Does Jaycee Dugard Deserve $20 Million?

July 14, 2010

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Note: this article was written in July of 2010. As such, if does not contain any information on Jaycee’s story after that point.

The state of California recently agree to pay Jaycee Dugard $20 million.  This raised some eyebrows in a state suffering from staggering budget deficit.

If you’re not familiar with Dugard, I’ll give you a short recap.  Dugard was abducted from a bus stop outside her home in 1991 – in sight of her stepfather and classmates.  The stepfather gave chase on a bike, but couldn’t keep up with the car.  For the next 18 years, Dugard lived with abductors Phillip and Nancy Garrido.  She worked in their print shop and even interacted with customers. 

In 2009, authorities became suspicious of Garrido and eventually determined that the young woman living with him was Dugard and the 12 and 15 year old girls were her daughters (fathered by Garrido).

Some people feel that Dugard deserves no compensation, suggesting that she had multiple opportunities to escape over the years.  After all, she was interacting with customers in Garrido’s business – not being locked in a dungeon.  When authorities finally closed in on Garrido, Dugard maintained that she was “Alyssa” and didn’t reveal her true identity during initial questioning.  These observers wonder if Dugard stayed because she wanted to stay.

There is, however, a perfectly rational explanation for this.  Stockholm Syndrome refers to a situation where a victim begins to have positive feelings toward the captor.  The victims sometimes perceive lack of abuse (or a temporary break from abuse) as kindness.  The victim forms a strong bond with the captor and perceives the captive in a positive manner.  Many experts feel that Stockholm Syndrome results from the powerless victim adopting an attachment to the most powerful adult in their environment – similar to the attachment a baby feels for its mother. This isn’t some sort of pyschobabble – the FBI suggests that 27% of kidnapping victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

If Dugard was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, she would not have been capable of simply walking away.  Physically, the opportunity would have been there, but psychologically, she would not have been able to break free.

OK, at this point hopefully you see that Dugard probably wasn’t at fault for failing to escape.  But why give her $20 million?  Most kidnapping victims don’t get $20 million as a sympathy gift from the government.

Nor is this the case with Dugard.  The settlement was reached to resolved claims that the state failed to properly supervise Phillip Garrido, who was on parole.  Authorities had made several visits to the Garrido home, but failed to question the presence of Dugard.  What was Garrido on probation for?  Kidnapping and sexual abuse – crimes that probably should have heightened the awareness of authorities.

Is the settlement too much money?  It’s definitely a lot of money, but will be whittled down by attorney fees and possible taxes.  Still, what’s left should allow Dugard to invest conservatively and provide sufficient funds for her as she works to build a new life with her daughters and the rest of her family.  Hopefully she’ll be able to take the money and live a quiet life out of the spotlight of the media.

And in other crime news …

The voting for World’s Worst Mother is over … and the winner is Aimee Louise Sword.  The Michigan woman tracked down the son that she had given up for adoption and began a sexual relationship with him.  The son was 14 at the time.  On Monday, Sword was given a sentence of nine to thirty years in prison.  I’m not sure there are words to describe how sick and twisted this is.  No only did she have a sexual relationship with the son (which, by itself, is very twisted) but she essentially stalked him to do it.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Squeaky
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:29:15

    Wow Kosmo, that’s interesting and I missed the settlement for Dugard and the obsessed Mom stalker story.


    1. Jaycee Dugard settlement is crazy. However, in today’s suit happy climate $20 Million is not out of the realm of possibility. I wonder if any potential jurors would buy into the reasoning that Jaycee had hundreds of opportunities to leave throughout the years.

    2. Stalker Mom…seriously? How sick and twisted can one person be? I just threw up on my keyboard. The boss isn’t going to like this.

    You need to start a recurring column covering stuff like this. Thanks for the midweek smile.



  2. Evan
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 18:26:27

    Being a lawyer, I do have to comment on the “suit happy climate” comment. If that is referring to the conventional talking point about injury suits, etc., that falls into that category of “say it long enough and loud enough, and it will become the truth in some people’s minds.” As with anything in life, there are always the exceptions that prove the rule (and get all the press), but statistics say otherwise. In almost every state, and on the federal level, injury suits have been dropping, sometimes precipitously. The government’s stats say that about 100,000 people die each year due to screw-ups or carelessness of doctors, yet only about 4% of that results in someone suing.

    I do know lawyers who practice medical negligence, and they explain that medical negligence claims are so expensive to litigate that many people with valid claims have to be turned away, because the costs of the case would eat away any recovery. The surest way for a lawyer to go out of business is to take bogus cases.

    What is clogging the system? Divorces, and corporate litigation. That’s true where I am, too. The court’s heaviest load is, by far, family law cases.


  3. Dale Splitstone
    Jul 19, 2010 @ 23:59:13

    Many people probably feel that the parole agent(s) should have been checking to see if any women with Garrido were potentially their against their will. This is rediculous. If I had been the parole agent, I would not have checked to see if Jaycee were a potential victim. There was no reason to suspect this. But as a parole agent part of my job would have been to verify Garrido was not associating with felons, and as part of the criminal backgroud check of Dugard, I would have had to have verified that she was who she said she was. This is where the parole agent(s) failed. Because Jaycee was an associate of Garrido’s, in that whe worked in the print shop, a criminal background check should have been run, and her identity should have been verified as part of this check. As for whether Jaycee deserves $20 million, not even close. At best she deserves perhaps $3 million. But $20 million is far short of what the girls deserve.


  4. Margaret Cabral
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 12:12:00

    Dugard and the children should have gotten Section 8 apartment, AFDC welfair or whatever
    the new name is and food stamps MediCal for the 3 mother and the 2 children that is it, and should be greatful to get that avoiding working for a living as a crime victim
    Many crime victims get SSI and AFDC and section 8 Medicaid
    $20 million is outragous the tax payers have to support that cost, she don’t deserve that
    much money anymore then other crime victims, All crime victims should be getting the same
    who can’t work being the welfair system.
    Elizabeth Smart got $0 she is going to work for a living, I think she is the winner of the 2


    • kosmo
      Jun 11, 2011 @ 13:11:52

      The $20 million wasn’t compensation for being a crime victim. It was paid to ward off a possible lawsuit for negligence on the part of the state. The issue being that Garrido’s parole officers – charged with the responsibility of monitoring his conduct – didn’t realize that he was committing a crime right under their noses. A few simple questions many years ago might have ended Dugard’s imprisonment.

      (As to why she couldn’t just go tell someone, see my discussion of Stockholm Syndrome above).

      I do agree that Elizabeth Smart seems to be recovering very well from her experience and seems to be a very strong young women. It’s worth noting that her imprisonment was MUCH shorter, though (less than one year, as opposed to 18 for Dugard). I suspect that the years take quite a toll.


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