WESTBOROUGH, MA March 30, 2014 The Portland Press Herald reported on the case of Jason Lawrence who is being held without bail for domestic violence. He is a repeat offender whose violence against women can be traced back to 1997. Is anyone surprised that the well-being of victims in this case were not considered by the judicial system who twice released Mr. Lawrence into the community. Finally, the perpetrator’s actions convinced someone he was the real deal and is being held without bail in Maine. At what point does the well-being of victims and potential victims rise above the abuser’s right to bail? Some circumstances warrant the containment of those who exhibit abject cruelty over and over. Many states including Massachusetts are beginning to realize how emotionally dehiscent an abuser can become. The case in Maine is the first I have seen to hold a violent abuser without bail in that state.
Recently, the SJC in Massachusetts denied to remove a protective order that has been in place over 10 years. He claimed to have “moved on” and wanted to work with children and own firearms – arguably two rights surrendered when domestic violence allegations have been proven against you. The SJC called the rights of abusers to have protective orders dropped years later – as the collateral consequence for the years of documented abuse (Sefton, 2014).
In the June 2011, Dexter, Maine homicide, one police officer was heard to say he had never before been so afraid for a victim of domestic violence and in spite of those fears and having access to firearms, Steven Lake was released from custody with little bail. The subsequent Psychological Autopsy conducted in 2011 by 4 current or former law enforcement officers identified red flags – just like those exhibited by Jason Lawrence – as being highly predictive of domestic violence homicide (Allanach et al., 2011). Mr. Lake killed his family and then himself in June 2011. People knew this was his ultimate intention and said nothing until the terminal rage he concocted resulted in the deaths of 3 innocent citizens from the state of Maine. Red flags were identified in the post hoc analysis of the case and were presented to the Domestic Violence Homicide Review Panel in November, 2011 in Augusta.
Does anyone doubt what Mr. Lawrence’s ultimate intention was in the 3 weeks between arrests? His anger and marginal behavior were escalating by the day. It did not matter to Lawrence that a protective order was in place. A “no contact” order means nothing to a man who believes all control has been taken from him. Arguably, when a district attorney identifies someone as “one of the worst domestic violence individuals ever” – as in this case, those words should be key is setting the parameters for bail. Greater discretion for bail is necessary in this case just as when a police officer believes a victim is not safe from her purported abuser. Ultimately, the premonition of the deputy sheriff in northern Maine came true on the morning of June 12, 2011.
Mr. Lawrence is not afraid of the police or being sent to jail because he has no limits on what he can do. He does as he pleases and containment is the only correct solution. Red flags were apparent as far back as 1997. The valid predictor of future violence is past violence. regrettably, the secrecy of victims and those who choose remain silent are the one’s who might stop domestic violence. And as a society we must do something to bring a voice to these individuals because to do nothing is unthinkable.
Read more from the Bangor Daily News:
Ronald Allanach et al., Psychological Autopsy of June 13, 2011, Dexter, Maine Domestic Violence Homicides and Suicide: Final Report 39 (Nov. 28, 2011), http://pinetreewatchdog.org/files/2011/12/Dexter-DVH-Psychological-Autopsy-Final-Report-112811-111.pdf.
Sefton, M.S., Collateral Consequences, taken on 3-30-14, https://msefton.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/collateral-consequences-stay-away-orders-that-are-forever/