Monday, July 13, 2009

Justice Goes Down in Straight Sets

The HSL was just a pup at nine years of age when it happened. But it might as well have been yesterday. The events of that fateful day are still fresh in my mind. Monica Seles, the wonderfully gifted tennis player in the prime of her career, was sitting in her chair during a change-over without a care in the world. In an instant, that world would be turned on its head. A crazed German fan, madly obsessed with getting Steffi Graf back to the top spot in women's tennis (Seles had won 3 of the 4 Grand Slam finals between the two), descended on Seles with a 9-inch boning knife. With no security in sight, the madman lurched forward with his weapon, plunging it into the shoulder of the helpless and unsuspecting Seles. Miraculously, though, the injuries from the stabbing were not serious. Within a month or two, her shoulder was healed up. But understandably, Seles' psyche had taken a severe toll, and it would be over two years before she picked up a racket again. For all intents and purposes, Monica Seles as we had grown to know her, she of the twisting two-handed style from both sides and the ultra-aggressive approach at all times, would cease to exist.

This was not brought up, however, to simply recap the career of Monica Seles. Her story is well-known to most sports fans. However, there is one fact associated with the saga that is so unbelievable and outrageous that even 16 years later, it boggles my mind as to how it could have happened the way it did. The man that attacked (and could have quite possibly killed) Seles, G√ľnter Parche, never spent a single day in jail for his heinous act. Not a one. I wouldn't have blinked if the man had gotten life in prison (it was basically attempted murder after all). Twenty-five years might have been appropriate. Even 10-15 would have made some sense. But for a man to be allowed to commit such a senseless, bloodthirsty crime, taking away a person's livelihood and emotional well-being in the process, and not serve a minute in a jail cell for it, is truly sickening.

The main reason for the sentence was the determination made by psychological experts that Parche was mentally deficient. In a nutshell, the man didn't have all of his marbles. Yeah...and your point is..?? Doesn't that go without saying? Anytime you wake up in the morning and decide it's a good day to go down to a tennis tournament and stab one of the players, chances are you aren't playing with a full deck. It's fair to say of anybody that stabs, shoots, or kills another innocent human being...that person is crazy. Normal people do not engage in such activities. Was Parche out of his mind when he went Ginsu on Seles? Of course...but does that make him innocent? I have never understood the "mentally deficient" reasoning for being so lenient in these instances. If we are this easy on all of the maniacs and vilda chayas that do such things, why bother even having a trial? Just assume they have gone completely bonkers and let 'em out the door. It'll save us all time and money.

But how do you account for the fact that Seles' once picture-perfect life was instantly transformed into a constant nightmare following the incident? Doesn't somebody have to be held accountable for that, maybe the person that caused it?? And I always thought that one of the main reasons we sent people to jail was not just to make them pay for their actions, but to keep them away from the rest of society where they could possibly inflict more damage. By letting Parche roam free, the German legal system ran the risk of a similar occurrence happening with the next player that challenged Graf's perch at the top.

Seles very calmly and succinctly summed up the entire ordeal with one short statement. "What people seem to be forgetting is that this man stabbed me intentionally...and he did not serve any sort of punishment for it." Boy, does that sound familiar. Just a couple of weeks back, NFL wide receiver/killer Donte Stallworth was sentenced to a laughable 24 days in the big house for ending another man's life in an auto accident, during which he was driving drunk. So all told, we have one stabbing and one car crash killing, for which a grand total of 3.5 weeks of prison time was doled out. In related news, one of the men that contributed to the theft of Lance Armstrong's precious 10-speed was just handed his sentence...a whopping three years behind bars. Taking into account both Parch and Stallworth's crimes, I guess the moral of the story is this: If you are drunk and happen to see a fellow pedestrian riding down the sidewalk on a shiny new Huffy, feel free to knock him off the seat, throw him to the ground, smack him with his helmet, stab him with the kickstand, and leave him there for the wolves. Just don't take the bike...that'll really cost you.

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John O'Quinn said...

FANTASTIC article regarding the Seles attack and the TOTAL lack of consequences for Parche. Look, I am a HUGE Seles fan, but it would have been enough in my opinion if Parche had been at least confined to a pyschiatric institution for a couple of years. In that case, Seles would have at least had the peace of mind to know that her attacker wasn't still walking the streets. As far as I can remember, the German courts even failed to restrict Parche's travel, leaving him ENTIRELY capable of following Seles or others around the world. TERRIBLE! Seles never again played in Germany; and I will never forgive the German courts either.

Lynn said...

Instead of going by Seles' book which has many factual errors,(In her book Saturday becomes Sunday,half an inch becomes 1 and a half,weeks become months,) look up the news reports at the time of the incident.
The prosecutor's office tried to indict for attempted murder but could not, why?
Seles was injured, true by a boning knife, "plunged" a half inch deep or 1.3cm. The wound was not serious. She was not seriously injured. Look up the news reports from 1993. Doctors stated she would recover fully and could return to competition in at the most 4 weeks. Yes, weeks.
That is why the tennis world was, frankly, confused when she didn't return and no one knew what was going on with her, her sponsors, the WTA, not even her management group knew what was going on, no on could get through to find out anything.
Parche was arrested at the scene, and after being treated for a broken arm was booked into jail where he remained for 6 months awaiting trial. He was examined by psychiatrists and determined to be mentally ill. He was found guilty,sentenced to two years monitored probation and to undergo court ordered psychiatric treatment.
The prosecution appealed the sentence. The sentence was upheld,and the psychiatric reports were key in this apparently since the judge offered the opinion he posed no further threat, and further incarceration was rejected.
If you have a criminal case where the defendant did not seriously injure his victim and received life or 25 years, I would like to hear it.
Personally I did wish that he would have set an example with his sentence by imposing more time,(in a mental facility preferable), but legally the judge's sentence was well within the standards of most countries.
What I would have liked to have seen at the time is a law to deter stalking such as what has been enacted in many countries including Germany only fairly recently.
On another note.Does anyone know if the man that tried to poison Steffi when she was a teen got any jail time since digitalis can be lethal.Apparently he was free to accost with a knife a year later, so I would assume no.