Ethics Quiz: What To Do With a Bad Seed?

A horror story from Cowlitz County, Washington:

Little Rhoda didn't know what she was doing was bad! Suuuuuure she didn't...

When she was was 11 years old, Cassandra Ann Kennedy decided that her father didn’t love her enough, and that she would have a happier life if he wasn’t around any more. So that she made up a story that her father had raped her, told police, and..voila! In 2002 her father was convicted of rape and  sent to 15 years in a Washington state prison.

In January of 2012, Cassandra, now 23,  confessed that it was all a lie. “I did a horrible thing,” Cassandra told detectives. “It’s not OK to sit and be locked in this horrible place for something you didn’t do. It’s just not right.”

Figured that out all by yourself, did you, Cassie?

Her father, Thomas Edward Kennedy, now 43, was released from prison last week after serving nine years as the case against him was dismissed. He declined to comment when contacted by reporters. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

And as for Cassandra? Authorities say they won’t prosecute her, so as not to discourage future Bad Seeds from admitting their vicious acts. After all, she says that as a child she didn’t understand the consequences that her false accusation would have for her father.

Your Ethics Quiz is, then, this:

Do you agree with the  decision that is correct, fair and in the best interest of all is to allow Cassandra to go unpunished?

My considered, calm and rational answer, for the record is…

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

I sure don’t agree. I think they should throw the book at her. I think it would be far more effective to deter future monster-children like Cassandra by letting them know before they frame Dad that they will be sentenced to be tied naked to a fire anthill, or something similar that won’t run afoul of the 18th Amendment, than to hope such spawn of Satan grow consciences before their fathers are given shivs in the kidneys.

Kennedy says that she “didn’t understand” what sending her father to prison for 15 years meant when she was 11. Okay…so she was a moron. But what about when she was 13–could she figure it out then? How about when she was 17? Are we supposed to believe that it took this awful woman until she was 23 to put it all together and say, “Wait…I bet Dad isn’t having much fun in the Big House. Gee, now I feel kinda bad. I suppose I should say something..”??

I think a court should determine exactly when a normal person should be able to understand what falsely accusing one’s father of rape means, and from that moment until Thomas Kennedy was released should be the period for which she is sentenced to hard time. Letting her, or anyone, escape punishment for such heinous conduct is indefensible, muddle-headed and wrong. When one confesses, it is supposed to also represent an acceptance of just punishment.  Some crimes, and this is one, simply are too horrible to shrug off and say, well, at least you finally did the right thing. Admitting your father has been rotting in prison for nine years because you haven’t told the truth isn’t doing the right thing.

It’s stopping the wrong thing nine years late.

 

59 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: What To Do With a Bad Seed?

      • Have you never hear the saying “kids don’t choose their parents but parents choose their kids”?? For people to blame an 11 year old and not even look at what failed parents she must of had is ridiculous. The girl was obviously inconsequential of her actions and that’s the type of behavior parents raise probably by spoiling her rotten… I’m not saying he deserved to go to jail, but if you fail as a parent, don’t be all shocked when your own kids fail you in return.

        • Absurd. A parent has every right to be shocked when a daughter sends him to jail for rape, unless he raped her. He has even more reason when she leaves him there after she is old enough to figure out it’s wrong. Your excuse for the girl makes no sense. How would you raise a child who would send you to jail on a lie, even if you wanted to? She is 100% accountable. Blaming him in any way is unjust and offensive.

  1. The only disagreement I have with throwing the book at her is that the book isn’t tough enough, if its application in case law is any indication. I saw a similar case (details escape me) where the accuser got three after the accused had served five.

    I agree with your other comment: every day he served.

  2. I don’t think there is a charge harsh enough for this person. You wonder what else she has done in her life, what other people she has destroyed. I will bet my toy poodle she’s destroyed others.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

    • Yes…great point, and one I should have made. That’s another reason not to let her off. She’s dangerous, and the more time she can be kept locked away, the safer the rest of us are.

