An Ethics Lesson Missed, a Life Lost

Jayna Murray, victim of a murderer and ignorance of the the Golden Rule.

The grisly Lululemon Athletica murder trial in Montgomery County, Maryland, concluded with Brittany Norwood being quickly found guilty of the March beating and stabbing death of co-worker Jayna Murray in the yoga-wear store where they both were employed. Among the key testimony at the trial was that of Jana Svrzo, the manager of the Apple store adjacent to the murder scene, who said she heard banging, screaming, grunts and other someone-is-getting-attacked sounds, along with a frantic woman screaming things like, “God help me! Please help me!” and “Talk to me! Don’t do this!” Svrzo said she called another Apple employee over to the wall to confirm her suspicions, and they heard the voice say,”Stop! Stop! Stop!” and then, “Oh, God! Stop!”

The two Apple employees did nothing.

They didn’t call 911; they didn’t bang on the walls. They waited until the screaming stopped, shrugged, and went back to their business, probably saying something like, “Wow, that was funky!” If there was ever a perfect example of when the Golden Rule is in play, this was it. Would they want someone who overheard them being beaten to death to call the police? Of course. Still they did nothing.

We need to agree on the proper treatment for people like this—self-centered, fearful slugs who can’t summon the fortitude and decency to help a fellow human being in peril, even when it only requires a phone call. They are not quite criminals, but they are significant contributors to the evil in the world, the kind of citizens who accept the benefits of society but won’t lift a finger to contribute to it. This is one of those ethical failures that the law cannot address.

You may recall that “Seinfeld” ended its run with the four ethically inert main characters (but amusingly ethically inert) being sentenced to prison for violating a town’s local ordinance requiring bystanders to intervene when they witnessed a crime in progress. Such a law would be impossible to draft or enforce outside of Sit-Com Land, but the societal condemnation of individuals who allow other human beings to be harmed when they have it in their power to summon assistance is appropriate, and should occur informally, like most enforcement of social behavioral norms.

I don’t want to hire someone like Svrzo. I don’t want her as a neighbor or a friend. If I’m an independent service provider, I don’t want her business; if I’m a banker, I don’t think she’s trustworthy enough to receive a loan. Her conduct is unacceptable in a cooperative society, and the one constructive thing she can do now is to serve as a living lesson to others that there are minimum duties that accompany being part of civilization, and consequences of failing to meet them.

Parents, while they are teaching their children such basics as “Look both ways when you cross the street,” “Don’t take candy from strangers,” “Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,“Tell the truth” and “Treat your elders with respect” need to make sure “Always do what you can to help another human being in peril” is on the list.  If Jana Svrzo’s mother had made that ethical obligation sufficiently clear, Jayna Murray might be alive today.

18 thoughts on “An Ethics Lesson Missed, a Life Lost

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. How incredibly tragic.

    It is mindblowing to me that these fools did nothing. I actually would be all for a law making this punishable by at least fines. I hope at the very least the family of the deceased sue them to hell and back.

    May all Apple employees involved in this never sleep another night in there life due to the guilt of their inaction! Her blood is on their hands.

  2. Since you nailed this belt-high 70 mph fastball, I’m going to complain about your grammar.

    “Jayna Murray, victim of murder, and a Golden Rule failure.”

    I hadn’t followed the case, and I was all set to see how a victim of murder managed to violate the golden rule. Boy, was I disappointed. I think you need a second “victim of” to avoid the ambiguity. (The second comma is also out of place in any meaning.)

    Welcome Back. Don’t ever leave me again!

  3. “Such a law would be impossible to draft or enforce outside of Sit-Com Land…”

    By Sit-Com land, you mean “many civil law jurisdictions”?

  4. The comment “…the one constructive thing she can do now is to serve as a living lesson to others ..” brings to mind a lesson from my oft-referred-to book of Attila the Hun’s management concepts, that (paraphrased) “all Huns have a purpose, if only to serve as a bad example”.

    This might be a good time for Apple to up the ante and add an ethics section to their pre-employment screening.

  5. A good samaritan was killed trying to intervene in a robbery this week.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/04/alejandro-sanchez-torrez-good-samaritan_n_1077229.html

    At least he tried. Being too afraid to help would be better than dumbly wondering “what was all that screaming, chainsawing, and muttering “damn blood stains won’t come out!” all about?”

    Not getting involved on a personal level to avoid getting killed seems like a legitimate reason to not get involved. But nobody gets hurt calling 911. That’s what should have happened, and for some reason, it didn’t.

    • Police recommend the following: yell out: “I see you, I hear you, I’m calling 911!” and do it! To actually step in a violent situation may appear noble but be counterproductive: the goal should be to make noise and call 911.

