Another daughter is dead, and the story is all about the killer now


Johanna Justin-Jinich

While I understand the interest in the killer’s life and motivations, I think it’s unfortunate that a murder always becomes his story, rather than the story of the victim or victims.  Especially because no one seems to have any interest in analyzing the ways in which male privilege is instrumental to the thinking that leads a man to pick up a gun and kill a woman whom he believes has not paid him the attention he is due.  (I’m sure that there are plenty of crazed loner women that we never hear about, because they don’t think they’re entitled to the time and attention of men and/or they don’t get guns and kill them.)  Stephen Morgan became fixated on Johanna Justin-Jinich nearly two years ago:

During the summer between those semesters, Mr. Morgan took a course at New York University, the same sexual diversity class in which Ms. Justin-Jinich was enrolled. By the end of it, Ms. Justin-Jinich had complained to the university of harassment, saying that Mr. Morgan called her repeatedly and sent her threatening and insulting e-mail messages.

One person who has reviewed the messages said the relationship appeared to have begun on a friendly footing. It was clear from the messages that they had seen one another outside of class, going out to eat on a few occasions, said the person, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

But the person said that at one point, Ms. Justin-Jinich went away over a three-day weekend, and Mr. Morgan became enraged, sending her e-mail messages asking where she was and why she was not answering his calls.

He began criticizing her, saying she was not so attractive and making an issue of her being half-Jewish, saying that Jewish people are greedy, and criticizing her for wearing what he said were revealing clothes and flaunting her body, the person who reviewed the e-mail messages said. Mr. Morgan suggested that she needed a lot of attention and said she was behaving like a little girl.

Mr. Morgan, who had lived in Colorado Springs and Boulder, also made comments about how people in those parts of the state looked down on people from the area of Colorado where Ms. Justin-Jinich’s family lived, near Fort Collins.

Bat$hit crazy–or just another entitled jerk who became angry when a woman he was interested in wouldn’t respond to his advances?  I like how the New York Times has the column inches to report insults about her hometown but not to point out the bloody obvious–that Justin-Jinich was targeted not just because she was half-Jewish or from Fort Collins, but because she was a woman.  I’m sure it’s because (according to his lawyer) “[t]here is no evidence that he had a violent history or a personality disorder” that her killer had no problem at all getting his hands on the “black 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol” that he used to murder the woman whose attention and time he felt entitled to. 

When will internet and telephone harassment be considered “evidence . . .  [of] a personality disorder” or put someone on a watch list for violent behavior that will prevent them from being able to purchase guns and ammunition?  It seems to me that having stalked Justin-Jinich with unwanted phone calls and harassing e-mails surely is evidence of a personality disorder.  And why was it up to Justin-Jinich to press charges?  Surely the police are better equipped to judge a threat level than a nineteen year-old young woman.  Who at nineteen thinks that the weird guy in class is going to kill you?  Why isn’t anyone connecting the dots on this? 

Don’t any of those university officials or police officers have daughters?

30 thoughts on “Another daughter is dead, and the story is all about the killer now

  1. via Amplify Your Voice

    After turning himself in, officials discovered a journal that expressed hatred for minority groups, and, more alarmingly in this case, a detailed plan to rape and kill Wesleyan junior Ms. Justin-Jinich, followed by a shooting rampage on campus.

    And has some other good points about violence against women in general.

    It’s frustrating that the fact that they spoke and had dinner a few times has been taken by some to mean they had a “relationship” or she was his girlfriend for a while. It’s ridiculous yet far too common that a woman can’t even talk with a classmate without being considered “involved” — and while it decreases once she gets older and/or is married, it seems like it never goes away.


  2. “When will internet and telephone harassment be considered “evidence . . . a personality disorder” … It seems to me that having stalked Justin-Jinich with unwanted phone calls and harassing e-mails surely is evidence of a personality disorder.”

    It’s a social disease, not an individual mental illness, when one is simply practicing patriarchy.

    However, you are right that it would be nice if this kind of threatening behavior could prevent a guy from buying a gun.


  3. You point out one of the most frustrating things in cases like this: the fact that a person who is harassing, stalking, and who clearly is showing sings of being dangerous is considered NOT to have committed a crime. All the victim can do is get a restraining order, which a determined stalker will simply disregard.

    On the issue of the press focus towards the killer: on the one hand, I think this makes sense. People want to understand “what made this person do it” and fail to analyze (as you note) the pervasive cultural and social attitudes about men and women that underlie these kinds of murders. I’ve always thought of these killers as men who draw extreme, yet also culturally logical, conclusions about their rights over women.

