a colleague at Chastain Middle School in Jackson, to herself.

Throughout the trial, defense lawyers maintained her innocence and attempted to cast blame on Pittman, portraying him as a womanizer seeking to avoid the burden of fatherhood.

(First, we  continuation of sexism in application of the death penalty. If this were a man, in my opinion there is no doubt the jury consisting of a majority of women would have condemned him to death. Just a few years ago Scott Peterson was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and sentenced to receive the death penalty. A large crowd of people actually camped out on the court house steps anticipating the verdict, and cheered in celebration when the punishment was handed down. And second, as is the norm in our society, when a woman engages in destructive behavior to herself and/or others, the first line of defense is to minimize her accountability and responsibility for her actions, by directing blame towards man, men, or the patriarchal society. Her lawyer did exactly this by blaming Pittman in defense of her actions. Men and women will not be equals until women share equal accountability, responsiblity, and consequences for their actions.)

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