  6. I can’t imagine Jayna’s parents heartbreak knowing that their daughter might have been saved if only….I don’t think in terms of what if it where me so much as what if it where my daughter. As a parent I’d want to save her if I could. Those women didn’t have to get their “fingers bloody.” Just call 9/11. Where has humanity gone? Schoolkids standing around watching a classmate beaten to death,picketing a young gay soldier’s funeral and driving a knife into his parents already wounded hearts,watching an elderly man run down by a hit and run and doing nothing to help,telling an adult who survived being aborted she’s selfish for being alive,and on and on. What’s happened to us?

  7. My understanding is that Ms. Murray had more than 330 injuries to her body, many of them stab wounds, and the assault went on for at least 16 minutes. How could those people in the Apple store not call the police? It is just a stunning amount of apathy and outright cowardice.

  8. BRILLIANT piece! I’m glad I’m not the only one who was absolutely appalled by the failure to act of Svrzo, co-manager Ricardo Rios and two security goons who would drop-kick a scrawny kid trying to steal a Nano and feel like a big man afterwards (one of these pieces of you-know-what didn’t even remove his earbuds when asked to come to the wall and confirm that yes indeed, there were sounds of what Rios characterized as “drama” coming through the wall). These are all, as the writer correctly labels them, slugs, and they have no place in the community of civilized men and women.

    Inaction is one thing, bad enough in its own right. The failure to acknowledge the wrongfulness of those actions and to make amends therefor is something else entirely. It’s that that rubs salt in the wound. When Svrzo can take the stand and dispassionately recall with accuracy the sounds of horror being visited upon Jayna next door and not state that she would do things differently now, knowing what she knows (as quoted elsewhere: ‘When Norwood’s attorney asked [Svrzo] that if she heard someone screaming for help, would she call for help? Her reply was “I don’t know what I would do”. ‘), and not ask for forgiveness from the family and the community, she reveals her fundamental amorality. The amoral are a dangerous lot; they can justify every action they take, and they’re shameless in doing so.

    I say write Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. Tell him you won’t buy any Apple products as long as any of these slugs are Apple employees. And resolve to help those crying out or seeking your assistance. Do it in tribute to Jayna.

    That’s a beautiful photo of Jayna above. It’s the photo her mother showed when called to the stand during Norwood’s trial to identify her daughter. It shows so well what a truly good person Janyna was. Norwood robbed the world of this beautiful, talented, kind-hearted, loyal woman. Svrzo, Rios and the security goons had it in their power to perhaps save her – to be the agents of the God to whom Jayna was crying for help – but they turned away from her. For that, they deserve to be shunned by society.

  9. And, P.S., I absolutely think there should be a law mandating action in cases such as this. Perhaps something along the lines of “Failure to take proper action”. In this case, the “proper action” expected of a manager and certainly a security guard woudl have been to call 911. No safety placed at risk, no heroics called for – just pick up the freaking phone! It’s surely not too much to ask that a business owner, a manager of a store, and certainly a security guard can do that!

    And P.P.S. Ask Tim Cook to ensure that Apple personnel are trained in responding to future such situations at all their stores!

  10. P.P.P.S., there are 3 telling posts of Svrzo’s proclivities for death-centered “art” and the macabre at http://www.dc-sketchbook.blogspot.com/. It’s pretty clear there’s something seriously “off” with this one. This is definitely not someone you’d want working for you, living in your building or coming near your child. This is one who markds herself as an outcast, and defiantly so. Sher didn’t kill Jayna, but in failing to take action while overhearing the murder occurring, not to mention her chosen lifestyle, she’s tattooed the Mark of Cain on her forehead, for sure. May all who encounter her turn away in revulsion until she seeks to redeem herself!

  11. My opinion: Of course I agree with you; any decent person would. But this is exactly the point you miss, I believe. Svrzo does not in anyway appear to be normal. If you google her Facebook photos you will find some very disturbing information. My review of them is that she appears to believe she is a vampire or iat least tries to live like one. The photos I saw all glamorized and rejoiced in violence and death. My point being: we are not dealing with a person who accepts human norms. I can’t diagnose her but would just use the slang: she appears to be just plain nuts. And judging from the photos of her Mom that she posted, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, so there’s no mystery why she is who she is. It was Murray’s poor fortune to be attacked by a sociopath and to have the only witness who could help also be, IMHO, a sociopath as well. Here a link is: judge for yourself:
    http://dc-sketchbook.blogspot.com/2011/10/facebook-photos-of-jana-svrzo-apple.html

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