    Another thesis I’ve seen advanced, however, is also quite interesting. In The Killing of Bonnie Garland by Willard Gaylin (concerning a murder of a Yale student by her ex-boyfriend, a recent Yale graduate), the author contends that in cases like this, there is a natural human desire to display compassion, particularly in the case of the death of a young person. However, since the victim is dead and cannot respond to expressions of pity, that emotion often becomes redirected toward the killer, who survives. Gaylin highlights some amazing sentiments in the Bonnie Garland case, of people saying things like, “Oh, we’ve tragically lost one young life, let’s not compound it by destroying another young man with such proimise!” Er, what? This, about a young man who brutally murdered a young woman with repeated blows from a hammer while she slept?!

    Anyway, if you are interested in an interesting analysis of a similar case, I recommend the book. Years ago — in fact, around the time I myself graduated from Wesleyan! — I used to have a fascination with these sorts of murders, for many of the same feminist reasons you do. This was one of the more interesting volumes I read at that time.


  4. Virginia–you’re right! Praticing patriarchy is just what men do. I’m not even certain it’s a “social disease,” as you call it–I don’t think it’s pathologized as a disease at all.

    This is exactly the problem, isn’t it? Anyway, thanks for stopping by to comment. I’ve appreciated your comments over at Tenured Radical.

    Erica–it’s really disturbing, isn’t it, that Morgan got what he wanted by murdering Justin-Jinich? They’re linked now forever in her friends’ and families’ minds, and he even for a few hours was described as an “ex-boyfriend.” Even if he were an ex-boyfriend, it’s still her prerogative to dump him and cut off all contact. What’s next in “counting” as a woman “leading on” stalking and harassment–staying enrolled in a class with a harasser? Staying at the same university? Living in the same zip code or town? Is there no degree of association that people won’t count against a young woman if she complains of harassment?


  5. Squadratomagico, thanks for your comments on the transfer of sympathy to the killers. I think Morgan is less likely to be the beneficiary of the same kind of sympathy as in the murder by the Yalie–Morgan, after all, is no Yalie but rather a creepy loser. His parents sound like they’ve got big bucks, so we’ll see what kind of defense he mounts.

    Dollars to donuts, not even the prosecution will talk about the gendered aspects of this case, and how even creepy losers believe they’re entitled to women’s space, time, and bodies.


  6. The Feminist Majority Foundation is reporting that she was a feminist activist: That beautiful, smart, feminist woman is gone. What she was, what she might have been, all gone. All of the women like her (whom you wrote about not even a month ago), who weren’t advantaged, gone, too.

    I read that NYTimes story earlier today and had a similar reaction, especially to the comments of his lawyer. Now, I know that his lawyer should be on his side — entitled to defense and all. Still, I find the attorney’s attitudes dangerous in that, after all that his client wrote in his journal and after his client gunned down a woman in a public and populated space, the lawyer would classify his client as non-threatening to the rest of the community.

    Also, to add to what Erica wrote, single women seem to be confusing to lots of people. They have to be somehow connected to someone, a male preferably, and that male somehow has some rights or privleges over her. If she spurns him, rejects him, or however you want to classify her establishment of her own space being her own space, then she becomes the bad guy, as if she should be grateful that some dude wants to claim her.

    There is also, to me, some issue of profiling here. I haven’t quite thought it through, so this is clumsy at best. Brown skinned men are automatically singled out at dangerous or suspicious. This is considered “acceptable” in the interest of public safety. Yet, the profile of an abuser, of a man who will potentially kill the women close to him (and children), is more like this man, and they aren’t treated with the same suspicion even when a woman is telling the authorities, “this guy is after me.”


  7. Right on, Clio B.–not even when apparently people at NYU reviewed his e-mail correspondance with her. Again I ask, why does she have to stay in town to press charges? Why can’t the police take the documentation and prosecute him?

    Your comments about race and crime are apt. Stephen Morgan is a creepy loser, but his parents are rich and have command of resources that most accused criminals can only dream of.

    Men who stalk and harass women either in person or on the phone, over e-mail, or on blogs or Facebook/MySpace are stalkers and harassers. This should be defined as criminal behavior, regardless of whether or not it’s mixed in with antisemitism, racist ideology, or anti-Fort Collinsism.


  8. “non-threatening to the rest of the community” — Good lord. He wasn’t considered threatening to Ms. Justin-Jinch before her death, and THAT doesn’t seem to have worked out very well.


  9. I thought it was classic that the NYT headline was “From Prep School to Murder Suspect at Wesleyan”. Not “From the Navy to. .. ” or “From Harassment to Murder”. So the story is that a guy who shouldn’t have done it (he went to prep school) did it, and that has to be explained. Presumably if he’d grown up in a ghetto with no privilege we would have expected him to murder?

    So, he’ll get a good defense, and probably will not get the death penalty (rare in CT anyway).

