Jerry and Jared Remy, Parental Accountability, Hindsight Bias, and The Bad Seed

This is a tragic local story with vast ethics significance.

Father and son.

Father and son.

Long-time Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, a native Bostonian and former player who has been a vivid part of the Boston sports scene since 1977, was stunned by tragedy last summer when his oldest son, Jared, 35, allegedly murdered his girlfriend by stabbing her to death as their  ive-year-old daughter looked on. Prior to the incident, most New Englanders were unaware of Jared Remy’s problems, but his ugly past soon found its way into the newspapers.

A recent Boston Globe investigative report appeared to be the saga of a “bad seed” right out of a horror movie, for Jared Remy, son the popular, affable Jerry, had been arrested, and released, 19 times, for an assortment of alleged crimes, many of them violent. They included battering and threatening a high school girlfriend; pushing a pregnant girlfriend out of a moving car; texting death threats to her, and attempting to beat her up; threatening to kill yet another girlfriend;  terrorizing a fourth sufficiently that police were called to their apartment eight times; and involvement in steroid peddling and abuse. The Globe also obtained the testimony of a woman who alleges that Jared joined her in brutally beating a high school boy, causing him permanent brain injuries.

The Globe story (and others) raised the question of how and why the Massachusetts justice system kept releasing Jared. It is a valid question, not peculiar to his case, unfortunately. Many have speculated that Jared’s  status as the son of popular Boston sports figure played a part in getting him extraordinary leniency, but as Remy’s lawyer pointed out, several of the incidents also involved complainants and alleged victims who refused to testify or withdrew their complaints. In the realm of domestic abuse, evidently Jared Remy’s specialty, this is too common. The Globe writer, Eric Moskowitz, also insinuated that the Remys went too far in supporting their disturbed, violent and troubled son, who had learning disabilities and other clinical behavioral problems. They apparently paid for psychiatric treatment, counseling and legal fees, and helped with his rent and other expenses, though the extent of this has not been confirmed by the Remys, the only ones who could be authoritative on the topic. The rest is hearsay.

Jerry Remy, who has battled depression his whole adult life, withdrew from his role as color commentator after his son’s arrest, missing the Red Sox championship run. Outside of a brief statement condemning his son’s actions and expressing condolences to the parents of the victim, Jennifer Martel, Remy was silent until announcing this Spring that he would try returning to the broadcast booth for the upcoming season. Then, as Spring Training for the Red Sox ran down and Remy seemed, outwardly at least, capable as ever of being an affable presence with whom to watch the home team’s exploits,  the Globe story appeared. The revelations about Jared unleashed an unexpected (by me, at least) backlash against his father, and Bostonians in droves bombarded the sports radio talk shows, blogs and news media websites with the opinion that Remy should step down as Red Sox color man for cable broadcasts. How they reached this ethically indefensible position is instructive regarding how inept and unskilled most people are in day-to-day ethical analysis, how emotion becomes a substitute for objectivity and logic,  how hindsight bias makes experts and judges out of individuals with the credentials of neither, and also how ignorant most of the public is about the ethical obligations and duties of the legal profession.

Here are the reasons being cited for why Jerry Remy should give up his career:

1. There is blood on his hands. He and his wife raised “a monster.”

2. Remy hired a “high-priced lawyer” to keep his son out of jail and on the streets.

3. He exploited his influence as a celebrity to influence the justice system and ensure that his son was never  jailed for his violent exploits.

4. The fact that the other two adult Remy children have had run-ins with the law proves that the Remys were bad parents, and thus share responsibility for Jennifer Martel’s death.

5. The Remy’s irresponsibly enabled their troubled son by paying his expenses, helping him find employment, and paying for counseling and medical treatment.

