Amy Bishop & the dampening effect of demographic variables

Wow, the Amy Bishop post attracted a lot of comments. I've been hearing/reading a lot about Bishop's brushes with the law over the years over the past few days. One of the issues seems to be that she didn't have a traceable record, and that probably was one reason prosecutors were lenient in 2002 when she was charged with being verbally & physically abusive to another woman at an IHOP. This bit from a mechanic at a car dealership who was held up by Bishop in 1986 struck me:

"I yelled, 'What are you doing' and she screamed at me to put my hands up. So I put my hands up, " recalled Pettigrew, 45, in an interview at his home in Quincy yesterday.

Pettigrew said Braintree police briefly questioned him and several other employees, but authorities never contacted him again. Now, after the deaths in Alabama, Pettigrew wonders why authorities didn't follow up more aggressively.

"It was almost like they wanted to put it on the shelf and forget about it,"said Pettigrew, whose encounter with Bishop was first reported by the Boston Herald. 'I think if that happened to me I'd be wrapping up a long prison sentence. But with this, it seems like they just wanted it to go away."

What Pettigrew is alluding to here is sex & class; if he, a working class male, was in the same situation as Amy Bishop it seems likely that the scales of justice would been measured out a bit differently. His whole life would have taken a totally different track. By contrast, it seems that Bishop's socioeconomic status, and likely her sex (since women are not perceived to be as fundamentally violent), buffered her from the consequences of her actions. In fact to a great extent Bishop got off scot-free. She finished her education, received a Ph.D., and secured a place in the upper middle class. All the while bizarre incidents characterized her life, from the bomb mailed to one of her doctoral supervisors, to her assault on another mother at a restaurant. Many people may now conclude that it is all too coincidental, that these incidents arose from the common variable of Amy Bishop. But her social environment may have dampened both the consequences, and, the extent of the chaotic outbursts. It may be an exemplar of how innate predispositions and biases interact with one's environment. What I'm saying is that Amy Bishop may have been an orchid gone wild; she was lucky to have been born into the circumstances that she was, because those with fewer familial resources would have gotten into trouble far earlier. Or was she lucky?

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her mom definitely protected her in Braintree (where she killed her brother), but many of these incidents happened in different towns before the advent of massive criminal databases. I think the biggest factor, was her ability to move and escape her past. It would be impossible to do today.

Of all the things Bishop did, keeping kids from eating ice cream is the worst. What kind of a sick bitch would do that?

I believe in 2nd chances. But if you're never punished in the first place, what stops you in the future?

Ice cream is irrelevant. Killing her brother was the key that should have locked her up. Intelligence is what got her in trouble. Not thinking just doing. Over looking the problem was a crime it self.

By Briannetta Willis (not verified) on 19 Feb 2010 #permalink

Ice cream is never irrelevant.

By Sandgroper (not verified) on 20 Feb 2010 #permalink