This is such an odd case! We break down the startling child abuse allegations on Law & Crime Network. Thanks Trial Analyst Gene Rossi for coming on the show!
Trial Analyst Gene Rossi Joins Bob Bianchi to Discuss David and Louise Turpin Sentencing
April 23rd, 2019
Robert Bianchi: Well, welcome back to the Law and Crime Network. My name is Bob Bianchi. I hope you guys all had an awesome weekend. And for those you who celebrated the holidays or Passover and Easter. I hope it was a great time. Hey, we got a lot going on here at the Law and Crime Network. We’re covering a lot of cases today, so let me bring in my, my awesome guest, my good friend, Law and Crime analyst, legal analyst, Gene Rossi. Gene, how are you sir? Happy Easter to you.
Gene Rossi: A belated happy Easter.
Robert Bianchi: Gene, you know the first thing that strikes me about this phone call, and I’m not being pejorative when I say this, but it sounds like, a six or seven-year-old that’s on the phone. That was my first reaction and that would not be maybe surprising to me given the bad conditions that they were under. But what do you make of this whole case? It’s just bizarre, isn’t it?
Gene Rossi: You know what, Bob? The biggest hurdle for me, if I ever had this case, what I had, I would have to tone down my temperature because I would need two or three other Prosecutors, to be overly objective. Because I got to tell you, I would throw the absolute book at this couple. I would ask for the max. To do this to 13 children is, it’s, you know, murder is the ultimate, but this is as close to murder. They, he, they have murdered the souls of their kids. That’s what they did.
Robert Bianchi: You know what Gene, and there’s, there’s a great story of resiliency with these children and some of the statements that they have made about their parents. They’re obviously in a very conflicted thing, but the reports are replete with them talking about how they’re going not going to be taken down by this and how they’re going to move on and go to college and have friends and be normal. That they’re not going to allow themselves to be victimized for the rest of their lives. And I think it’s a very powerful message because me and you both have seen in our prosecutorial and even defense careers that people tend to find themselves in the state of victimhood for the rest of their lives. So, I applaud these children. What are your thoughts?
Gene Rossi: Oh, absolutely. And what that suggests to me is that those 13 kids, even though they were essentially tortured and abused by their parents, I get the feeling that among many of them, if not all of them, they were sort of developing a bond because they all were probably treated, in a similar way. And you know what breaks my heart and two things from the 911 call. One, you’re, you’re right. She did sound like she was, you know, six years old. And the reason is she only had a first-grade education. And the other thing is, did she say she hadn’t had a bath in a year? Wow.
Robert Bianchi: I don’t know. I’d have to say I’m looking forward to hearing what has to be profound mental illness on behalf of the parents, I’m just curious to listen to it. So, Gene, I mean, there’s one of the children, there’s, there varied responses from them. So far from what I’ve been able to read from our research, all the kids are demonstrating this level of resiliency. Some are more sympathetic to the parents and some aren’t. As you see there, that they did a bad thing and that the father influenced the mother, and at times were being told the parents are sobbing in the courtroom, consistent with the lawyers, at least explanation that they would never want to do anything to harm their kids. Is there a mental defect going on here, Gene?
Gene Rossi: I think in a sense that they almost had split personalities. I believe one part of their brain truly love their kids, but the other part was perverted and disjointed and had callous disregard for human life. And they, both those emotions were operated in each one of them. I got to say this, whenever I had a case, basically as one sided as this, when I was a Prosecutor, I, I, I had to admire the defense attorneys who even though they’re, they’re in a very tough situation, this had to plead guilty, you could not go to trial. And, and I got a compliment the defense attorneys who are defense attorney to, to maintain the composure and, maintain your honor, integrity while zealously representing these two pretty hideous defendant.
Robert Bianchi: You know, Gene, you bring out an amazing point here and I often tell people that you misunderstand what it is that defense lawyers do many times. It’s, they tend to think that you’re trying to quote unquote get them off. And most times in my defense practice, we’re not doing that, but we’re trying to show the prosecution another side of the person, that maybe this one incident or multiple incidents in this particular case don’t represent the entire picture. But maybe there’s mental illness and, or addiction that is co-occurring in many of the clients. And you’re not saying they didn’t do it, but the real issue here is what is the level of punishment that will achieve deterrents on one end and justice in terms of punishment per se, but also show a little mercy and compassion for the person because there’s a big difference Gene Rossi, between getting a 10 year sentence as opposed to maybe five or even a probationary sentence. What are your thoughts?
Gene Rossi: Well, absolutely and you know, if I were representing them, I would try to put on as much mental health issues as possible. They really are sick people and, but here’s the problem with a, not a problem but, but this case calls for deterrence. And here’s why Bob, I don’t want any parent. I don’t want any parent to even consider putting a kid in chains, tying them up. We had that trial last week of the defendant in Ohio who took the stand and said, yeah, you can slap people. I think this reeks of deterrence because you want to send a message not just in California, but throughout the country. As a parent, you cannot do certain things. And if you do, you will go to jail for a long time.
Robert Bianchi: So, I held as well. But again, there’s, there’s measures of how long that would be or not be. And that’s where justice can be kind of a little bit of an amorphous thing. Some people will see it differently as to the extent of time. Gene Rossi, one thing I love about the Law and Crime Network is we cover these cases where children are abused and there were so many remedies and we ask them to go to go to Google. There are so many places that you can go to in order to make sure that these kids are protected. Because it’s really hard for me to imagine that this had gone on for all these years and no one knew about it. Well, listen, we’ll discuss that on the other end. We’re going to do some business. We’ll be right back. Gene. It’s just like completely bizarre. I mean, first of all, great resiliency, but the parents obviously taught them about faith in God, and they’re, they’re taking that tremendous treasure and, and paying it forward. Back to the parents that abused them. This is just, and the parents seem to me to genuinely be crying and sobbing at counsel table when they’re listening to this. I just feel like we’re not hearing something that there’s something missing here.
