A grand jury has declined to indict Dr. Anna Maria Pou in the deaths of nursing home patients during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. If I understand the story correctly, there isn't much doubt that painkiller-sedative cocktails were given to some of the patients. But was the intent really to kill people it was going to be difficult to get out? Or was it just to ease the suffering of people under extraordinarily dangerous circumstances?
A cancer surgeon who worked as a professor at Louisiana State University, Pou was one of a group of doctors and nurses who stayed at New Orleans' Memorial Medical Center through the 2005 storm. Many of her colleagues regarded the case against her as an outrageous attack on a professional who had done her best to save lives during days and nights spent in unimaginable conditions.
At least 34 patients died in the hospital, which lost power and was inundated with 10 feet of water after the hurricane.
My sister just had jury duty in Indianapolis and did a one-day trial involving a counterfeiting charge. There was little doubt about the facts of the case. The man did have counterfeit bills, and he did pass them on. But he said he got the bills when he sold his car for cash, and the prosecution did not dwell on that aspect of the case. The jury acquitted him fairly quickly on the grounds that the prosecution had not proved intent.
Life is a lot like that. We mostly know the facts when we're dealing with other people, but we spend most of our time and energy trying to figure out their motives -- too often getting it wrong and suffering because of it.