Monday, May 02, 2005

Jumping to Conclusions...

I am sure that all of you heard about the story of Jennifer Wilbanks. The bride-to-be Wilbanks was about to get married in a lavish ceremony, but decided instead to bolt from her commitments and vanish without explanation. As this story exploded on to the national scene, many media types and many armchair experts speculated that the fiancé was another Scott Peterson or Scott Hacking, murdering his significant other because he wished to free himself from the “chains” of commitment. It turns out that we were wrong: Jennifer Wilbanks irrationally responded to her own fears of marriage and put her family and the community through a horrendous rollercoaster of worry and fear. The likely six-figure wedding was postponed and thousands of dollars worth of police resources were wasted in efforts to find her.

I am not trying to judge Wilbanks too harshly. I am glad that she turned out to be safe and sound, but think she was rather selfish to run away from her problems and put her family and community through so much pain and trouble. Still, it does not surprise me that someone feeling a helpless victim of momentum might feel desperate enough to finally snap and run away (at least she did not physically harm anyone). So, I think she should be eventually forgiven. If I was her husband-to-be, however, I would be a bit leery of still going through with the marriage.

Wow, Blanket Jackson really grew up fast!

In the end, what really rankles my feathers is how although people were not unreasonable to suspect the husband, it does not seem like many have apologized to him for such a terrible accusation. Yes, he was a little reluctant to go through a lie detector test, but any prudent person should be: lie-detectors are so prone to false-positives that they are usually inadmissible in court. They are only allowed as a way to further an investigation, nothing more. John Mason, her fiancé, knew he did not do anything to Wilbanks so he probably was just worried that he might be falsely implicated if the worse came true. The truth is that he was the one who was screwed and that he did nothing wrong. Still, I doubt many will try their best to make it up to him. Certainly, Mason shouldn’t be holding his breath if he expects the tabloids to send him a fruit basket.

This all reminds me of Richard Jewel. The Olympic security guard saved many lives in the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta. For awhile, they hailed him as a hero, but the FBI soon made a dubious leap to the conclusion that Jewel, being such a “loser”, likely contrived the bombing in order to make himself famous. Eventually, after all the sordid details had been made public (including his pornographic collection) and Law & Order rip-from-the-headlines episodes, the FBI eventually realized that Jewel was innocent. So Jewel’s name was cleared, but his legitimate status of hero was taken away from him. He forever remains a late-night punch line, robbed of the honor he deserves. He deserved better…

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