Kristin Died — Case Study
On May 30, 1992, a young woman named Kristin Lardner was shot by her ex-boyfriend, Michael Cartier. Cartier had a long history of violence and criminal activity, not to mention several convictions of domestic violence. At the time of the murder, in fact, Cartier was on probation and under the auspices of a restraining order. A number of public agencies had the task of keeping Cartier away from Kristin, but unfortunately, this did not happen. The gist of the matter deals with the element of bureaucracy, the way they are set up, what keeps them going, what incentives they use to measure efficacy, and what factors inhibit their ability to be responsive.
Within the rubric of public administration, there seems to be at least two theoretical precepts that apply to the case of Kristin Lardner. First, there is the idea of public bureaucracy and the role that plays in society — neither good nor bad — but simply the ability to structure effective responses when needed. Second, we have the client responsiveness paradigm, which both encourages interdependence with bureaucracies and holds that it is important for public agencies to quickly and efficiently respond to client needs.
One of the basic precepts of public administration, of course, dating back to Weber, is that within a complex society, bureaucracies are the most efficient organization template for delivering goods and services to a large number of individuals. The term often has negative connotations, though, because the very nature of a large public agency requires that certain information be available, requiring citizens to provide documentation and data so that decisions can be made fairly.
Chronology of Facts
Michael Cartier was part of the juvenile justice system. He had a great deal of experience with the workings of the justice bureaucracy, and seemed well aware of the lack of cooperation between various legal and social agencies. Kristin’s father, George Lardner, even quoted a probation office noting “Probation warrants have to be serviced by the police, who don’t take them seriously enoughâ€¦. Probationers knowâ€¦. They can skip court appearancesâ€¦.” Without serious repercussions (Lardner, 1992). Nevertheless, and despite certain safeguards, Kristin Lardner was shot and killed by someone who should not have been allowed near her.
1982-1990 – Cartier had a history of abusing animals as early as age 5, the cruelty escalating through his teens as was his incarceration into mental hospitals, treatment centers, and prison. He was, in fact, well-known to the “system” and considered a powder keg by many.
Summer 1990 — Rose Ryan meets Michael Cartier and until the Fall, their relationship was good. Then Cartier began abusing Rose physically, killed a kitten in front of her and was arrested, but put back on the street. Fall-Winter 1990 — Cartier continues to stalk Rose physically, and through obscene letters, forcing her to get a restraining order.
April 1991 — Cartier is finally arrested for violating probation; 10 days earlier he accosted Ryan and was abusive.
Summer 1991 — Cartier serves only part of his sentence, and released after the more serious charges in his case were inexplicably dropped.
January 1992 — Cartier meets Kristin at a Boston nightclub. She was attracted to Cartier because he reminded her of a previous friend, and was quite charming at the beginning, at least to Kristin.
Winter 1992 — Cartier continues to harass Rose and instead of being incarcerated, was sentenced to a violence class meeting once per week; by February 12, he misses the class and instead of serving time, was allowed to restart the class.
March 1992 — Cartier begins to get abusive with Kristin; tried to make up to her by giving her a kitten, but tortured the kitten so that it had to be destroyed.
April 16, 1992 — Kristin goes out with Cartier for the last time, when she tries to break up he began kicking her; then began to stalk her by phone; then began to try to make up to her by sending roses and cards.
May 7, 1992 — Kristin calls Cartier’s probation officer to tell her about legal issues and the beating; nothing was done except a verbal warning.
May 11, 1992 — Kristin decides to ask the Court for help; goes to the police but thinks about pressing charges; finally deciding to get a restraining order and paperwork to charge Cartier with assault, batter, larceny, and intimidation — something never acted upon because it was still on the Clerk’s desk when Kristen was killed.
May 19, 1992 — Kristin goes to Court to have Cartier charged; the hearing lasted only 5 minutes with the Judge giving him verbal warnings. Cartier continues to stalk her.
May 30, 1992 — Cartier shoots Kristin near a convenience store. Cartier commits suicide that evening.
Despite the human tragedy revolving this case, the most shocking for this writer is that so many individuals were involved in the breakdown of the public service bureaucracy for such a repetitive and lengthy time. Certainly, one could find individuals who were culpable in Cartier’s continual freedom; the Judges who neglected previous warnings, clerks forgetting to file paperwork, a general lack of urgency, etc., but the real question is the viability of the public service bureaucracy and the inability to allow those employed enough of a span of control to mitigate situations such as this. In the macro state, it seems that the government has learned that there is one critical element in solving large scale situations like 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina — communication between agencies. In the micro state, this seems to be the most critical issue — law enforcement was unaware of other warrants or serious nature of Cartier; the Court system “rushed” through hearing after hearing doling out punishment that was minor at best; the social service system, despite warnings for years, if not a decade, was unable to place Cartier away from the public.
One of the primary issues seems to be that the bureaucracy is “insulted” in that individual employees have little to do with political pressures and are “stuck” in a mire of the system; creating a weird sense of incentives in which the public service employee is not motivated to be responsive to the individual concern. The culture places a premium on knowledge and following the rules, not thinking outside the box or looking at the individual situation. “This lack of a feeling of dependencyâ€¦. Rests upon the inclination to depend upon one’s equals rather than” the customer (Stillman, 2005, p. 58). This is certainly accentuated in the “quest for uniformity,” understandable from a fairness perspective, but with potentially negative effects when faced with situations such as Kristin (See: Rosenbloom, 2008, pp. 102-3).
General Conclusions and Recommendations
Conclusion- The key area of concern is protecting individuals from abuse. Kristin tried to use the system to protect herself, to no avail — even the restraining order had little effect.
Recommendation- It appears that some agencies did not take Kristin’s concerns as serious as they were. There should be a clear chain in which court documents and warrants are filed so that people like Cartier cannot remain free. The Police should be able to tap into Court documents to understand the type of offender they may be encountering if there are continual harassment complaints.
Conclusion- There were several warning flags focused on Cartier. He had a clear history of abuse; mentally and physically tortured Rose Ryan, and had enough incidents of law-breaking prior to even meeting Kristin.
Recommendation- The bureaucracy clearly failed regarding Cartier. There should be a system in place not just to inform law enforcement and the Judicial system about offenders like Cartier; but there should be stricter sentencing guidelines in place so that instead of continual “slaps on the wrist,” dangerous repeat offenders are taken off the street and either given the help they need in a psychiatric facility or incarcerated as appropriate for their crimes.
Conclusion- The crux of the issue is that there was no centralized data depository of information in the State, let alone the nation. This meant that individual agencies sometimes had no idea about Cartier’s history; and to find out the information would sometimes have required a great deal of additional time and effort.
Recommendation- The State of Massachusetts, after Kristin’s death, established a domestic violence database, requiring all Court officials to consult it prior to rendering decisions. Because so many individuals move from state to state, however, it is important that the FBI continue its efforts to supply this information nationally. However, data is only as good as those who consult it, and officials at all levels must be encouraged to utilize that information in all cases and that the information collected is accurate and complete.
Lardner, G. (1992 November 22). The Stalking of Kristin: The Law Made It Easy for My Daughter’s Killer. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/newssearch/search.html?st=The+Stalking+of+Kristin&submit=Submit+Query
Rosenbloom, D., Kravchuk, R., Clerkin, R. (2008). Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector. New York: McGraw Hill.
Stillman, R. (2005). Public Administration: Concepts and Cases. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
See for example, the information in the National Domestic Violence Registry. http://www.domesticviolencedatabase.org/
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