Thursday, October 3, 2013

Judicial Impropriety in 'Baby Veronica' case?

At left: Baby Veronica with the Capobiancos, graphic from Split Feathers.

We have been regularly covering the "Baby Veronica" case on our radio show, Occupy the Microphone on WOLI (which you should be listening to EVERY SINGLE DAY, LIVE AT FIVE!), so I haven't been covering it here. The legal twists and turns are hard to chronicle properly, and I am not sure I fully understand them myself. But there has been a new, disturbing development, with a blogger (go bloggers!) at the heart of it. I shall try to go back to the beginning and tell the story halfway intelligently. Wish me luck.

NOTE: If you prefer reading the legal minutiae and endless step-by-step court-wranglings, go to the SCOTUS blog about the case. More here.

The story begins with the child called "Baby Veronica"--who was adopted in Charleston without the knowledge or consent of her (unmarried) father, Dusten Brown. This is not, by itself, against the law here in South Carolina (although it is in some states), and this is a major reason such adoptions are popular here. The situation was complicated considerably when it was discovered that Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation, which is legally regarded as a sovereign nation within US borders. This fact can trump state law, invoking the Indian Child Welfare Act. The adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Copabianco, fought back hard. They have money and connections, and set up several websites (some asking for money) claiming, for instance, that Veronica is only "1% Cherokee"--which is a weird claim, considering that her father is Cherokee. This appeal to bloodlines eventually turned fairly nasty and racist, not surprisingly. (I won't link to the worst of the nastiness, but will leave it to your imaginations.)

Predictably, adoptees and adoptive parents lined up on both sides of the issue. Native American activists came forward to demonstrate and agitate. One of our shows on Baby Veronica got tons of downloads, which surprised us. That's when we learned just how incendiary this case is.

In the end, Veronica was returned to her adoptive parents. Native American activists regarded this as a dangerous precedent, while the states of Oklahoma and SC both moved to punish Brown for the crime of trying to hold on to his daughter; Governor Haley finally dropped the extradition order against Brown only hours ago.

And now, a blogger comes forward claiming judicial impropriety in the case. JL Hardee deleted his original post (right as we went on the air! doncha love that timing!?! Thanks JL!) claiming he was receiving death threats over it. Scotty Reid, our online producer, summed it up on our radio blog:
Yesterday a blogger and author by the name of J. L. Hardee published a post alleging that the Judge Daniel E Martin, Jr. of Charleston, SC is under investigation for not disclosing a possible prior relationship with Melanie Duncan Capobianco and her father, leading to possible bias in his ruling awarding custody to the Capobiancos over the child’s biological father Dusten Brown who is a member of Cherokee Nation. The post has been removed but another post by J. L Hardee says he has been getting death threats over his reports and he has removed all posts related to the adoption case but stands by his report.
Hardee claims he will follow up, but I am doubtful. (I know the few times *I* have been threatened as a blogger, I am certainly not eager to repeat the experience.)

But if it is indeed true that Judge Martin knew the Capobiancos IN ANY WAY? This is an outrage and requires a full investigation. Will we get one? Do we ever? They don't call this state "Bubbastan" for nothing... Bubba runs the laws, and Bubba gets his way. If Bubba wants an investigation, there will be one. However, in this instance, Bubba doesn't--so I don't see it happening.

Let me also add: I find the timing of Governor Haley's decision to drop the extradition, very interesting in light of this accusation.

I will be following up as best I can. I hope this story doesn't simply die, as so many stories in this state do.


EDIT 10/5/2013: An astute reader sends me the following link and information:
I know you are a careful researcher, so I suspect you already have run across the story of Jan Hunt a family counselor who wrote a letter in support of the Capobianco's re the adoption of Baby Veronica and later realized that she had been seriously misled. But in case you haven't seen it here's a link.
THANK YOU! I did not have Hunt's name, and since I didn't, all of my searches brought up every other aspect of this case but what I was looking for. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the link!

Greenville-headquartered Nightlight Christian Adoptions (the adoption agency responsible for this particular debacle) has also been under attack lately in connection with a five-part Reuters investigation about the practice of "private re-homing" adoptions. They are also well-known for their so-called "snowflake" adoptions of unused embryos (originally intended for IVF implantation), that would otherwise be destroyed.


D. said...

I remember seeing something about the case around June.

That child will need serious therapy, especially if any of that stuff is still up when she gets schlepping around the Internet.

JoJo said...

I just saw this on CNN the other night. Seemed pretty convoluted to me. How do you feel about it? Do you think the child should be returned to her blood relatives or the only parents she's ever known?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jojo, I think it's wrong that Dusten Brown never had the chance to waive his rights legally... in many states, this adoption would have been voided on that basis alone. Also, I am well aware of the sordid history of whites "stealing" Native American children for adoption, which was the whole reason for the Indian Child Welfare Act in the first place. It exists and was deemed necessary for a reason.

As D says, she will grow up and read about all of this ... and the Capobiancas will have some heavy explaining to do. In fact, if this isn't rectified forthwith, I can easily foresee a "wrongful adoption" lawsuit. (If you can seriously sue for "wrongful life"--you can sue for anything.)

JoJo said...

I thought it was a national law that both parents have to waive their rights. If the adoptive parents are smart, they will make sure that the little girl has regular contact with her family and father and learn as much as she can about her culture.

Gorgeous Gregg said...

One thing which gets forgotten is the good old "best interests of the child" issue. There is usually a hearing when there is such a conflict in which the system considers what is in the best interests of the child. In this case the system decided that the SC couple were in Veronica's best interests without holding a hearing or considering evidence.

If any other race had adopted a white child under similar circumstances, do you have much doubt as to where the child would wind up?