Message from Karin Melberg Schwier

As the parent of a young man with Down syndrome, I have known of Richard Lapointe’s plight for years and while I feel badly for what I believe has been a terrible miscarriage (or absence) of justice in Richard’s case, I selfishly worry more for my own son Jim. If Jim happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even if he is seen by law enforcement and justice officials as a possible suspect in a violent or any other sort of crime (as unbelievable as that is to his family), we know with total certainty that Jim could be made to admit to anything. If a police officer put our son in a room for several hours and eventually told him he could go home if he signed a paper that said Jim flew to the moon, strangled an astronaut and flew back in time for supper, Jim would leap to the request to sign the confession. He wouldn’t read, let alone understand what the document said. Jim is attending a community college class at the moment and I know that while there will be some accuracy in what he tells me happened in school during the day, he is just as likely to agree to anything I suggest. So it is with many people who have intellectual disabilities who want to be friendly and please others. Most of the time, it is just one of Jim’s qualities, one of the little quirks that make him who who is. But it is a quirk that, in the wrong circumstances, could literally mean a life or death consequence. I have not met Richard Lapointe, but I consider one of his advocates, Robert Perske, one of the most honest and trustworthy human beings I have ever known. We have talked a lot over the years about Richard’s situation and I have no doubt about his innocence. I hope that 2008 is the year Richard can finally come home. Then I will begin to feel some reassurance that someone would take the time to really listen to and understand my son–and those close to him– if he were ever to find himself in a similar situation.


Karin Melberg Schwier
Saskatoon, SK, Canada

submitted January 2008