Law and the semantics of suicide baiting in San Francisco
“You are not smarter than they are,” my attorney has told me.
The “they” he means are the plethora of city lawyers and legions of legal workers researching and writing for judges in that “compassionate” city by the Bay who have apparently skimmed through whatever my case will be called next.
In the Northern California District Court at the federal level it was Yount – v – City and County of San Francisco (3:11-cv-01141).
In San Francisco Superior Court at the state level, it was Kathy Yount, Individually And In Her Capacity As v. City And County Of San Francisco Et Al (CGC 13 533102).
Right now, I just refer to it as Yount v. San Francisco until we get a label and a new number before assuming last place in the long line waiting to be heard in the First District Court of Appeals.
I readily admit my attorney is correct.
I regret, though, I had not thought to reply that he was “unequivocally and uncategorically correct,” evoking the hilarious gaffe made infamous by the all-time controversial Clarence Thomas. During the televised 1991 Senate Judiciary hearings before he would become the sad and embarrassing successor of legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court, Thomas had testified “unequivocally and uncategorically” he had never sexually harassed courageous law professor Anita Hill during the time he was her supervisor.
Thomas had meant to say categorically, or unconditionally, but his malapropism had negated the very essence of his self-righteous denial! History is always going to accurately reflect who Clarence Thomas was when he is gone. His legacy will be that he was neither all that smart nor all that nice.
So, big deal. I am not smart. I have not been to law school. It takes me hours and hours to read through the cases cited to deny me a courtroom destination. So what?
Everyone local knows I am near illiterate in math. My former students can tell you that once I showed them how to average their grade in my English class – “Your total scores, people, divided by the total points possible to find the percent!” – they quickly learned the formula. Many incredulous students have come to me at grade card time to say, “Um, Ms. Yount, um, I think you made a mistake on my grade,” and I usually had! And we fixed it.
So, while I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, I might have possibly taught some students the value of knowing how to calculate percentages and despite my not being smarter than the San Francisco city lawyers or the judges and their writers, I have managed to muddle along.
I understand the linchpin of law is semantics.
If a lawyer tells his client, “I never told you this would be easy,” that would be true. He never told you that. He also never told you that Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun or how much the federal government spent to find the rectal temperature of the average hibernating bear, either.
I concede. I never told my attorney I am smarter than the city lawyers.
For 62 years I was a simple and happy mom, teacher, and business woman who was way too stupid to realize how awful life can become. I was, as they say, gullible.
It would be my own late son, in fact, who would occasionally tease me over the years about being gullible. Sometimes, as I would laughingly relate some current high school hijinks to him, he would laugh and exclaim, “You DO know they just play with you all day?” And I did. And he did. And all good teachers know this. And good teachers surrender and accept this generational stand-off and they still teach because they love what they do.
I have always loved the play of language and have been enchanted by any dance led by a skillful wordsmith until now. I may be a few volumes short of a solid law library (as the good counselor has pointed out) but I can almost read legalese.
It was actually Stephanie, one of my co-administrators at the Facebook page we manage, who brought up – again – the latest semantic chicanery in my lawsuit as we were privately messaging each other between the UK and Missouri about what I should be writing in regard to Yount v. San Francisco.
Stephanie – who actually is way smarter than I am and who lost one of her children to suicide – said, “Tell them it can happen to anyone.”
“But I have!” I insisted woefully, just as I had made the same claim not two weeks prior to this on a midsummer Supermoon night on my back patio to my late son’s friend, the school psychologist in California. She is home for the whole month of July. In 2010 she visited with my late son in person only 10 days prior to his death and she didn’t see any warning signs.
So, here it goes.
For anyone out there remotely paying any kind of attention: Suicide can happen to anyone with few or no signs of warning. Nothing in Stephanie’s life or mine had ever prepared either of us for the suicide deaths of our children. The triggers for impulsive suicide are often only minutes or hours long. In fact, one study of suicide attempt survivors has shown that 71% had thought about killing themselves for less than an hour! These studies prove that police as the typical first responders have the greatest chance for saving lives. A good starting reference point to understanding all of this is http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/impulsivity/
I have also repeatedly recommended Scott Anderson’s brilliant The Urge to End It All, the best and most accurate, succinct explanation for suicide. Although I have intimate experience with suicide, I will never be an expert.
