Wednesday, March 25, 2009

After 17 Years, Richard Lapointe Has a Win in Court

I'm guessing that most people who read this blog aren't familiar with Richard Lapointe. It's not surprising, since he's been incarcerated for about 17 years, convicted of the rape and murder of his wife's grandmother.

(the picture on the upper left hand side of this post is of Richard Lapointe on the left and Bob Perske on the right. Bob Perske was the first person I who told me about Richard Lapointe's legal battle, over thirteen years ago. Bob has been the most constant of the many people fighting for Lapointe.)

Richard has Dandy-Walker syndrome and hydrocephalus. He's physically clumsy and socially awkward. He is also the person who called the police to ask them to check on the grandmother, who hadn't answered the door when he knocked.

He was initially questioned and dismissed as a suspect. For two years, the police thought they had a good idea who did commit the crime - someone with a violent history consistent with the crime, but whose whereabouts was unknown. When that person did surface, it turned out his blood type didn't match the physical evidence at the scene.

With the case now two years worth of "cold," the police refocused on Lapointe. They interrogated him for 9 1/2 hours, sending him home in the early morning hours - after he'd signed three confessions. Only after he returned from work the next day did they arrest him. He's been in some jail or other ever since.

Throughout the years, various appeals have been put forth on his behalf. Two of the main arguments are that he had incompetent/inadequate legal representation. The other part of the appeal rests mainly on the - now upheld - claim that the prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence.

Here is an excerpt from a news story just out on the Hartford Courant:
The state Appellate Court ruled today that a Superior Court judge was wrong to dismiss Richard Lapointe's 2007 petition for a retrial, a decision that could get Lapointe a new trial in the 22-year-old murder case.

Lapointe was convicted in 1992 for the rape, stabbing and murder of his then-wife's grandmother, Bernice Martin, 88, of Manchester. He is serving a life term without the possibility of parole.

For years, many have questioned whether police fingered the right suspect, arguing that Lapointe, who has diminished mental capacity, was physically and mentally unable to commit the crime.

Lapointe's supporters and a lawyer from a national group that represents those it believes are wrongfully convicted, have pushed for a new trial for Lapointe, who has spent the past 17 years at MacDougall -- Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield.

The lawyer, Paul Casteleiro of New Jersey, represented Lapointe in a hearing for a new trial in July 2007. During the hearing, Casteleiro argued that his client, now 63, deserved a new trial on the grounds that his public defenders in 1989 did not provide him with adequate representation and that his lawyer, in a bid for a new trial in 2000, was ineffective.
For more information on the long history of the legal battles waged on behalf of Richard Lapointe, please check out the Friends of Richard Lapointe website.

More information as I get it. And I will try not to let so much time go between posts this time. Work and life have a way of eating up all of my time and energy. --Stephen

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A little catch-up - and a little about the writing process

For anyone who's interested, I was quoted in a story in yesterday's edition of the NY Times. It's about the "story of the week" (at least in the NDY arena) - the arrests/investigations of the Final Exit Network members.

Link to story. My quote is on the second page about halfway down.

I'm hoping to have a video of a recent appearance on Fox News up soon. It will be useful in talking about just what it takes for me to prepare for those things.

I find that two things have really enhanced my ability to write.

1. The format and context of the blog as a medium;
2. The extensive material available to my searches on google.

See, I mostly don't have a problem trying to think of something I want to write about. I don't lack for things I wish to include in commentary or a critique.

My problem - usually - is seeing way too many valid angles to attack an issue from and too many important points to make. Plus, some of those angles and points might not be readily apparent to readers without a lot of explaining.

My mental processes are wildly associative. While in grad school, I was brainstorming with a classmate for an upcoming presentation on augmentative and alternative communication. I got on a roll and probably started talking for about ten minutes until I finally ended up talking about neanderthals and theories that they used sign language instead of speech.

At that point, my friend reeled me in, pointing out that this was a 30 minute presentation and there weren't going to be too many people in the audience dealing with neanderthals.

Point taken.

So, I have learned - mostly successfully - to narrow my points and approaches when writing. That means an enormous amount of time gets spent deciding which of my fabulous insights get jettisoned, changing my mind a few times and then gritting my teeth and writing the damn thing.

Yesterday's NDY post was pretty succesful in that way, I think. I stuck to one offhand reference to American humorist Will Rogers and focused on Irving Janis's theory of "groupthink."

Today, I had the pleasure of digging out some old "dirt" on some of the current (and unarrested) spokespersons for the Final Exit Network. They both have a nasty history with defending the killing of children with disabilities.

This is why I'm grateful to google. In the past, I'd have gone nuts trying to figure out where I'd read the things I'd remembered. Even if I saved hard copies of the material I thought of, they would undoubtedly be lost if they're more than a year old.

Google is wonderful. Ten minutes and all the old archived material was there for me to use, link and quote.

I'm not sure what I would have done in a world without computers and the internet.

S'all for now. --Stephen

Monday, March 9, 2009

Speed Bump of the Day - Chaos in the Workplace

It looks like today is a wash-out, except for today's blog here. The organization that donates office space to NDY is a growing one - and today they initiated a massive office reorganization.

In reality, that meant that I spent the morning not sure of when I'd have to shut my computer down so it could be moved to my new space along with my phone. People were putting office furniture together behind me. A new person came in, anxious to take up her place at my desk.

Things finally got moved around 2:00 pm. Other distractions started then, such as the IT people coming and a trying to problem-solve a way to wire new ethernet connections into the office next to the one I now occupy.