  3. Nor is this the first time something like this has happened. No man is more vulnerable to something like this than a father who tries to be a good father, but has a willful daughter who knows that this kind of claim can “free” her from his restrictions. That it will also ruin his life is a part of the equation that doesn’t seem to register. Yet, what is the excuse for not prosecting this young criminal? That it will discourage others from coming forward!

    This is the same mentality has justified works of child pornography by legal authorities, claiming that if works that feature the blatant molestation of a child are not shown, it will discourage victims from coming forward. Check out Mark Shurtleff’s (AG of Utah, Republican) comments at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007. This argument essentially anulls all ethics and justice, in whatever context it’s offered.

    I hope this gets through, Jack. I’ve been having severe internet connection problems for the past couple of weeks.

      • That T-Mobile broadband stick I got has proved to be a nightmare! I have a huge number of back comments from Ethics Alarms on my email going back to February.

        Seriously; whenever I see an excuse of this kind, I’m reminded as to how depraved and intellectually dishonest things have become. This excuse should not stand up for a moment in any court of law. Yet, both prosecutors and defenders use it and juries swallow it. Three seconds of clear thinking should tell them what I said innumerable times in past days: Depravity does not cure depravity. Justice should follow swiftly and relentlessly for those who would bring harm and infamy to others; children in particular… but no less to former children who caused such misery to those to whom they owed everything.

  4. Somewhere, someone is going to suggest this, so I will present it in the proper context.

    It would be utterly reprehensible to suggest that, because she accused someone of rape falsely, she deserved to be raped. That is something nobody ever “deserves.”

    HOWEVER…

    Let’s just say that some day down the road, she winds up being one of the one in six women who experiences a rape or attempted rape. Even if she had the DNA of the perpetrator… who would believe her?

    Even that is not satisfactory. I say they send her to her father’s old cell. A case like this is why the two lowest levels of Hell are for traitors and perjurers.

    And going back to the Spike Lee thing for a second: even THIS, possibly the ultimate betrayal, isn’t bad enough for me to even consider publishing her address on Twitter with the intent of sending a mob to swarm her home and enact revenge (which is what it would be, not justice).

    No matter if she isn’t punished, may she never fully escape the shadow of this atrocity. Some things are just plain unforgivable.

    • You and I are on the same page, Jeff. I am still upset by this story. NINE years of unjust imprisonment for her fathers while this woman tried to figure out if she should tell the truth. No punishment is sufficient.

    • And going back to the Spike Lee thing for a second: even THIS, possibly the ultimate betrayal, isn’t bad enough for me to even consider publishing her address on Twitter with the intent of sending a mob to swarm her home and enact revenge (which is what it would be, not justice).

      Yeah, but surely there has to be someone in the world willing to do the “wrong” thing. May it happen soon, in’Shallah.

  5. I too am upset by it, possibly because I know how easily such a thing can be done. There are so many sides to this. One is, he should count his blessings. There are two prominent cases pending in Texas now where horrible false accusations were made, people were imprisoned with no proof whatsoever, the child-accusers soon recanted and told everyone who would listen that the incidents never occurred, but it made no difference. Prosecutors fought tooth and toenail not to do anything. The Innocence Project is involved in both cases, and finally, in one, a court has heard a plea for a re-trial. No response from the court yet.
    Yes, those who make false accusations should have age-and-situation appropriate consequences brought to bear. Most children who lie in these cases are coerced into doing it by a disgruntled spouse. That doesn’t seem to have been the case here. The fact is, nothing will be done.
    The best lesson to be learned from this is, contrary to the mantra of many, children do lie about sexual abuse. Today’s children are so tuned into the prevailing attitudes that they know exactly what to say and to whom to say it. So the next time you hear accusations by children or teens against family members or teachers, don’t immediately jump on the “He’s a pedophile” bandwagon. Withhold judgement and remember; if it is a false allegation, it could happen just as easily to anyone, even you.

  6. If you look in “Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial” by the Department of Justice, you will find that at least 2 of the 28 cases studied (the first 28 cases of exoneration by DNA evidence) involve fabrications of rape. Gerald Wayne Davis (8 years), Dewey Davis, (8 years), and Gary Dotson (8 years) spent years in prison because of false allegations. More of the 28 cases may involve false allegations, but it is obviously clear in these two (one involves the victim coming forward years later as in the Kennedy case).

