Here's the link to an updated essay for those I have referred this to
This happens to be the only report in print or on line, on the personal story of a man who is about to be the poster boy for a California law, that if he is right, will cause many more deaths such as he has admitted to.
There is a real question whether the essential elements of this interview with John Albert Gardner III, the man who committed the crimes will be told. The interview took place from his jail cell to a reporter of the local San Diego CBS affiliate. The first story of the interview was presented Thursday, with another promised for the next day.
It was canceled with no explanation. But they did put the entire approximately two hour unedited interview on their website, which I just finished listening to.
There are a few reports on this interview on line, but as of now, no substantive description of the interview.
This diary will not be about the details of the rape-murders committed by Gardner. I get daily delivery of the only newspaper in the region, The San Diego Union Tribune. It's handling of this story, has been a media event, with well over 200 articles and a comprehensive search of the paper totaling over 5000 items. They see it as comprehensive public interest journalism, proudly saying on a front page editorial that they would take the lead to divert more resources into a stronger law, Chelsea's Law, that would prevent such predation.
I see it quite differently, as a concerted attempt to stir up a degree of rage fostering a law that, far from preventing future disasters such as this, will make the lives of those such as Gardner so untenable that they will have nothing to lose if they commit heinous acts such as this. It is telling that the latest articleon the TV news interview does not mention Gardner's description of doors shut when he plead for help before the murder, his history of mental illness, and the miscarriage of justice of his first conviction.
Based on this interview, and still unreported, is Gardner's claim, easily verified, that he was diagnosed as Manic Depressive in elementary school, and that he attended a special high school for the mentally ill, punctuated by several stays in a residential mental hospital.
He also makes a detailed claim that his first offense against a 13 year old when he was 20, was not as described in the press as a sexual assault. He admits that after an argument he did strike her in the face but that he did not touch her sexually. He buttresses this claim by saying that she originally told the police that he raped her, but that she withdrew that claim when told that she would have to accept a vaginal examination. At that point she change the story to her breasts having been forceably fondled. She refused to appear to testify, leading to the plea bargain.
Gardner was told that by accepting this plea the time served would be short, but he ended up serving 5 years.
When he got out, he describes getting a well paid job as an electrician, living on his own--- until he was assigned a new parole officer. This person, following the letter of existing law, forced him to quit his job and move several times, ultimately resulting in his being left jobless and homeless. The lose of the ability to pay child support to his two children resulted in the mother refusing him any contact further contact with them.
In the months before the murders Gardner claims that he knew he was in a crisis, "losing control" and that he attempted numerous times to get psychiatric help, calling several clinics and even attempting to check into a mental hospital, but all to no avail.
John Gardner is not asking forgiveness. He accepts that what he did is worthy of hatred, and acknowledges that what he did was horrible, and expects that his life sentence will result in his being killed in prison.
This interview is revealing. While there are inconsistencies, the key point is that it is not self serving....he is not claiming that he did not commit the crimes or even asking for mitigation of his punishment. He acknowledges having uncontrollable rage, perhaps exacerbated by drugs, which led to the murder. But he is not saying this for any reason other than to explain what happened, for society to craft policy to prevent it in the future.
The new law named after one of Gardner's victims, Chelsea's Law, will be one strike and you're out, that's life in prison if convicted of sexual contact with a minor. This makes the issue of whether John Gardner's first conviction was for a sex act or for simple assault more relevant. Given the frenzy promoted by the Union Tribune, a person accused of sexual assault on a minor, whether substantive or not, will have difficulty getting a fair hearing. We went through a version of this a few decades ago, when dozens of innocent day care teachers were imprisoned for non existing sexual crimes against children.
I'll close with the email I just sent to the television reporter:
Reporter, CBS8 San Diego
I just listened to the Gardner interview.
The reporting, actually more like a crusade of vengeance, by the Union Tribune has been a travesty, which just my result in "Chelsea's Law" which will ignore centuries of research on effective penology.
You have a story based on this interview. There are specific questions such as were the facts as Gardner gave them of the vacillation in the report by the 2000 victim accurate. Did she change her story after being told of the need for a rape kit?
Then there is the question of whether his second parole officer did in fact make his life untenable, cause him to be homeless and jobless. This seems to be the goal of many who are caught up in the mob mentality fostered by the Union Tribune. Gardner tells of how this pushed him over the edge, precipitating the final tragedy of the two murders.
Reporting this story is in no way condoning his actions, as he stated several times that he is perfectly willing to die for what he did. He is not asking forgiveness, but providing insight into what caused his particular violence. And there is no reason to believe that he is other than being honest, as his story gains him nothing.
Will you be following up on this story, or has the station decided that it would not be productive from a business perspective. I noticed that you graduated from Journalism school. It's hard to get work I'm sure, but this is your opportunity to be a real reporter. It would be a damn shame personally if you accepted squelching this story, especially if enacting vindictive and counter productive laws are the outcome.