6. Remy’s continued work on Red Sox broadcasts is “disrespectful” to the memory and family of Jennifer Martel.

7. His presence on the broadcasts makes some viewers “uncomfortable” and reminds them of the tragedy.

There is not a fair, valid or persuasive argument among them. Nonetheless, the increasingly common phenomenon of a vengeful cyber-mob is being whipped into a frenzy on the social media, and in his emotionally vulnerable state, Jerry Remy could be driven from his job. In the alternative, it is certainly possible that the controversy could make him a detriment to the New England Sports Network’s bottom line, causing it to do what profit-driven operations must, right and wrong be damned. Certainly the animus directed at Remy for the actions of his son are likely to harm Remy’s many business ventures, which range from memorabilia to children’s books to restaurants, all dependent on his popularity with “Red Sox Nation,” of which he is the honorary head.

The attacks on Remy are the epitome of assigning guilt by association. A father is simply not accountable for the independent actions of his adult, 35-year old son, regardless of what the child’s upbringing was like. Remy has acknowledged, as any parent would, that whatever course he and his wife took with Jared, it didn’t work. That, of course, does not mean that how he handled his son was “wrong,” or that a different approach would have changed the result. Nobody knows that, and nobody can know that. For total strangers to embrace the flawed reasoning of consequentialism to presume fault on the Remys’ part is irresponsible, ignorant and unfair.

Remy’s continued support of his son is laudable, as it springs from the unconditional partisanship, loyalty and love that children should expect from their parents. For most, this is an essential part of keepin them on a secure and virtuous path to adulthood. There is no evidence in Moskowitz’s report that suggests that Remy minimized the wrongfulness of his son’s violent ways, encouraged it, modeled it, or  declined to condemn it at every turn. Remy himself  had no such violent tendencies, and the most influential thing a father can do for a son is to be a virtuous role model. Remy appears to have been that. Why was his son violent? Nobody can say. Good people produce bad offspring and vice-versa. I wrote a post here about Herman Goering’s heroic brother, Albert. How do you explain such divergence of character in one family? It is a mystery. Reviling one family member for the evil conduct of another may be common—actor Edwin Booth’s career was destroyed when his brother shot Lincoln—but it isn’t rational or fair.

21st Century class bias, nurtured by the prevailing political climate, especially in Super-Blue Massachusetts, is also at work, I think. Remy was a ballplayer, and people think that all ballplayers are “one-per-centers.” Yup, it’s another rich kid skating past the consequences of his actions thanks to a puppet-master, moneybags father! It’s a false assumption: in his ten year playing career, Remy’s total income from baseball was less that today’s single season major league minimum. Jerry Remy isn’t Joe Kennedy—who, by the way, did use his checkbook to make a negligent homicide charge for his wayward son go away, and Massachusetts voter happily continued to elect that lucky boy Senator for the next forty years. There is no evidence, none, that Jerry Remy’s “connections” got his son leniency from the Massachusetts courts, or even that Remy has such connections. Nonetheless, that is what the mob want to believe.

The attack on the legal assistance Remy provided his son is especially heinous. Essentially, the argument is that Remy had an obligation, if he hired a lawyer for his son at all, to get a public defender, or at least a lesser legal talent to minimize the chances that his son would escape punishment. It is certainly a systemic problem that all defendants can’t have the best of legal defenses, but faulting a parent who can afford strong representation for his son  and who avails himself of it betrays a lack of comprehension of the principles our justice system stands for. The state must be forced to prove its charges. Judges decide when leniency is appropriate, not mobs. Remy’s lawyer, Peter Bella, denies that his client, Jared Remy, received special treatment because his father was especially wealthy or President of Red Sox Nation. Naturally, he refuses to apologize for defending Jared successfully. In an interview with Lawyer’s Weekly, Bella said:

“I don’t think any of the judges did what they did because it was me standing there. I’d like to think what I did was present them information that led them to conclude that whatever decision they made was the reasonable one given all of the circumstances…But you wonder if there was something else I could have done, not differently in terms of getting the best possible result for my client, but in wondering if there was something I could have steered [Jared] into – another program. Is there something I could have said to him, not necessarily an attorney to a client, but as an older adult who has seen some of these things, to say: ‘Hey, look, live your life the right way.’”

