“In Middletown, the connection between those ignored by society who then come back to cause harm is difficult to overlook.”
In the days and hours after the Newtown shooting, my thoughts turned to Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the Wesleyan student who was senselessly gunned down in Broad Street Books in 2009. A prefrosh at the time, I wasn’t on campus. I followed the tragedy, in horror and shock, from the safety of my parents’ house, and I fielded uncomfortable questions from high school classmates who asked if I was going to “the school where that girl was killed.”
I’m not the only member of the Wesleyan community for whom Sandy Hook triggered memories of 2009. First came a blog post from Professor Claire Potter, who reflects on faculty experiences in the wake of Justin-Jinich’s murder and argues forcefully against proposals to arm teachers. Then followed a Huffington Postcolumn from President Roth, who advocates for gun control and writes, “If we falter, if we think the politics too difficult or too complicated, we should remember Johanna.”
In the wake of the Newtown shooting, should teachers be armed?
One week after the Newtown shooting, the NRA has ended its social media blackout and the national gun policy debate is as bitter as it’s ever been. Thousands of Americans are demanding gun control now, and if you’re reading Wesleying, chances are you agree. But on the gun-owning side of the lobby—the sort of people who follow NRA’s Twitter account in the first place—conservatives demand the opposite: more guns, more concealed carry, more self-defense. (Don’t believe these people are real? Read a few NRA Facebook comments. Go ahead; I’ll wait.) In one heated exchange, Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America appeared on Piers Morgan and suggested that gun control advocates are responsible for the massacre. “Since we have concealed carry laws in all of our country now, people can get a concealed firearm,” Pratt argued. “And yet, we have laws that say not in schools.”
Should teachers be armed in the classroom? Could guns in school have saved the lives of 20 children and six teachers? Should America combat guns with—err, more guns?
Professor Potter describes learning about the Sandy Hook massacre after having just read Jeffrey Goldberg’s December Atlantic piece in favor of more guns. The bulk of her argument revolves around an experience at Wesleyan following the shooting of May, 2009, when a gunman remained on the loose after murdering Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10 in Red & Black Cafe. Wesleyan’s campus went into lockdown, and Potter waited for hours in the Center for the Americas:
In December, Stephen Morgan was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the 2009 shooting of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’09. At the time of the verdict, we reported that Morgan would subsequently be sent to Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown for a 60-day evaluation. “If Morgan is deemed sane at that time,” reported the Middletown Press, “he will be released back into society.” That alarming possibility has been avoided: as of today’s mental evaluation, Morgan will be committed to Whiting, a maximum-security psychiatric hospital unit in Middletown, for up to 60 years:
A state mental health expert testified during a Superior Court commitment hearing that Morgan, the Massachusetts man who gunned down a Wesleyan student at a cafe bookstore near campus in 2009, is delusional, psychotic and paranoid and a danger to himself and society.
Susan McKinley from the Whiting Forensic Institute told a three-judge panel that Morgan should remain at Whiting, the maximum-security psychiatric unit at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown.
Morgan’s attorney argued that Morgan should be held for 45 years, while prosecutor Timothy Liston argued for the maximum term of 75. However long he’s held, the mental health expert testified, Morgan remains deeply delusional and confused about events relating to the 2009 shooting:
“His thinking is still disorganized… He really doesn’t have a realistic appreciation of how disturbed his thinking has become,” McKinley said.
Stephen Morgan, who was tried this month by a three-judge panel for the 2009 shooting of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, has been declared not guilty by reason of insanity, reports the Middletown Press:
A three-judge panel has found Stephen Morgan not guilty of murder in the 2009 fatal shooting of Wesleyan University student Johanna Justin-Jinich, saying he was insane at the time. [ . . . ] A three-judge panel announced the verdict Friday in Middlesex Superior Court after deliberating a little less than two hours. Closing arguments were wrapped up around 11 a.m. Friday morning, and the verdict came in around 12:40 p.m.
In addition to the murder charge, Morgan was also declared not guilty of intimidation based on bigotry or bias and carrying a pistol without a permit. Perhaps most disturbing, however, is the possibility that Morgan is declared sane in two months and released back into society after a two-month stay at the Whiting Forensic Institute right in Middletown:
Morgan will now be sent to Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown for 60 days, after which he will be evaluated. A new court date has been set for Feb. 29 to hear the mental evaluation. If Morgan is deemed sane at that time, he will be released back into society.
