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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bonnie Liltz, Convicted Murderer Seeks to Have Her Sentence Voided

In 2015 Bonnie Liltz murdered her disabled daughter. Liltz was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and Judge Joel Greenblatt imposed a four year sentence. Four years for murdering her daughter. I was shocked by the sentence. I was more shocked that the defense attorneys and Cook County prosecutors in Illinois agreed that Liltz should get probation. What makes the Liltz case of murder different? Liltz daughter, Courtney, had a severe disability. Liltz is back in the news because the Illinois Supreme Court has denied her request to appeal her sentence. Liltz can appeal to the Supreme Court but has of today decided to ask Governor Bruce Rainier to commute her sentence. In 2015 Liltz argued that she was dying and a four year sentence was tantamount to a death sentence. There is no question Liltz health is not good. There is also no question that her medical care in prison would be substandard (though I should add here she has not spent much time in prison appealing her case). During her short incarceration, Liltz rapidly lost weight and argued the state correctional system could not provide adequate medical care.

I wrote about Liltz here at Bad Cripple. Link:  In 2015 and 2016 I stated murder is murder. There is no question Liltz murdered her daughter. Liltz attorney, Thomas Glasgow, has made a very public effort to portray Liltz in as favorable a light as humanly possible. This is his job. I don't like it nor do I care for the way he is trying to spin the case when stating "We're not asking for a pardon. We're not asking for her to be excused or forgiven for her crime. We're asking that she be released to receive medical treatment". This is grossly misleading when put in the larger social context. The context here is parents murdering their disabled children. Ableism can be deadly. We as a society have utterly failed to support parents who care for children with a disability. We have driven people like Liltz and others to murder their own children. Liltz is far from alone. Many parents murder their disabled children. What makes these cases heart breaking are the circumstances. Institutional care for children and adults with profound and severe disabilities is in far too many cases is abysmal. Grim reading within disability studies abounds that emphatically details our respective social failure to care for the most vulnerable among us. The historic opus, Acts of Mercy by Steven J. Taylor details the conditions of mental institutions and for religious objectors during World War II. Read Allison C. Carey On the Margins of Citizenship about intellectual disability and civil rights.  Better yet, check out ASAN website and the day of remembrance for all those children and adults killed by they parents. Link: In the last five years ASAN reports that one hundred and eighty people with a disability have been murdered by their parents.

We see the same pattern repeating over and over again. A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the "burden" of having a disabled person in the family. If a parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats. 

Murder is of course the most extreme response to disability. As such, murderers such as Liltz appeal to the very worst of human kindness. Liltz wants sympathy--and she has and will continue to get plenty of it. The assumption here is that her daughter Courtney was a burden to care for. Liltz, I read again and again, was a kind and loving mother for decades. Sorry but I have no sympathy for parents who murder their children.  In stating this I become the bad guy. I am the hard ass that is unforgiving. I am heartless. Just as I reject a shred of sympathy for Liltz, I assert that all life has value. Courtney had the right to live. All people with a disability have the right to live. This should be a given but is not. Ableism abounds. Ableism takes many forms from flat out open hostility to subtle and insidious forms of prejudice.

I know of only one way to undermine ableism, murderers such as Liltz, and a court system that values some lives more than others. Fight back. Assert one's civil rights. Make others, typical others, feel uncomfortable.  As I have been writing I am reminded of a powerful post at Crutches and Spice entitled "Its Time for Disabled People to be Unapologetically Selfish and Intolerant" I read a few months ago. Link:

You heard me! Fight me. I want disabled people to be unapologetically selfish. I want you to bathe in hedonism and to move with the bravado of a mediocre man explaining to a woman her own expertise. I want to see you striving to love yourselves and in the moments you cannot, being patient with yourself, and if you can’t be patient, at least be kind. I want to see your selfies, I want to see how #DisabledandCute you are. I want to see you being sexy, vulnerable and yourselves. I want to see my Quips, my crips of color, my indigenous disabled, my hijabi disabled. I want to see you all in all your glory, your good days and your bad.
I want you to be intolerant. I want you to shut down the voices that question the necessity of your existence. I want you to block the discourse that portrays you as anything less than human. I want you to use all the four-letter words you know. Shut down the devil’s advocates and speak truth to power. How long are we expected to entertain the idea of our genocide? Be intolerant of the violence that seeks to rob you of your peace, and take self-care when you feel drained.
If you’re wondering why I’m asking you to be these things, the answer is very simple: you are a real person, not an idea or concept. The problem with throwing around terms like “Pre Existing Condition” is that it is prescriptive and turns real people into inconvenient numbers that need shuffling or rearranging. I don’t want you to delve into problematic person-first language. I want you to show what disability looks like—because it looks like you and it looks like me. It looks like the friends I’ve made writing for this site. It looks like the people I hope to collaborate with and to get to know. It looks like people I love. It looks like people I could lose. So when people ask you how healthcare affects you, I want you to respond with “I” and “we.” Let them know that the person before them is at risk, not some idea of a person.
When I read such powerful words I am filled with pride. My people come in all sizes and colors. We people with a disability are masters of adaptation. We are so much more than the iconic wheelchair logo. We are blind, deaf, physically and mentally impaired. We have deficits that are as varied as they are devastating. And yet like typical others we get up in the morning, kiss our loved ones, go to work, play and eat. It is almost as though we are human. Human like Courtney Liltz and one hundred and eighty other people who were murdered by their parents. I for one will not forget. I will relentlessly fight on.