By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: John Odgren

John Odgren is hospitalized; Paul Levy apologizes

Two late-breaking developments:

  • John Odgren, convicted last week of killing a fellow student, James Alenson, at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School, has been committed to Bridgewater State Hospital, reports Northeastern criminologist James Alan Fox. Someone, at least, is approaching this case with some compassion.
  • Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has issued a statement from the board and a personal apology for the behavior that led to a kerfuffle last week. What exactly happened remains murky, but perhaps this is all we’re entitled to know. It seems to me that he’s handled this as straightforwardly as can be expected. He remains as respected a public citizen as we have in Boston, and I hope this is the end of it.

A heartbreaking miscarriage of justice

In a humane world, John Odgren would have been institutionalized in a long-term psychiatric facility three years ago. The focus could then have turned toward how best to help the family of James Alenson, whom Odgren killed in a bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.

Instead, Odgren, who was 16 at the time (Alenson was 15), is headed off to prison after having been convicted of first-degree murder. By most accounts, Odgren was a bullying victim who has Asperger’s syndrome and a variety of mental illnesses. Alenson was not among Odgren’s tormenters, which only compounds the tragedy.

Earlier this month, Odgren’s father, Paul, testified about the bullying to which his son had been subjected for years. The Boston Globe published a heartbreaking account [link now fixed], with the elder Odgren claiming that John had talked about committing suicide when he was only 9 years old.

My Northeastern colleague James Alan Fox, the noted criminologist, has a must-read commentary today in his Crime & Punishment blog for Fox writes:

Frankly, the thought of John Odgren, a boy who was bullied and ostracized repeatedly in high school, spending the remainder of his years in a prison setting is absolutely chilling. His well-documented fears and paranoid view of his world will undoubtedly become acute once he lives amongst a population of hardened criminals….

Life without parole makes sense for 25-year-old cold-blooded killers, but not for someone as immature and emotionally disturbed as John Odgren.

Finally, if folks at the Boston Herald have one shred of decency, they will delete the comments on their Odgren story as soon as someone inside the building reads this post. You can find the link on your own.

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