I know this wasn't an easy kind of environment for anyone to work in, but it's pretty near impossible for me. When I do my posts on the other blog, I usually have to sort through at least a dozen approaches to whatever I'm commenting on in order to put together something that is meaningful, readable and coherent. I'm successful at this most of the time and I do it almost every day. Today was not that day.

At one point, I thought about yelling and running wildly from the building, but thought that probably isn't the type of inservice I'd like to do on neurodiversity. (smile)

It's all over now, but I don't have nearly enough time to organize my thoughts and get them put down in a way that's acceptable to me.

That doesn't mean I'll just sit here and stare out the window, although that holds a certain appeal. I have a few email messages that need answering -- less planning and organizing involved, and I can still have managed to have responded in a timely manner.

I might write about my experiences with writing in the future. Some of it's relevant to part of what Terri wrote in her own blog entry that I linked to the other day.

Until the next time... --Stephen Drake

Friday, March 6, 2009

Blog Recommendation: Barriers, Bridges and Books on "NVLD and Us"

Today I checked the blog Barriers, Bridges and Books and found two surprises waiting for me.

First, she gave a nice shout out to this blog and to the NDY blog.

Second, the topic of the day was "Non Verbal Learning Disorder."

As you might have noted, the terminology she uses is a little different than the one I used. Both "disorder" and "disability" get used. Not even the acronym is standardized yet - both NVLD and NLD are widely used.

It doesn't matter, though. Whatever variation of the term we use, we're referring to that same general pattern of strengths and relative weaknesses on tests that purport to measure intelligence - sometimes supplemented by other diagnostic tools cherished by neuropsychologists and school psychologists.

It's an "overcoming" story, but not in the sense we generally encounter in the disability community. It's a terrific "overcoming" story about her successful struggle to move past the incredibly negative "prognosis" that came with the news that her son had nonverbal learning disorders.

Sometime soon I'll be adding a blogroll to this site, and Barriers, Bridges and Books will be on it. Terri is a dedicated activist/advocate here in Rochester, NY. And she's a very good writer. Take it from someone who reads a lot.

So - especially if you're a parent of someone with NLD/NVLD, please read the following blog entry today for a healthy reality check:

Non Verbal Learning Disorder and Us

I might even revisit this entry in the future to share some of my own reactions, but I'm strapped for time today. --Stephen

Speed bump or road block?

In my last post, I used a tsunami metaphor to describe what life was like at the time. Things have changed a little since then.

So, as a self-appointed champion of mixed and mangled metaphors (not to mention alliteration), I'm going to talk about speed bumps vs. road blocks.

On Tuesday night, my partner left to go to DC with 50 other activists from the Center for Disability Rights. I slept just fine that night and maintained my hyperfocus throughout Wednesday.

After that, complications arose. The time of Diane's return was uncertain. It would be anywhere between midnight and just about any time thereafter. Being able to pick her up in that kind of scenario takes some planning on my part. I can't just sleep, get a wake-up call and hop in the car. As an additional complication, I try to regulate my sleeping schedule to keep migraine occurrences down.

I have to wait at least two hours after sleeping before my reflexes and motor control have settled down to the point where driving is a safe activity.

Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in getting a nap in the early evening, managing no more than about 30 minutes of snooze time. At that point, it was about 10:30 pm.

At that point, I didn't dare to try any more sleep. At about 11 pm, I got a call saying that - if they made good time - they might be at CDR by 1 am.

Their eventual arrival was at about 3:00 am. By the time I picked Diane up, got home, helped her with her stuff and settled down for sleep, it was 5:00 am. I fell asleep pretty quickly, but woke up at 9:00 am.

I was functional - for shopping, reading, eating and light cleaning - but not much good for much else.

Reaching this point was inevitable. The question remained whether it was going to be a temporary speed bump, with me resuming my previous momentum, or a total roadblock - with who knows how long to struggle toward productivity again.

The fact that I'm writing this post suggests yesterday was just a speed bump after all, with last night's sleep doing what was needed to get me to resume course.

Wish me luck. --Stephen

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hyperload vs. Overload

First, my apologies for people who have checked this blog for the long lag between posts. My last post dealt with overload and the impairment of function that goes with it.

Why am I back and writing? My load hasn't decreased - it's increased.

Last week, a national story broke out that has put Not Dead Yet in the middle of media coverage - quoted in AP stories, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Time Magazine. If you're curious about the story and what my role has been in the coverage, you can check out the Not Dead Yet blog and read the posts for the last week. And there'll be more to come. A New York Times reporter called yesterday. There was an appearance on Fox News, but I'll probably write about that separately in a little while.

On top of reading the press coverage, gathering the facts of the national story, giving interviews to the press, I've been engaging in other related activities. I've been talking and writing with people who wanted to write letters to the editor. Registering a complaint about accuracy with the secretary of a senior editor of a national newsweekly. Answering and/or deleting hate mail. Working with Georgia activists (the current center of the national story) who want to organize a presence and response there.

All of this came at a time when I was already in a state of overload. Instead of making it worse, a mental shift occurred, where I am focused, calm, amazingly organized, and able to function on just about any amount of sleep.

I think I've moved from "overload" to what I have decided to call "hyperload." It's a state where the tasks and demands are so overwhelming and important a sort of Zen-like presence takes hold of my brain (OK - it's a Zen-like presence given to muttering obscenities).

Metaphorically, it feels like riding a tsunami (yeah, I've seen those annoying commercials too). Moving fast, in control.

For now.

Sooner or later, this unnatural state will end because it can't be sustained any longer or the demands settle down. At that point, I'll be in for at least a day or two of brain-freeze. I'm crossing my fingers that a migraine isn't part of the payment.

For now, though, it feels good and it's great for advocacy. And I'll no doubt be back to posting here more as well. --Stephen