It is certainly human for everyone involved to wonder, in hindsight,  if there was something they could have done better or differently. For uninvolved onlookers to declare with certitude that of course the Remys were complicit in the murder committed by their son because they should have handled him differently is hindsight bias of the worst kind. Applying hindsight bias to something as uncertain as child-rearing, and particularly the oversight of an emotionally troubled child, is as ethically offensive as it is obnoxious. There is no indication that the Remys didn’t do everything they could to guide Jared to a productive adulthood. They accepted the mother of his child and their granddaughter into the family; they provided, by all accounts, unconditional love.  Remy addressed the issue in a recent interview:

“We were well aware what was going on with Jared and we tried our best to do everything along the way to get him as much help as he possibly could. And then for a stretch it seemed like he had his life in order and then of course everything caved in and we felt as parents… did we enable him? Yes, we paid for lawyers, we paid for a psychiatrist, we paid for the help that we thought he needed. I think a lot of families would have done the same thing….Others would have thrown him out into the street, but that just wasn’t our way. When you look back on it, was it the right thing to do? I don’t have an answer to that. I really don’t have an answer for that.”

Neither, of course does anyone else, but only the Remys have standing to raise the question. Nobody else.
So hearing Jerry Remy broadcast a baseball game is upsetting to those sensitive busybodies who react by thinking about a murdered woman they didn’t even know?  Such people need to grow up, learn the boundaries of their own lives, or find another team to root for. Jerry Remy is a victim in this tragedy, just like the other family members. The effort to respond to his crisis by taking his job away from him is unimaginably cruel, as well as unhinged from any rational definition of justice. Jared Remy had been free of legal trouble since 2005 when he snapped and became a murderer. He was a middle aged man, beyond his parent’s control. Jerry Remy’s granddaughter was robbed of her mother, and will probably not have a father either once the trial is over. Yet the response of Boston’s supposedly loyal and intelligent baseball fans when one of their icons experiences a personal tragedy is to blame him for it and make his existence more painful by exiling him…because they hold him accountable, and besides, his presence makes them uncomfortable.
I thought I knew and understood Red Sox fans, being one essentially my whole life. I don’t understand this. In a fatuous editorial, the Boston Globe concluded,
“Can Jerry Remy express excitement over baseball, chuckle at partner Don Orsillo’s jokes, and analyze plays on the field without evoking fans’ memories of his son’s offenses? By returning to the broadcast booth at a time when his son’s case is certain to be heavily in the news, he’s asking fans to put all those images aside. It’s a lot to ask.”
It’s not too much to ask, however. Not if Bostonians and Red Sox fans care at all about a grieving father who has suffered and is suffering through the worst experience of his life, and just wants to continue doing the job he loves, in baseball, his life’s passion and pursuit. It shouldn’t be too much to ask Red Sox fans to put aside unpleasant associations to support a familiar presence who has never done anything but try to please them, and who now desperately needs some reciprocal support, compassion and loyalty from a community he thought he could trust to be there for him in good times and bad. That is what they would want, if they were in his place.
_________________________________

Sources:Boston Globe 1, 2; Boston Herald, Boston.com, Lawyer’s Weekly

26 thoughts on “Jerry and Jared Remy, Parental Accountability, Hindsight Bias, and The Bad Seed

  1. I am beginning to believe that the increases in righteous indignation we are seeing within the populace is negatively related to the ethical behavior of that same population. I suspect that those who are crying for the metaphorical blood of the father to atone for the sins of the son are simply using the issue to demonstrate to the world how righteous they are and to deflect public animus away from themselves if their own behaviors were scrutinized.

    The irony in this matter is that the people of Massachusetts, the bastion of progressive thinking, fail to accept the fact that the son had a mental illness and the father did the right thing by providing his son help. I would ask those that that want to condemn the father, would they favor the government having the power to immediately involuntarily commit anyone that it deems to be any danger to others.

    What is fascinating about the condemnation of the father is that he did not make any decisions other than to acquire legal and medical assistance. Will these same people who condemn the father demand that the psychiatrists, counselors, and judges be removed from their positions. Were they not the ones that had it within their professional power to save the young wife’s life by committing or incarcerating the son before he murdered the wife?