At the same time, I know that no one in the world has read more or thought more about suicide baiting in the last 54 months than I have. No one.
So my contribution to suicide prevention will come from this lawsuit against the SFPD and the “compassionate” city of San Francisco that must spend millions and millions of dollars each year to defend their cops while refusing to train them!
Granted, I am not on the intellectual or emotional level of Justice Clarence Thomas (I hope not, at least!) but like most everyone else in America, I do recognize the law for what it is. SCOTUS Justices most often decide cases by voting straight down political party lines and in the most recent Hobby Lobby decision – by gender! In 2014. The rule of law, indeed.
So this is what I want to say about my third try for a trial. The San Francisco Police Department caused the suicide baiting death of my only child, Dylan Yount, in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, on February 16, 2010. SFPD officers were the de facto death agents who did encourage my son to jump to his death.
My attorney can prove that, if we can get him inside a courtroom.
I need to hear the cops who emceed my son’s suicide baiting death answer this question: “If your son or daughter had been desperately standing on a ledge above the Forever 21 building, would you have been happy with the SFPD performance?”
My attorney also says he dislikes my emotion. Tell me about it! This second denial for a trial just feeds the Mother Bear inside my soul!
My latest absolute favorite comment was crafted and presented like a beautifully packaged gift for me, as satisfying for me to read as it had been watching Clark Griswold’s rant after he discovers his boss has dissed him in Christmas Vacation. My friend said, “I had to take sobbing breaks – tears of grief and outright rage – for you, for Dylan, for everybody those (pardon my language) half-assed, piece of shit motherfuckers have harmed.”
She closed, “Keep making noise, Mother Bear.”
And I will.
I hope whoever wrote the next sentence chokes: “The defendant did not owe a duty to arrest the hecklers.”
This bullshit sentence is the most loaded and legally forensic one written so far about this lawsuit. Its implications are much more than someone breaking a law being castigated as a heckler. Our language has nouns for criminals. We have rapists and robbers, muggers, kidnappers, terrorists, murders and hijackers. There are arsonists and forgers, embezzlers and pickpockets.
On one hand we have this law: “Everyone who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide is guilty of a felony” (CA Penal Code 401).
On the other hand, we do not have a noun for that criminal and “heckler” is just not going to fit the bill for that guy.
A heckler is one who harasses a speaker or a performer. The 1788 word origin of heckle meant “to question severely in a bid to find weakness.” Heckle is much less than the sum of its synonyms – bait, provoke, badger, mock and taunt. The connotations for heckling are widely accepted as trivial.
The two disagreeable old geezers from The Muppet Show – Statler and Waldorf – always harmlessly trashing Fozzie Bear from their balcony seats and then laughing uproariously at their mutual witticisms are what comes to mind when we think of hecklers.
Or even South Carolina Republican, Joe Wilson, yelling, “You, LIE!” at President Obama during a State of the Union Address. His breach of acceptable Congressional decorum is the essence of heckling.
And heckling from hecklers has become rather expected in some places and not just the seedy ones either. Offensive heckling is the second language at almost all sports events – de rigueur – an open fanaticism displayed regularly at hockey games, baseball, football, soccer, even Little League!
Yet have we all not watched uniformed policemen escorting “hecklers” away from the field of play?
Is this not how we fend off violence and keep the beasts at bay in our society?
So, for all you out there today in San Francisco who write for “a” Clarence Thomas (or maybe to those of you just categorically writing for yourselves), I did not make your state law and I want to know why it was not enforced.
Those who torture chained dogs and bears by pitting them to fight are not called hecklers. Their illegal “bloodsport” is called dog baiting. Or bear baiting.
I want the name of those who maliciously encourage suicide to be “baiters.” They are suicide baiters, and their illegal bloodsport is called suicide baiting.
Show some decency at least.