Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why do I let myself worry wondering what in the world did I do?

By Kevin Guilfoile

Jeanette Sliwinski, the lingerie model who killed three Chicago musicians, including my friend Doug Meis, was found mentally ill and guilty of reckless homicide instead of the three counts of first-degree murder sought by prosecutors. Rather than life in prison, Sliwinski faces a maximum of ten years in prison when she is sentenced later this month.


When Michael Mukasey, President Bush's nominee to succeed Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General, faced Congress last week he was presented with a long list of questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he was expected to respond in writing. The resulting document is well over 100 pages. Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, asked Mukasey specifically about the Cornbleet murder case, which has been reported on and discussed extensively at this site. Mukasey's responses are not edifying in any way, but the fact that the question was asked is significant and so, in the interest of completeness, here is the text of the exchange:

34. On October 24, 2006, Dr. David Cornbleet of Chicago was brutally murdered in his office by a former patient, Hans Peterson. Peterson is a U.S. Citizen who was born in the United States and lived in the United States up until the time of the murder. After the murder, Peterson fled to the French West Indies, turned himself in to the French authorities, and confessed to killing Dr. Cornbleet. Peterson's mother was a French citizen, and therefore Peterson is also considered a French citizen under French law. Because French law prohibits the extradition of French citizens to the United States, France is refusing to extradite Peterson to face trial for his crimes in Illinois. Media reports indicate the [sic] Peterson purposefully fled to French territory and turned himself in to French authorities because he knew that if he was convicted for murder under French law, he would face more lenient punishment than under American law.

a. If you are confirmed as Attorney General, will you work to see that justice is done in the matter of Dr. Cornbleet's murder?

ANSWER: I am not familiar with the specific facts of Dr. Cornbleet's murder.

b. If you are confirmed as Attorney General, will you work with other federal agencies to ensure that U.S. citizens who have dual citizenship with another country are not able to commit murder within the United States and then surrender to the authorities of the other country in order to avoid justice in the United States?

ANSWER: It is true that dual citizenship can raise complex issues. I would consider this type of question on a case-by-case basis and examine the facts and applicable law in each situation in which it arose.

On October 24, the first anniversary of Dr. Cornbleet's murder, Channel 5 in Chicago ran another update on the case. Much of this material will be used in the upcoming Dateline NBC feature.

The Cornbleet family is still asking people to contact the US State Department and urge them to continue to pressure the French to extradite Hans Peterson for the crime.

UPDATE: The story of Dr. Cornbleet's murder will air tonight (Monday, November 5) on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 at 9:00 PM Central Time.


ab said...

The crime was horrific, but what is he supposed to do - invade France?

Maryann Mercer said...

Yes the crime was horrific, but I don't believe anyone is asking for an ivasion of France, just some action and a chance for dialogue to try and reach a just conclusion. I'm not aware of how the French legal system works, but the allowance of witnesses and forensic evidence, as well as an independently conducted psych evaluation doesn't seem unreasonable in the pursuit of justice, no matter what the verdict. Again, almost more disturbing is the ignorance of the details of this issue by someone who aspires to the position of Attorney General. His replies were general and showed little knowledge of anything other than poli-speak. Issues such as those raised by this case are important if for no other reason (and there are others)than that they become precedents for future cases. Without taking sides at all, let me just say that if any person commits a crime under the laws of a specific country, he or she should be tried under those same laws, dual citizenship or no. No exceptions. This is what I believe.

ab said...

Of course there must be a dialogue about this between US and France. I don't know how much about a specific case this person is supposed to know.

But for that last part: I do not agree without reservations. Recently, a Swedish woman was raped by her husband in another country. He could not be tried, because in that country, you cannot rape your wife. In some parts of the world, a nine-year-old who has been raped can be punished by being beaten. And so on.

Anonymous said...

As a relative of Dr. Cornbleet, obviously, I want to see Peterson extradited to the U.S. if that can indeed, happen.
With that said, I don't think that as Ms. Mercer stated above, that the person aspiring to be Attorney General can intimately know all the crimes and their details from all over our country. Mr. Mukasey's response was naturally, vague, since he was not intimitely familiar with the Cornbleet murder case. In addition, what he said - that he would have to consider that question on a case-by-case basis is a smart reponse, since not every case is similar.
-- SJC

Maryann Mercer said...

Obviously cultures have their own rules. I simply stated my belief,and I would say that there are probably crimes for which one can be tried in some countries that are not considered criminal acts in others. My point was simply that using dual citizenship might become an easy way to skirt the system altogether. Precedents like that are dangerous. As far as our prospective attorney general, I believe (and again this is my opinion) that someone in his position should have made himself knowledgeable about current and controversial cases before appearing before a committee that could ask his opinion on one or more of those cases. It is called preparation. The 'take it case by case' answer isn't a bad one, just one that allows a lot of wiggle room...and I guess I'm just tired of all the wiggling we've seen in the past 7 years. JMHO again.