  2. Trending social media is making witch hunts far too easy and exciting. It’s going to cause some bigger tragedies before more are willing to stop and think.

  3. “So hearing Jerry Remy broadcast a baseball game is upsetting to those sensitive busybodies who react by thinking about a murdered woman they didn’t even know? Such people need to grow up, learn the boundaries of their own lives, or find another team to root for.”

    Well said. Especially the point about learning the boundaries of their own lives. This is an extremely important statement, because too many people these days adopt this self-righteous vigilantism about so many things that happen, microcosm and macrocosm. As Chris so astutely notes above, “I suspect that those who are crying for the metaphorical blood of the father to atone for the sins of the son are simply using the issue to demonstrate to the world how righteous they are and to deflect public animus away from themselves if their own behaviors were scrutinized.”

    I do think that some of this also comes from the fact that people feel so insecure in the chaos of modern life that they see this kind of behavior as a way of grasping some shred of control. Wrong-headed certainly, but I have seen this personally in the microcosm and I fight against this kind of thinking by someone close to me on an almost daily basis, making it clear that while I understand the inclination, I still find it unacceptable. I understand the desire to “right the unrightable wrong,” but sometimes we just don’t have enough info to act. So, sometimes (but not always) we should mind our business.

    • Back off, John, and don’t put words in my mouth.

      Here is what I wrote:

      “The attack on the legal assistance Remy provided his son is especially heinous.”

      Got that, Counsellor? I preface the description of opinions I have read and heard FROM others as “heinous.”

      “Essentially, the argument is that Remy had an obligation, if he hired a lawyer for his son at all, to get a public defender, or at least a lesser legal talent to minimize the chances that his son would escape punishment.”

      That’s THE ARGUMENT I just described as heinous, not MY argument.

      “It is certainly a systemic problem that all defendants can’t have the best of legal defenses…”

      Do you seriously deny this? Does a underpaid, 27 year-old LA public defender profide the same level of criminal defense as a team of Cochran, Bailey, et al.?

      First, that’s not what I wrote, say, mean or believe, and you owe me an apology for implying otherwise. Second, I’ve BEEN a public defender, in both DC and Boston. They are, as I was, young, underpaid, under-supported, and wildly over-burdened with cases. Those who aren’t young, with notable exceptions, are often tire, cynical, or, in some cases, unable to find better jobs. However good and dedicated many of them are, they are seldom, if ever, the best defense money can buy.

      • My apologies. Upon re-reading the post, I now understand what you wrote. I am disagreeing with the argument, not with you.

        • Thanks, John. Please, please, always remind people of the essential and heroic work public defenders do. That argument in a couple of the Remy comments—“He should have forced his kid to use a public defender,” as if that would have guaranteed jail time, really ticked me off. They have an impossible job, and do it incredibly well, some how, most of the time.

          • Aside from the crappy argument that having a PD would have led him to a worse punishment, or the crappy argument that he should have had a “bad” lawyer because he’s a bad person. what about this- PD’s are taxpayer funded, no? So because these “activists” don’t like a well-off person being able to hire a lawyer, they should use a taxpayer funded PD even though they could afford their own?

            • Yes. And that argument ultimately flows from the false premise that our judicial system is designed to make it easier for the guilty to get an acquittal, and that it is unfair that the wealthier guilty people are more likely to get off. It is an error.

              The system IS designed to err on the side of the defendant ONLY SO FAR as to protect the accused innocent from being wrongfully railroaded. That protection DOES allow for some guilty people to get off as well, and therefore by extension, some wealthy guilty people to get off because of extremely good defense attorneys. That is only a MINOR side effect we are willing to accept to protect the actually innocent.

  4. As I responded to Chris Marschner’s response above, I think he hit the nail on the head, but here are some of my own additional reactions.