    “Practicing patriarchy” is a great phrase and we should all use it often. It is on some level astonishing that normal student behavior (you meet a lot of people, you hang out with them a bit, and you gradually sort out who you want to hang out with more) becomes an excuse for ownership.

    I do want to add the military piece into the story. There is a fair bit of misogyny that encourages men to practice patriarchy in ways that involve force. Rape in the military is largely ignored, it is another contributor to this story. (I hasten to add that this is not to say that all men in the military are likely to kill women, but four years in a context where misogyny is the norm may take a guy who is awkward and a loner and give him very few tools for normal life.)


  10. Erica–so true. And remember that the police in Middletown warned the local synagogue about his antisemitism and the Wesleyan community about his fixation with the university–it didn’t frame Morgan as a gynocidal maniac and warn the women in Middletown as women.

    Susan, I totally missed the headline! So true–when “From harassment to murder” seems so much more pertinent. (As in, these things have causes, and that cause is misogyny, not, “gee, a privileged kid became a murderer, who’da’thunkit!”)


  11. Historiann, he clearly seems like a creepy loser to us… but just wait until his defense starts getting going. His parents have the money and background to prepare a complete media rehabilitation. Indeed, as Susan pointed out, he already is being cast as a graduate of a strict, all-boy Catholic prep school, from a stable upper-class professionalized suburban family, a nice patriotic Navy man with “no previous history of violence” — that is, until Johanna Justin-Jinich drove the poor young man mad with her provocative clothing. The victim will undoubtedly be cast as a b1tch and a tease who encouraged the murder of little babies with her pro-planned-parenthood activities.

    Look for this case to follow the mold of the Garland case, the NYC “preppie murder” etc. I would be very surprised if he didn’t get a fair degree of sympathy, while she will be blamed for “giving him “mixed messages.”


  12. Squadratomagico–I hope you won’t be right, but I fear your prediction will come true. She’s not here to write the narrative, and as you point out, he is and his parents have the resources to write the story.

    Justin-Jinich was from a fairly prominent local family and was a student at Wesleyan, so there’s some class privilege there, too. But, she’s dead and now her killer (and his attorney/enablers) will be the one to tell the tale in court.


  13. The whole thing makes me sick. The fact that she would have been required to file charges in order for something to be done in 2007 just indicates to me that the problem is so pervasive it is codified into law.

    Perhaps we need to rethink “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” when it comes to dealing with harassment cases.

    Squadratomagico wrote, “All the victim can do is get a restraining order, which a determined stalker will simply disregard.” That’s IF the victim is able to even get a restraining order. It varies by state. And, enforcement across state lines varies. (goes to page on Restraining Orders)

    For example, in CT, Restraining Orders do NOT cover:

    * a victim of abuse whose abuser is anyone besides
    o a family member,
    o a household members,
    o or a current or former dating partner;
    * or victims of stalking

    Restraining orders also do not cover many types of emotional or mental abuse. (the above from page).


  14. Digger–this is really depressing information. So the message is that a woman has to screw a guy in order to get a restraining order on him? Lovely.

    You’re exactly right that this shows how the law enables stalkers and abusers like Morgan, as though women owe him access to their bodies, time, and lives.


  15. I’m just really glad to see this discussiong going on. When I was writing about the issue as a domestic and sexual violence incident (DSV), none of the mainstream sources I consulted addressed the issue of violence against women, patriarchy, or the connection to the WS classroom and male entitlement within. This new info about them having casually dated only confirms the issue, since some are inclined to exempt stalking from DSV, but it doesn’t change the basic targeting of a woman b/c she dared to have opinions, live her life without devoting it to the man obsessed with her, and to say no to his increasing insults and threats. What struck me most was that Justin-Jinich went to the police twice (first campus police at NYU and then the regular police in CT) and no one put him on a list to watch out for or gave her resources to make a safety plan, etc. And when she filed official harassment charges no one followed thru and tracked this guy down b/c he had “left the state.” While it is common to ignore stalking, there have been anti-stalking laws since the death of that young actress who was shot by her stalker after repeatedly asking the police for help back in the early 80s. It really is infuriating. (But I am ranting. I’m sorry. I just . . . ugh!)


  16. Exactly… AND women are not protected from “men being mean” (aka mental and emotional abuse). You know, until its too late, and they’re in hospital or dead. There’s tons of reasons women don’t press charges and are “encouraged” not to (gee, she must have deserved it; it isn’t that bad; but he really loves you do you want to do this to him? You will ruin his life; what about the children; etc. etc.). If this shakes out that it’s “her own fault” for not pressing charges in ’07, I might just pop a vessel.


  17. Thank you for putting this appalling case into its wider context and continuing to hammer away at the message that Johanna’s murder is not simply an isolated incident of individual pathology, but evidence of deep systemic issues in our society. Digger – that is some pretty shocking information about the flimsy nature of protection/ restraining orders. I heard some commentary recently from a victims’ rights advocate who said that because enforcement is so poor, restraining orders are actually doing a lot of women a disservice because they give them a false sense of security. Apparently we are kidding ourselves if we think the law is supposed to protect us.