    As in the Cassandra Kennedy case, neither of the women involved suffered any punishment for their actions. In line with the Sen. Vittel discussion, if there is no punishment, is it really wrong? The reasoning offered for not prosecuting her is that they don’t want to discourage other false accusations (or maybe they don’t want to discourage other false accusers from later coming forward?). With many high profile cases (the Duke lacrosse players come to mind), it is time for people to start requiring some proof before a rape conviction and stop claiming that women don’t lie about being raped. To see how delusional people get about this, in the Gerald Wayne Davis case, the prosecutor wanted to retry Davis even though the semen from the ‘victim’ wasn’t his. The prosecutor reasoned that the ‘victim’ could have had sex with someone else earlier and forgotten about it and that Davis could just not have ejaculated, therefore perfectly explaining the evidence.

    • In the Duke case we have what is very common in this country. A prosecutor takes up a cause, makes a fool out of himself and then when proven wrong continues to refuse mistake. It’s happened time and time again in this country.

    • Along with the stoning option, I hear that in some countries, a female must have at least four witnesses to even bring a charge of rape against anyone. That compels me to wonder about what constitutes a witness in those cases, especially if, say, any cameras catch what a female alleges is an instance of her being raped. I guess the four witnesses must be live persons on the scene with unobstructed views, and no less. I don’t know. In Cassandra’s case, I agree with Karla Marie’s earliest comment.

      • Along with the stoning option, I hear that in some countries, a female must have at least four witnesses to even bring a charge of rape against anyone. That compels me to wonder about what constitutes a witness in those cases, especially if, say, any cameras catch what a female alleges is an instance of her being raped. I guess the four witnesses must be live persons on the scene with unobstructed views, and no less. I don’t know. In Cassandra’s case, I agree with Karla Marie’s earliest comment.

        Anyone who supports the four-witness requirement will point to this case as a reason to keep the requirement.

        • Well, I hope you (if no one else) will recognize that I was only pointing out the four-witness requirement, not supporting it (nor supporting stoning). Nor do I find in this case any reason to enact or uphold such requirements. I support the justice Karly alluded to. But for at least one other commenter here, I am just not gonna worry about what is recognized or not recognized in my comments, because no matter what I say (apology included, and heeeere comes the sarcasm), I’m just a misogynistic, hate-filled freak-o-fundamentalist guy, case closed. How dare I comment. (end sarcasm) I dare. Tough bananas, and no apology.

          • I did not refer to anyone as a hate-filled, misogynist. In fact, I often agree with your comments and find them thoughtful and well spoken. Comments, however, can be hateful or misogynistic without the commenters being so. Multiple posts were harkening back to the days when women were automatically suspected of lying when making an accusation of rape, and suggesting that stoning or rape as retribution might be a fitting punishment for this girl. Even in jest, this line of thinking has to be remarked upon.

  7. It’s really difficult to comment on the hate-filled, misogynist comments that are being made on this subject. This accusation was made by an 11-year-old girl who, according to the latest brain science, really did have no concept of the consequences for her father. I agree that, as she matured and understood those consequences, she had a duty to tell the truth and make sure her father was released. And I agree with Karla Marie that she should face severe penalty for what she did and then did not do.

    But the crime of rape is real, and the blithe comments about adopting the standards and laws of religious fundamentalists is out of line. It took a long time for women to gain credibility in the criminal justice system when it comes to rape, and I have no desire to go back to those days.

    • Nor do I, and that’s a vital point worth making, Jan, thanks. False accusations of rape undermine the credibility of genuine rape victims; the same was true of the Duke lacrosse case. The same is true of sexual harassment. Every shield can be used as sword, and when it is, the shield forever becomes suspect.

    • Brain studies or no brain studies, I am 47 years old, but I remember very well being 11 years old. The notion that an 11 year old does not understand what would happen to her father is just silly. She knew and did not care. The truth is that these kind of accusations are far too common. I don’t advocate any kind of violence towards her for her actions, but to minimization her behavior by saying she was just a child is a terrible thing to do.