Gene Rossi: Well, I’m sure the Prosecutor has some evidence to suggest that the parents did not have the good faith that those tears seem to indicate. And with respect to, I think it was Jessica’s statement, that was being read, you know, the kids probably they are, they were taught forgiveness and they were taught love and they were taught faith in God. All that’s coming to the fore and they are forgiving their parents, it’s a sad situation. No matter how you look at it.
Robert Bianchi: Gene, I’ve said in my life, both professionally and as a lawyer to people that when you hold onto grudges, when you live a life of victim could, when you keep your mind in the past as opposed to moving forward and the presence, that it’s this, it’s like picking up that hot coal and throwing it at somebody who’s offended you, and the only person that gets burned every time is you. So, I think we’ve got to give these kids tremendous props for showing us a lesson in resiliency and resurrection given the Easter holiday. Thoughts?
Gene Rossi: Oh, absolutely. And you know her statement, I’m sure is incredibly sincere. You know what this tells me though, Bob, regarding the 13 children who are showing resiliency, is that the state apparatus for dealing with these type of situations seems to have worked. And I can’t imagine that each child does not have either a foster parent or an adoptive parent or family member that has taken them under the wing and probably taught them that you can’t live the rest of your life hating your parents. You just have to accept what happened to you. Not accept it but understand something horrible happened to you. But today is the best, is the best day or your life and tomorrow will be even better. That’s the attitude you have to take.
Robert Bianchi: Yeah, and that, that level of forgiveness will really, in essence not only benefit the parents but more over will I’m sure benefit them. This is fascinating Gene. When we come back on the other end of yet another clip, of a victim impact clip of one of the children, I’m going to play act with you about how Prosecutors in the room before we go into the courtroom, make the decisions as to how we’re going to work a case out, and what we’re going to work it out for and the various factors that we take into consideration. But before we do that, let’s listen to one more child. Gene, in my world of fantasy, I imagine a place where me and you were working together as Prosecutors handling cases, and as a guy who ran an agency, I can see this case coming through the door for sure because of its visibility. And just oddness and weirdness about it. And I think there’s a couple of factors that we would be discussing, and the first we’ve already done. But what does the defense have to say about this? So good defense lawyers do what we call a good guy, good girl, mitigation package early on, not at sentencing, before the Prosecutor’s making decisions. You want to get to them and try to balance this file out a little bit. So, we talked before, maybe it’d be psychiatric, maybe be and or addiction. Some sort of explanation to try to mitigate or lessen. Now some of the other things Gene, we’ve been talking about is deterrents, and the making sure it never occurs again and punishment for the crime itself, the quality of the evidence, which seems to be pretty significant in this case. So, in other words, we’re not going to have a problem proving it beyond a reasonable doubt. But then Gene, we’re going to get to a point where, we have a good case as Prosecutors. We can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense has done a good job at trying to explain at least like Bob, don’t hit a fly with a sledgehammer here. Let’s be moderate and reasonable, and let’s Gene, for the purpose of this hypothetical, I don’t know necessarily be true in this case the defendants can face anything from probation to 20 years in prison. Where do you go in terms of coming up with the appropriate numbers Gene?
Gene Rossi: Well, if I got this case put on my desk, first off, I get one or two other Prosecutors so that you get an extra set of eyes because I want to try to be as objective as possible. You don’t have to be completely dispassionate, but you have to look at those facts and figure out what’s best for society because you’re representing society, you’re representing the people of New Jersey, the people in the United States of America. What’s good for them for the state or the country. Second thing is if you have a case, it’s a completely one sided, like this one and it’s probably going to be a guilty plea. I would ask for and insist on a meeting with the attorneys to say, okay, give me something to, to tell me that this is not completely premeditated, premeditated. It’s not just a hundred percent pure, unadulterated torture. Tell me something about your client, that can mitigate and explain what’s going on here.
Robert Bianchi: Gene, I just really quick, I just want to interrupt you really quick so our audience understands, what you’re saying is presenting the information that it may not rise to the level of it, the fence, but it’d be relevant in terms of the punishment.
Gene Rossi: Absolutely. And here’s a good example. I didn’t, I didn’t do child porn cases, but those are horrible. And we had a few Prosecutors in my office, they had a step back from them because they’re just so emotionally draining. But if you produce or distribute child porn, I think it’s a 15 or 20 year minimum, if you just possess it, it’s a five-year minimum. So, we saw a lot of cases pleaded down from the 15 and 20 year minimum, to a five-year minimum. And one of the reasons is, you know, the defense attorney came in early and said, hey, listen, I don’t have a defense to possession, but let me explain why this, why my client acted the way he did, let’s talk about his life, how he was abused by his parents, how he was tortured. There was always something. So that would be the first thing is find out what in the parents’ background is something that’s sentencing that that would give me pause to ask for the max. And, I don’t know if this happened in this case,
Robert Bianchi: Gene, a Smollett aside, oh, a Smollett aside, because that was corrupt to the core in my mind.
Gene Rossi: Oh. That one was bad.
Robert Bianchi: What you just described, that we’ve just described here for our audience is the process by which we as Prosecutors and defense lawyers engage in the ancient dance of plea resolution of a case. And that is why many times, Smollett aside, you could be in one county of the state, for example, where the same offense, they’re looking for 10 years in prison, but the temperature of the Prosecutors, when you step over a county line into another place could be completely different and maybe a probation. So, they can be wildly disparate sentencing resolutions because reasonable minds can differ. Okay. So that’s, I think this was great exercise, Gene. I appreciate it. We’re going to go to a quick break. We’ll be back on the other end.