    First, doesn’t every parent owe their child their love, guidance, and protection? Isn’t that a part of parenthood? Since Jared Remy first got into trouble, Jerry, as a father, provided legal counsel, psychiatric assistance, funds to live on, etc. Isn’t that what all parents should do? The fact that (1) prosecutors couldn’t get convictions; (2) witnesses didn’t testify; (3) long-term psychiatric help didn’t work (not surprisingly) is NOT the fault of the parents. They were doing their job as loving — if conflicted, upset, confused — parents.

    Jack, your point about Teddy Kennedy makes this all seem so insane. After Teddy effectively killed Mary Jo Kopechne, did he call the police? Rescue squad? No, he went ashore and called his family — no one will ever know if she could have been saved. Instead, Old Joe went out with bags of money, paid off the Kopechnes, and no charges were brought against Teddy. (No comment on what price the Kopechnes put on the life of their own daughter…) And the response in Massachusetts? Ignore this fact, and elect and re-elect Teddy Kennedy for decades. I have no idea how haunted Teddy was by all this, though extraordinarily he was a pretty good Senator for all those years.

    But that is off point. The Kennedys can get away with heinous, extra-legal acts to save their son. The Remys, on the other hand, did all they could, within the law and societal norms, and still are attacked for their behavior. What is wrong with Massachusetts????? I was born in Boston, but have lived elsewhere all my life. I am also a complete Red Sox fan. Today, I am embarrassed by my Boston heritage, and do not want to be part of a “Red Sox Nation” that can be so ignorant, hateful, irrationally cruel, and ugly to “one of their own.”

    The Remys did their best. They did not use the “millions” Remy made playing baseball to influence the court — in fact Remy didn’t make millions playing baseball anyway. They tried to get their son help. What else is a parent to do? Parents that are willing to throw their children to the wolves if they are sick are NOT acting as parents, in my opinion. The fact that all the resources available to them did not work is NOT THEIR FAULT. The fact that Jared’s psychopathy was apparently ultimately untreatable IS NOT THEIR FAULT. The fact that they acted as any loving parent would, despite the ultimate horrific result IS NOT THEIR FAULT.

    Psychopathy, OCD, schizophrenia are DISEASES. The psychiatric community would like us to believe that all can be CURED, with drugs, therapy, etc. The record of this group is not good. (Woody Allen, for example, was in therapy all of his adult life then seduced and married his own adopted child. Just one example of psychiatry’s success…) So, recognizing that Jared had a disease, would Remy’s critics expect a “good” parent to NOT help a son with cancer, diabetes, alcoholism or any other disease as defined by the American Medical Association? I think not.

    The outpouring of criticism against the Remys is deplorable. Why Remy? Kennedy was okay; baseball players suspended for drug abuse are okay to cheer for when they come back. But the Remys can’t get sympathy and the pass they deserve. There’s something ill in Red Sox Nation. I officially resign.

    • A small point of contention. Schizophrenia and OCD are diseases. Psychopathy (or anti-social personality disorder) is not. It is characterized a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others.The tendency to attribute criminal behavior to unspecified brain diseases is naive at best. Robert D. Hare has suggested that the rise in ASPD that has been reported in the United States may be linked to changes in cultural mores, the latter serving to validate the behavioral tendencies of many individuals with ASPD.

  5. Your point 5 made my blood pressure spike. Why do I feel like these people are the same bleeding hearts who would argue that the system is broken because too many criminals don’t get treatment, instead the prison-industrial complex locks them up and makes a profit, the nasty 1% should help them get jobs, etc etc…

    Until, that is, the criminal in question is too rich for them to like him, at which point he doesn’t deserve treatment, just lock him up.

  6. Also, side note: from looking at the comments on the Boston Herald article, it looks like they’re deleting everything that isn’t in support of the “Fire Remy” camp. Stay classy, folks.

  7. Well written piece! All facts do support, the peoples reactions. I see you connecting dots but missed something any person(s) who have dealt with a gang or organized crime would have noticed. The key is the number who did come forward but withdrew! Talk to any police officer assigned to gang or some such territory. Once you understand this “victim-less” happenings it becomes very clear.

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