    • This accusation was made by an 11-year-old girl who, according to the latest brain science, really did have no concept of the consequences for her father.

      The brain science does not claim that every 11-year-old girl’s brain is the same, nor does it claim that zero 11-year-old girls are having the concept of the consequences of their actions. It only means that on average, 11-year-old girls have less of a concept of the consequences of their actions than grown women.

      In criminal justice, culpability depends very highly on individual factors. True, the girl’s youth entitles her to a presumption of not having the concept of the consequences of her actions. It is also true that this presumption (like the presumption of innocence that applies to all criminal defendants) can of course be overcome with evidence. And in this case, if there was insufficient evidence to overcome this presumption, I would favor treating her more leniently than a grown woman who did the same thing.

      But nothing in the blog post, nor the article to which it links, mentions that authorities decided to not charge her because there was insufficient evidence to prove that she had the “concept of the consequences for her father”.

        • I think I’ll trust the science rather than a couple of guys on this blog. I think a diagnosis as a sociopath should come from a professional. An eleven-year-old doesn’t think much past the next episode of “American Idol.” If you bothered to read the article, her father was not, in fact, a good father, and she has not had a great life. I’m not saying she should get off scott free, but the hateful rhetoric directed toward her is cruel and does not take into account her childhood experience. She deserves consequences, but not vitriol. She did, ultimately, do the right thing.

          • Jan, I applaud your fairness, but if it was normal for 11-year olds to “get rid” of their fathers by casually making up rape accusations, it would happen more frequently. She didn’t lift a finger for 9 years while her father was rotting in jail, and she knew she could release him by simply telling the truth. He was not abusive, by all accounts. For 9 years she didn’t know what the right thing to do was. That’s enough for me. Go ahead, you trust her. Good luck.

            I’ll wait over here, where it’s safe.

            • Nothing in the description of this girl’s childhood is normal. First sexual encounter in the second grade? I don’t think 7-year-olds are usually seeking out sexual encounters. She has a history of alcohol and drug abuse at a very young age. Bringing a gun to school and killing everyone? There were red flags everywhere and no one questioned this girl’s story to the extent it should have been questioned. There is nothing in the story that indicates she subsequently went around destroying anyone else’s life but her own. It took her a long time, but she did the right and courageous thing when she was twenty-three. She didn’t have to do anything. I repeat, she should face consequences, but she also deserves compassion.

              • I wasn’t commenting, Jan, because I agree with everything you are saying and kudos to you for saying it. I find compassion is rarely on the menu in the comments here so thanks for the posts.

                • a) I think that’s a bit harsh and unfair
                  b) The place to make a stand for compassion, I’d think, wouldn’t be on behalf of a woman who sent her father to prison for rape by a pre-meditated lie, waited 9 years to do anything about it, and who escaped any accountability whatsoever.

                  • Don’t take offense, Jack, it wasn’t a judgement, it was just an observation and if I recall correctly, the first post that brought me here was about some Bristol Palin debaucle in which you explained to me that compassion wasn’t the topic here…. ethics was.

                    • But compassion is among the ethical values, along with kindness, empathy, sympathy, charity, generosity, and benevolence. And if you check the blog for those, I think you’ll find that discussions of them are not is short supply.

                    • No reply button on yours so it is up here. Point taken, because you may be right. I made the comment based on my general recollection of reading over time here. I will agree that it could be that those posts and comments that I felt were brutal, intolerant or lacking compassion are the ones that stick out in my mind… Bristol, Sydney of yearbook fame, the politician that was shot and took forever to quit…. that kind of thing. I didn’t research the entirety of the blog and often skip US political posts because I don’t know the players, am largely disinterested in US politics and will remain so unless I hear something about Americans with guns coming for our water because you made all your own unpotable or wasted it all trying to make Las Vegas an oasis when it is really just a desert. It was my feeling. Nothing scientific.

          • <blockquoteI think I’ll trust the science rather than a couple of guys on this blog.
            What science?

            The science you quoted dealt with generalizations, not specifics.

