Shakara Dickens on trial

Both sides’ arguments are finished in the murder trial of Shakara Dickens and the jury will start deliberations today. Shakara is accused of killing her nine-month-old daughter, Lauryn, in Memphis, Tennessee in September 2010. The case is a lot like Caylee Anthony: Shakara claims she gave Lauryn to a stranger to take care of, and never saw either of them again.

“She came in and told me that she had spoken with her child’s father because she was having trouble taking care of her child and she told me that when she spoke to her child’s father he told her he was going to get someone to come over and take the baby,” said MPD Officer Donna Boykins.

While filing the police report Dickens was extensively questioned about the identity of the woman who allegedly came to pick up her baby and take her away. Dickens provided few answers except the woman was white and in her 40’s. She also failed to provide police the person’s name, address or telephone number. Officer Boykins testified she did speak by phone with the baby’s incarcerated father who denied he’d relayed instructions to Dickens about what to do.

Shakara was nineteen when Lauryn disappeared. It was her parents who forced her to report Lauryn missing on September 15, five days after she says she last saw her. But actually, no one besides Shakara had seen Lauryn since September 6. In the days following Lauryn’s disappearance, Shakara partied and improved on her tattoo — didn’t Casey Anthony do those things?

Lauryn’s disappearance and the resulting charges against Shakara and the trial haven’t gotten the kind of humongous press attention that Caylee and Casey Anthony did. No prizes for guessing why. I just hope the trial’s outcome is different than in the Anthony case.

I don’t understand why people kill people, and especially why a mother — or anyone — would kill a baby. I don’t understand cruelty of any kind. I have no idea why a person would take pleasure in another person’s pain, why they would actually go out and deliberately hurt other people and enjoy doing it.

Me, I’m incredibly easy to bully and push around. Whenever someone is cruel to me, I never know how to react, how to respond. Usually I just stand there. I can’t hurt people even when I ought to. I can’t hit back (either physically or verbally) even in self-defense. I’ve never been able to figure out whether this is a virtue or a flaw in my character. After all, even Gandhi, the great priest of non-violence, said there was a difference between pacifism and mere cowardice.

Of course I’ve been personally exposed to cruelty in my life, perhaps a bit more than the WASP American girl. My brother severely abused me for the first quarter-century of my existence and our parents let him do it — and at this point, I’m a lot angrier at them than at him. I was bullied at school so bad that I had to more or less drop out of the eighth grade. And then there was Rollo. I’ve studied cruel behavior and cruel people at length, reading true crime and psychology and history books, and perusing newspaper articles to research my Charley Project casefiles. But I still just don’t get it. Cruelty is not logical. It doesn’t make evolutionary sense — why do we humans, almost alone of all the species in the world, have such a capacity for sadism?

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15 thoughts on “Shakara Dickens on trial

  1. Melissa March 23, 2012 / 7:19 am

    Good question. I often ponder it. Greater minds than mine have tried to answer it and I don’t think they could. I was motivated to go into my chosen career (forensic psychology) when i was in high school in 1996 and a man called Martin Bryant walked into a restaurant here in Australia (in Tasmania – waaaaay down south), with bags full of guns, and proceeded to shoot people. He went outside and kept shooting. He got on to a tour bus and kept shooting. He drove down the road and saw a woman and her two young daughters walking, and stopped and shot them, chasing after the smallest one ( I think she was about 4) as she hid behind a tree, then shot her. He then shot people in a farmhouse and tried to burn it down while inside. He was saved. He is in jail now, has been since then; I believe he is in solitary confinement. His actions led to massive reforms in gun licensing. This event so shocked me that I began a quest to try and understand “why” – as you have just asked.

    Four university degrees and nine years of working with violent offenders later, I still don’t have the answer. There are so many psychological theories and criminological theories that attempt to answer the question. But none can fully. In my experience, many if the offenders themselves can’t – not to a level that would satisfy most people. I have heard answers such as “because he saw my face I had to kill him”. That doesn’t explain it! A complex, dynamic series of transitions and trajectories can go some way to explaining why. Often the series begins generations before the offender was even born.

    I am still seeking to understand. Hence why I read true crime, your site etc. Looking for patterns or something…I don’t know.

    • Meaghan March 23, 2012 / 7:54 am

      Yeah, I’ve heard of Martin Bryant. He’s a pretty good argument for gun control.

      I’ve read a few books about the phenomenon of mass murder and learned that, contrary to popular belief, normal, nice guys with no history of violence do not “just snap” and go on shooting rampages. Actually you will always find a history of aggressive, intimidating behavior and indications of mental instability, even if they were never actually arrested for anything, and at the time of the shooting there are always a couple of people who were really afraid of the guy. (To a lesser extent, the same thing can be said of serial murders. Some of them really do seem like the nice, normal average “guy next door” but a lot of them were obviously dysfunctional and violent people even before the extent of their violence became known.)

      Seung-Hui Cho would be a good example: his emotional/social problems were evident from childhood, he stalked some female students at Virginia Tech, one professor was so afraid of him she said she would resign her position rather than continue having him in her class, he spent a brief time in a mental hospital and then got committed for outpatient treatment which he never received, and I heard that at least two people, when they found out someone was shooting up the campus, immediately were like, “Yeah, it’s got to be Cho.”

