Justice; A Mini Skirt and Christmas

Brenda Schaefer
Justice; A Mini Skirt and Christmas
In watching an episode of American Justice I have found myself unable to wrap my mind around the ‘cracks’ that develop in the process of seeking justice. Is it faulty law or jury failure?

Brenda Sue Schaefer on September 24, 1988, was found dead in the home of her boyfriend Mel Ignatow. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, in 1991, a Kenton County jury acquitted Mel Ignatow.

Pictures showing Brenda being tortured and killed by Ignatow surfaced six months later. Undeveloped film was found in a heating duct of a home Ignatow had owned. It showed Ignatow sexually abusing Schaefer on the night of her murder. Ignatow eventually admitted, after a plea deal involving perjury charges and knowing he was secure due to Double Jeopardy, that he had killed her with chloroform on Sept. 24, 1988. After torturing and sexually abusing her in the home of his former girlfriend, Mary Ann Shore-Inlow, with her grave dug in advance, Ignatow forced Schaefer to strip naked, tied her to the top of a glass coffee table and sexually tortured her, while Shore-Inlow took pictures. He then took a bottle of chloroform and killed Schaefer, whom he was once engaged to marry. After the film was found, Ignatow was convicted of perjury for lying to a federal grand jury about his involvement in Schaefer’s death.

Tape Recording of Brenda’s Murder that was presented to the jury as evidence:
Ignatow: Good evening ladies and gentleman and we are coming to you live. This is your host Mel Ignatow and with me is the puta, the Jezebel who tried to leave me. She has been captured and taken prisoner by me now. (Yelling) THE PRISONER WILL IDENTIFY HERSELF.
Brenda: My name is Brenda Sue Schaefer; I have been captured and taken prisoner by Mel Ignatow.
Ignatow: Describe your situation Brenda
Brenda: You have treated me like a dog and humiliated me by stripping me naked. You have bound me hand and foot. Oh no! I am trapped like a beast in a snare!
Ignatow: (Laughing) Well Brenda my bound beauty welcome to your nightmare!
Brenda: (Sobbing) Oh no! Oh Dear God please no! Mel I am so sorry. Don’t touch me! Oh God please don’t hurt me!

Jury members stated that they found fault with the way the prosecution witness, and Ignatows accomplis Mary Ann Shore-Inlow, was dressed, in a mini skirt, and the way she sat in court. Some admitted they were hurried to get the trial over for the Christmas holiday. After Ignatow admitted guilt in a plea bargain some jurors held with their decision saying the evidence was not strong enough. Without attacking people personally this seems ludicrous with what was presented at trial. Apparently the judge agrees with this opinion. He has been said to have sent an apology to the Schafer family for the jury’s findings. I have searched for a while and can not find the judges name who wrote to the family. Strange, you would think he would be heralded for his empathetic act.

This is just one case sited in reference to the cons of Double Jeopardy. It would seem that all measures of precaution are afforded defendants found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. They are legally allowed to repeatedly appeal their conviction to avoid the sentence. So, where is the safety net for the victims and family members who find no justice as in the case of Brenda Schafer? You may call this apples and oranges but it shows a pattern of society’s willingness to ensure the rights of the accused and not afford the same consideration for the dead and their family.

While I agree we have to uphold the decisions of elected juries as this is the way of the system. But when the jury fails to weigh and consider the evidence in a manner that delivers just desert we have to look at the ability of the jury that is elected to sit in judgment.

The way a person dresses is not always a representation of their trustworthiness. The old adage of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ comes to mind. If one is deciding the fate of an accused murderer and evidence has been offered that is above and beyond a reason to believe guilt, clothes worn by a witness are not even a consideration.

Ignatow’s blatant disregard and disrespect for the justice system alone is proof that the jury failed. The other proof came later when Ignatow could not be tried again when more evidence came to light and Double Jeopardy applies. His public smirks and laughter, I am sure, haunt the Schaefer family.

In contrast to the laws of the United States, Canadian law allows the prosecution to appeal from an acquittal. If the acquittal is thrown out, the new trial is not considered to be double jeopardy because the first trial and its judgment would have been annulled. Makes sense to me.

The final irony, or one might say ‘just desert’, of this case is that Ignatow’s son, Michael, said on September 1, 2008 his father apparently fell into a glass table and bled to death in his apartment on Terrier Road.

I suppose for me to say Ignatow got his Just Desert in the end is not very professional sounding. But if the justice system, in this case the jury, failed Brenda, maybe God took up where humans left off. Maybe this is a message or testimony to the imperfections of man when it comes to forming judgments on one another. Whatever the case Brenda and her family have suffered the most. In their suffering lies the fact that certain aspects of the criminal justice system need to be revisited.

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