            That 11-year old girls are, on average, less likely to appreciate the consequences of their actions than grown women does not prove that Cassandra Ann Kennedy was unable to appreciate the consequences of her specific actions.

            An eleven-year-old doesn’t think much past the next episode of “American Idol.”

            The subject is Cassandra Ann Kennedy, not eleven-year-old girls in general.

            • The fact is, the frontal lobe, where judgment, insight and impulse control are housed, does not fully develop until well past the teenage years. This is not based on “averages.” Given what we know about this girl’s history and behavior before the accusation, there is no reason to believe she had a highly developed sense of the consequences. Any speculation about her motivation or her ability to foresee the results of her accusation is fantasy. What she did to her father when she was eleven was unethical. What she did when she was twenty-three was, in my opinion, very courageous and ethical. Does it cancel out what she did? No, and there should be consequences.

              • What about 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22? Did she not realize in the intervening time that the right thing to do was to get her father out of jail, where she put him? That’s one slooooow-developing frontal lobe. She gets NO points from me for coming forward at 23 and doing the bear minimum any half-decent daughter would have done years earlier. I am similarly not impressed with a man who rapes his young daughter every day for 9 years and then stops, noting that it’s the right thing to do.

              • The fact is, the frontal lobe, where judgment, insight and impulse control are housed, does not fully develop until well past the teenage years.

                So who measured Cassandra Kennedy’s frontal lobe when she was eleven years old?

  8. I attempted to leave a reply to Karla, pointing out that perhaps the worst aspect is the stain on this man’s reputation that can never be completely erased, due to the nature of his original conviction.

    • I attempted to leave a reply to Karla, pointing out that perhaps the worst aspect is the stain on this man’s reputation that can never be completely erased, due to the nature of his original conviction.

      How so?

        • What I meant is that, no matter how upstanding he may be or how thoroughly he’s been cleared of his original conviction, doubts will always linger. Even the casual accusation of “offender” is enough to where parents will feel uneasy to have their children around such a man. Thereafter, he must be extra careful when others’ children are around him, never find himself alone with one or display any overt interest or kindness. Friends may know intellectually that he’s okay, but he must make continual allowance for their paternal instincts.

          • What I meant is that, no matter how upstanding he may be or how thoroughly he’s been cleared of his original conviction, doubts will always linger. Even the casual accusation of “offender” is enough to where parents will feel uneasy to have their children around such a man.

            Is there any reason why this is so?

            • Because parents are instinctively protective, Michael. When a man is even accused of such a crime (not to mention being convicted… and on the testimony of his own daughter!) there always remains that nagging, lingering doubt. Parents, given the choice, will err on the side of caution.

  9. Yes, she should be prosecuted. Even if she didn’t know it was wrong at the time — and I’m really dubious on that point — she would have known by her mid-teens.

    I also wonder at the Child Protective Services personnel, the various social workers, District Attorney staff that didn’t screen out a false story. The family was in the midst of a divorce; that should have been a red flag right there that some hard questions needed to be asked about the girl’s feelings about both parents. And was she not even physically examined? Was any forensic evidence even brought up during pretrial? (Court reporter here.) I have reported the testimony of children and teenagers in similar circumstances where the kid tells the same, convincing story under cross-examination and the examination and labwork supports the allegations. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like any of the investigation that I have always seen in these cases was done here. I also have to wonder at the quality of the defense. Did the defendant’s attorney take the child’s story at face value as everyone else seems to have done?

    I don’t have the answers, but this is just a travesty, one that can only have a very negative effect on public perception of the legal system and hence future reporting of credible allegations.

  10. ‘That’s one slooooow-developing frontal lobe.’

    That made my morning 😀
    The DA is missing some grey matter as well. It wasn’t that punishing this woman would keep others from recanting false testimony, Sue Blair said charging Ms. Kennedy might discourage other girls from reporting rape. That makes no sense at all.

    • And people question why some jurisdictions in the world require four witnesses for a rape accusation to go forward.

      I wonder if anyone will tweet Sue Blair’s address…

  11. I personally think little miss Cassandra who is now of legal age should serve a sentence of 9 years in jail as her punishment for her father serving 9 years in jail because of her lie.

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