Two and a half years after the tragic shooting of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the trial of Stephen Morgan began yesterday in Middletown. (For those who may not have been around in 2009: Morgan, a 32-year-old Marblehead, Mass., native is charged with the murder of Justin-Jinich on May 6, 2009, in Red & Black Cafe.) “Morgan chose the three-judge panel over a jury for his trial,” reports the Associated Press, and he is choosing to plead insanity. Whether or not the judges accept the insanity claim, the stakes are high:
If convicted of murder, he could face up to 60 years in prison or be committed to a high-security state psychiatric hospital, depending on the judges’ ruling on the insanity claim. He was also charged with two other felonies — intimidation due to bias and carrying a pistol without a permit. [ . . . ] Both the prosecution and defense are expected to put psychiatrists on the witness stand to testify about Morgan’s mental health.
Eye witnesses to the shooting took the stand on Wednesday, including Susan Gerhardt ’09,Barry Finder ’09, and Capt. Sean Moriarty of the Middletown Police Department.
Today, May 6, marks two years since the fatal shooting of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10 on May 6, 2009, at the Red & Black Cafe. (Last year’s Spring Fling coincided with the first anniversary of the tragedy, angering many and resulting in this WeSpeak. This year, a day’s separation between the two occasions is welcome and appropriate—but for many in the upper classes, Spring Fling remains inextricably tied to memories of senseless violence and community tragedy.)
The Class of ’11 exits in just a few short weeks. 2012 will be the last remaining undergraduate class with memories of the shooting. How does it feel? (As the Middletown Press notes today, Stephen P. Morgan’s case still remains months away from trial. According to state prosecutor Timothy Liston, “the defendant is currently undergoing a psychological evaluation at the hands of a state-appointed physician.” With a seemingly endless trial in progress, can closure be reached?)
Let this post be a space for reflection and remembrance. President Roth’s remarks on the first anniversary of Justin-Jinich’s death follow below.
The end of spring semester, traditionally a time of celebration at Wesleyan, also brings to mind the sad events of a year ago. May 6 marks the first anniversary of the tragic death of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10. This year, May 6 also happens to mark the end of the semester, traditionally a day when students gather for “Spring Fling” to celebrate their achievements. I know many on campus are uneasy about participating in festivities this year, and I wanted to acknowledge that uneasiness even as we prepare to both mark the end of the school year and mourn our great loss of a year ago. A list of events honoring Johanna’s memory will be sent around soon.
Over the next few weeks, teal livestrong-style wristbands will be sold around the Wesleyan campus for $2 apiece. Debossed with a quote and initials in memory of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, these bracelets will unite the greater Wesleyan community on the eve of the one-year anniversary of a campus tragedy. All proceeds will benefit the Johanna Justin-Jinich Memorial Clinic of Kibera.
Join this event to be updated on the days and times these wristbands will be sold. We’re still waiting on the final shipment but will let all those listed as “attending” know as soon as they arrive!
Looks like Santigold (Santi White ’97) is this year’s Reunion & Commencement weekend performer, following the show put on at the Memorial Chapel last year by Dar Williams ’89.
There’s been no official announcement yet, but the R&C weekend schedule lists a WSA co-sponsored performance by Santigold on the night of Friday, May 21st, in the giant tent they set up every year on Andrus Field.
This will be the first show played by Santigold at Wesleyan, who was scheduled to perform at last year’s Spring Fling before it was canceled. Very fittingly, it will be held in memory of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10 and Chase Parr ’10.
Looks like it’ll be a free show, with donations to the Memorial Clinic of Kibera in Kenya (scheduled to open this summer) highly encouraged. Good times if you’re sticking around for senior week.
Treat yourself to some delicious Thai food this Thursday for a good cause:
Join us for the Johanna Justin-Jinich Memorial Clinic of Kibera Benefit Dinner @ Thai Gardens.
Come and bring everyone you know to eat Thai food for the health of women and children!
A percentage of the price of your meal will be donated to the memorial clinic in Kenya with no added cost to you!
For more information about our project, please visit: www.hopetoshine.org/johannaclinic.
Date: Thursday March 25 Time: 5 pm – 10 pm Place: Thai Gardens, 300 Plaza Middlesex Main Street
The Kibera School for Girls and Shining Hope for Communities is applying for the Dell Social Innovation online voting competition, and needs your help! There are only a few days left to vote, and they need as many as they can get:
Please, vote NOW, the deadline is coming up! It will take 1 minute of your time and will enable us to be candidates to win $50,000! This would allow us to establish the Johanna Justin-Jinich Memorial Clinic of Kibera, feed our students for a year, and pay our staff!
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