      I think the myth of people “snapping” is harmful because it gives the impression that those horrible crimes are impossible to prevent, and they aren’t. If Cho had not been able to get guns so easily, or if he had actually gotten the psychiatric treatment he so clearly needed (like, if they had actually checked up to make sure he really did go see a psychiatrist like he was court-ordered to do), chances are the murders would never have happened. Probably the same could be said of Jared Loughner but I don’t know much about that case.

      Of course there it’s very hard to walk the line between civil liberties and protecting the public. (When I first heard about the Virginia Tech shooting, I worried that there could be a backlash against college students with mental illness. When I had a crisis with my depression while attending college in Arkansas, the school handled it very badly and made my problem a great deal worse. If the dean of students hadn’t come to me and made an abject apology and admitted they had royally screwed it all up, I might have gone to a lawyer.) Mistakes are always going to happen, but that’s no excuse for people and programs and the law to just give up and stop trying to improve.

      Cho almost seems like one of those “bad seed” people you hear about. It seems like he came from a good family. They worked hard and they did recognize his psychological problems and got him treatment and stuff when he was a kid (but once he turned 18 of course they couldn’t force him into treatment anymore). His sister did well for herself, but Cho turned into a remarkably bad apple. I don’t know if I subscribe to the “bad seed” theory but you have to wonder about cases like his.

      But I suppose, given your job and your education, you know all this stuff already. I just wish more people did.

  2. Princess Shantae March 23, 2012 / 8:30 am

    Did you ever read about George Russell? I think you could probably call him a bad seed too. He had two parents who loved him and were good examples, a stepfather who was a really role model too, he was very smart and well-liked, but he was just kind of a slacker. He got into stupid trouble, he was all the time bragging about what a big shot he was, and he ended up killing three women up around Seattle in the early nineties. He didn’t have any of the crummy background and abuse you see a lot with serial killers. I guess the simple truth is he did what he did because he liked to.

    As for Shakara Dickens, I don’t know that cruelty or enjoying hurting others had anything to do with what she did. Lauryn was a nuisance to her, Lauryn cramped her style, so if you are the kind of person who has no sense of responsibility the solution is pretty obvious: get rid of the nuisance.
    Casey Anthony, Susan Smith, Diane Downs, Shakara Dickens. Cut from the same cloth.

    • Meaghan March 23, 2012 / 8:46 am

      If Shakara had just lost it from the stress of being a young mom and, like, shook Lauryn or hit her or something and killed her kinda-sorta-unintentionally, she would have been better off if she fessed up and pleaded to manslaughter or what have you. All the lies and stuff she told trying to cover it up are just making it worse for her.

      Never understood people who committed horrible crimes to cover up petty crimes. Like, killing a pizza delivery guy so he won’t be able to identify you as the person who robbed him. Um, if you get caught murder is much bigger deal than robbery, and they’re going to look a lot harder for a murderer than a plain ol’ robber, and there’s no statute of limitations. But it seems most criminals aren’t terribly bright.

      • Saffy March 23, 2012 / 9:19 am

        no, most of them are not. They’re not like on CSI. Most of them are immature, reckless and narcissistic. They don’t think they’ll get caught and if they don’t it’s because of luck, not smarts. They commit crimes because they’re dumb and have no impulse control. Mix that with easy access to weapons? you’re done.

  3. Saffy March 23, 2012 / 9:21 am

    i agree though…in cases like shakara, lying just makes it worse. Casey anthony got lucky. I still can’t believe she was acqutted, but that’s that. I don’t think this girl will be acquitted.
    Remember the Aisenbergs? Sabrina? I never believed their story and I thought they were putting on a big act. I think they got away with murder.

    • Meaghan March 23, 2012 / 10:07 am

      I believe the Aisenbergs. There is absolutely no evidence against them.

    • kking181 March 23, 2012 / 11:24 am

      Casey Anthony got off because all they could prove was that she was a liar. They couldn’t prove she actually did anything to her daughter. I have a feeling this case may go the same way unless the prosecution has some concrete evidence that she actually killed her child. It’s hard to say.

      • Meaghan March 23, 2012 / 11:26 am

        Agree on all counts, alas.

      • Meaghan March 23, 2012 / 11:28 am

        They do have a cellmate who said Shakara broke down during a sermon at the jail and said God would never forgive her and that she’d done what she was in jail for. And apparently this cellmate isn’t getting any favors (like a reduced sentence) in return for the evidence.

      • Meaghan March 24, 2012 / 2:17 pm

        Yay, she got convicted. Ten hours’ deliberation.

  4. Lindsay March 26, 2012 / 6:11 pm

    The more I read your blog the more I just want to give you a hug. You do such a great thing with this website and have been through a lot of personal trials. Hugs through the web. It does and will get better!!

    • Meaghan March 27, 2012 / 8:18 pm

      Oh yeah, it does. I’m loads better off than I used to be. And there are many, many people worse off than me.

    • Meaghan April 6, 2012 / 9:33 pm

      Yeah, I saw, and updated Lauryn’s casefile.

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