How the State is Also Responsible for the Powell Tragedy
The tragic death of the two Powell children warrants scrutiny in that little was done to prevent the children from being placed in harm’s way. They were removed from their father at the first whiff of suspicion (which is illegal) and thereafter used as pawns by many adults and the state to pursue their own goals, ultimately placing the boys in grave danger.
When Steve Powell, Josh’s father, was arrested, Chuck Cox, Josh’s father-in-law, seized custody of the children. Josh “temporarily” lost custody and the police, prosecutors and Chuck Cox started working together using the children to provoke him. Was this in the best interest of the children? We think not.
We now had a custody battle being exploited by the police to advance their investigation, and an investigation that was being exploited by Chuck Cox in a custody dispute. It was a double-pronged assault on Josh Powell, deliberately affecting his state of mind, and using the children as the primary weapon.
How did this situation go so horribly wrong?
First, the police and prosecutor shouldn’t have been involved in the custody case. Josh Powell was charged with no crimes in relation to his father’s arrest and it was highly inappropriate to use the custody issue to pressure him in an unrelated matter.
Secondly, if the state were to remove custody, handing the children over to their grandfather, rather than being placed in neutral foster care, was an enormous mistake. Chuck Cox immediately began trying to turn the children into state’s witnesses against Josh Powell in his wife’s disappearance. His feud with Josh should have been reason enough to keep him away from the kids, but he was working with the cops, and they pushed the issue aided and abetted by Judge Kathryn Nelson in Pierce County, and the always accommodating broadcast media.
Finally, ordering the “psychosexual exam” went too far and Judge Nelson who ordered it was a coward. Josh Powell may have been a murderer, but there was no direct evidence to suggest he was a pedophile.
It was just another pressure tactic, again using the children as the excuse, and the humiliation of the test was virtually guaranteed to create a great deal of anger. Having no evidence, the police did everything they could to create an explosive situation, trying to elicit a confession, and they were using the children as the lever.
The pleadings of Sheriff Paul Pastor of Pierce County and the county prosecutor, Mark Lindquist, in one sentence convict Josh Powell of murder, and in the next admit they know nothing about the investigation, but hey, they both got their mugs on the television.
Sometimes when you put enormous pressure on people, they snap, and sometimes you might want them to snap. But when you push them right up to the brink of sanity, and involve innocent children, you bear enormous responsibility for what occurs.
As soon as the state started using the children in the Powell case, it took on some responsibility for their fate. Unfortunately, given contemporary family law, children have become an accepted tool used by the state. If the police had not chosen to use the children in their murder investigation, thus putting them in an explosive situation, they would be alive today.
Josh Powell deserves no sympathy at this point. No doubt, some will exploit this tragedy to their utmost ability to make the situation even more difficult for parents than it already is. I would suggest, however, that this tragic situation should cause some evaluation by the state and some introspection by family law practitioners that pushing parents to the breaking point is not in the best interests of our children.