Zampatti Case Raises Question ‘Is Being Pretty and Blond a Defense to an Aggravated Battery Rap?’

July 12, 2010 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Here’s an update on the Andrea Lee Zampatti case (St. Augustine Record, 7/7/10). She’s the woman who, in an apparent fit of road rage, injured some 12 people with her SUV. Two of the people were police officers; another was a cyclist who has been reported to have been seriously injured although no further information on him/her has surfaced. Apparently Zampatti had neither drugs nor alcohol in her system during the broad-daylight assault.

Since the day of the incident, April 23rd, she’s been in jail. The salient feature of the news coverage of the incident and its aftermath is its craven obeisance towards the defendant. Zampatti, you see, is pretty, blond and white. Reading the news of her rampage and detention, one could easily draw the conclusion that those three facts in some way preclude her guilt. The original articles didn’t hesitate to hymn her physical qualities. What are the post-attack physical qualities of her victims? As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know much about that topic. The Record seems to consider their injuries of marginal importance.

In the article linked to, that seems to be fading into the background, though. It includes only one reference to,

Zampatti’s long, blond hair framed her face — fallen eyes, reddening nose and pursed lips…

It’s amazing how the totally irrelevant can assume such importance. Not long ago, I wrote a couple of pieces about Janet Malcolm’s desperate attempt to find Mazoltuv Borukhova innocent of the contract slaying of her husband, Daniel Malakov. Malcolm found it impossible to accept the fact of Borukhova’s obvious guilt, and one of the main reasons was that she found Borukhova to be a “gentle, cultivated woman.” In short, we in this culture seem to have difficulty attributing bad motives to certain women. We cherish the old, sexist notion of the innocence and purity of women we find attractive in particular ways. Being white and pretty is part of that; so is a certain personal refinement. That sexist preference clouded Malcolm’s judgment. It continues to cloud the judgment of the St. Augustine Record.

But more importantly, it seems to be clouding the judgment of the judge in Zampatti’s case, Wendy Berger. Zampatti, it seems, is claiming some sort of diminished capacity defense. She wasn’t drunk or on drugs, so her defense must have something to do with her mental state generally. Interestingly enough, whatever limitations she had before her rampage didn’t keep her from running her own business and generally functioning at a high level. But now that she’s in the dock for what everyone except the Record sees as very serious violations of the law, she wants us to believe that she can’t be charged with an offense.

As usually happens in that type of case, the judge appointed a physician to examine Zampatti to find out if she is mentally competent to be charged, stand trial, assist her attorneys, etc. Well, the doctor, Dr. Roger Davis,examined her and apparently found Zampatti to be just fine, thank you, but, amazingly enough, the judge provisionally substituted her own opinion about her competency for that of the doctor.

Berger said she found the results of the initial evaluation contradictory, saying she was “shocked” that the doctor initially deemed Zampatti competent when the judge said she would not have considered her so.

Note that it’s not the doctor contradicting himself; it’s his opinion that contradicts that of the judge. Strange to say the least.

So apparently the doctor attempted to examine Zampatti a second time and she refused to talk to him. Now they’re in court and the judge asked the defendant if “she would like to speak with Davis (the doctor) again.” So the judge asked for Zampatti’s OK to be interviewed by the doctor. Again, strange to say the least.

We can’t yet answer the question, but stay tuned; we’ll be able to soon.

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