Mark Schack Trial Strangeness

For several days CNN’s InSession has covered the Florida trial of Mark Schack for murder. Schack claims the shooting of his significant other, Amy Boscarino—with a high-powered rifle at 2:30 in the morning while she was Swiffer-ing the hallway outside the room—was an accident.

According to the victim’s relatives:

  • Ms. Boscarino often cleaned house at 2:30 a.m.
  • She did not want to marry Schack, even though they had lived together for a considerable time and both had gone into considerable debt in their mutual pursuit of a luxury life style. Apparently she refused to marry him because her father (wisely) disapproved of Schack.
  • Schack made numerous statements to them that he willfully shot the victim.
  • Schack was a drug addict.

According to Schack:

  • He has a condition that causes numbness in his fingers, which contributed to the accident. (So, why did he own such a weapon?)
  • He loved Ms. Boscarino.

This is all weird. It makes no sense.

The apparently irrelevant fact that Schack was adopted also struck me as odd, because I had recently stumbled across a website that claimed (as of 2002) an extraordinarily high percentage of death-row inmates were also adopted.

I couldn’t verify the statistics cited on the website, so I won’t link to it here; but I did find some discussions of adoptee statistics that seem to support the idea that adoptees may have more developmental problems than average. Of course, I suspect that for every adoptee on death row, we could also find an adoptee who, like Steven Jobs, succeeded wildly.

But the raising of this issue in court trouble me. It seems to me—a non-lawyer—that the defense brought this out in an attempt to make the jury pity the man, but all it actually accomplished was to emphasize the defendant’s peculiar biography.

The Verdict

In the end, despite CNN’s attempt to gin up suspense in the Schack trial, the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder and the judge sentenced him to life in prison.

This trial surely falls under the heading of “Trials in which I would not want to be a juror.” The prosecution’s case was painful to hear: it consisted mainly of the victim’s family who hated the defendant and were clearly vindictive. One such witness actually “let slip” that Schack was a drug addict, after he had been instructed not to do so; then all the judge did was caution him not “to cause a mistrial.” Honestly, I think it’s “criminal” for a prosecutor to base a case on the opinions of a victim’s family.

Here’s the ultimate weirdness: the prosecution claimed the motive was not only life insurance but to retrieve a diamond engagement ring from her finger so he could sell it to pay for his defense.

The defense’s case was equally painful: Schack cried repeatedly, occasionally waved at people in the courtroom with a shy little smile, and testified weepily (something defense attorneys ought to warn their clients never to do—jurors do not appreciate it). The only emotion a defendant ought to exhibit is fear.

My verdict: Surely CNN could have found a trial to cover that involved some issue other than human strangeness—of which we are all guilty.

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