  18. Pingback: Another mad killer gets what he wanted « Free and fled

  19. This is related, although not the same. There was a case against Yahoo recently brought by a woman whose ex-boyfriend had, for revenge, posted fake profiles written as if by her. They had her personal data (phone numbers, email, etc.) and solicited sex.

    It’s discussed as if this was some sort of free speech case. There’s no mention, hell, there doesn’t even seem to be any concept!, of the harassment involved, of the huge sudden threat to the woman’s physical safety, of the expense, time, and emotional toll of having to find a new place to live, changing all her phone numbers and email addresses, informing all her friends and co-workers and business contacts, endlessly discussing the situation with her boss and on the job (who are going to be at least curious about the flood of messages), and on, and on, and on, and on. All that isn’t even on the map.

    I wonder if Yahoo would have been as slow about removing fake profiles if they’d been about something serious? Posting pictures of antiques and the address where they could be found, for instance.


  20. I’ve felt similar frustration with the “Craigslist killer” case. No one can believe a white med student with a beautiful girlfriend could possibly be a murderer- so the media plays that up (why is he on the cover of People magazine?) but there is little to no mention about the victims except to say that they solicited erotic services on Craigslist. One story I read didn’t even mention the women’s names, just what they did (masseuse, lap dancer etc). How obvious is the class/gender bias here? I know victim’s names are sometimes withheld, but this is dehumanizing- surely they were daughters, friends, sisters, mothers….


  21. Nicole–you’re right. I haven’t been following that case–People put him on the cover?? Disgusting.

    quixote, I read about that case and had the same reaction. Women’s bodies and lives have no value, now that they’re not claimed by men under coverture. (At least, that’s the best I can do to put this devaluation of women into a broad historical perspective!)


  22. I was watching a TV show recently where a young woman in San Diego was raped by a serial attacker.She made certain that the ER took DNA evidence and it would be properly stored by police. The detectives hinted that she probably knew the attacker since they could not find evidence of forced entry.The police made little effort to solve the case. Finally the victim took her case to the TV news. Initially they altered her voice, face and identity. She said it made her look like the attacker. The police still dragged their feet. They rejected her petiton for a rape task force because there was no murder. The victim revisited TV- now with full face and identity. Bowing to public outcry, a task force was developed. At length, the rapist struck again but this time used a Lone Ranger mask rather than ski mask. Several citizens remembered a college “streaker” with a similar mask. He was found. DNA matched. 90 year sentence. The victim had vowed to seek 24/7. She won and changed a city’s view of rape.


  23. Grandoc–if only there were more of these inspiring stories, and if only they had more of an effect! She sounds like an incredibly determined person–you can understand why more people don’t persist when you see all of the roadblocks that were in her way.


  24. I don’t have any independent knowledge about what happened, but I have a hard time believing Johanna Justin-Jinich “refused” to press charges against Morgan when he was harassing her. She was probably cajoled and/or coerced into doing this, told that if she left him alone he would leave her alone, and pressing charges would just make things “worse.” That’s how sexual harassment, especially via the Internet, is handled all too often. Or it could be a flat out lie – she may have demanded to press charges and then been refused. If she didn’t think there was a problem, she wouldn’t have filed the complaint in the first place.


  25. Interesting, Ann–thanks for your comment. I hope we’ll learn more about this–not so that we can understand Morgan’s journey “from prep school to murder,” but so that we can understand how the law enabled Morgan (and perhaps also disadvantaged Justin-Jinich) at every turn.


  26. Ann, what I read said that Justin-Jinich and Morgan were interviewed by NYU campus police and then she “refused” to press charges, implying that they were interviewed together. The intimidation factor of having him in the room denying the extent of his behavior and the threat of escalation no doubt helped with the lack of charges as it often does in these cases.


  27. While it’s all terrible for poor Justin-Jinich and her amily I d approve of the story being about her killer. A murder is usually more about the killer’s complete lack of respect, tolerance etc than about anything the victim does.

    Recently I read a post on a trans woman’s blog, where it was pointed out that as long as rapes and murders of trans women (and of women in general) continue to be stories of how victims got themselves into a bad situation or lied, or acted out or… then the victim-blaming will continue.

    I actually see it as a step forward for the story to be about the one it’s actually about. Namely the culprit who did what he did, not because anything the victim could have changed, but because he CHOSE to do it.

    It’s tragic that yet another woman’s life is lost, but that’s it. Write an empathetic obit and let that be it. She does not deserve to have her story, her personal life dragged through the media, because we know how many of them will treat her story. And she doesn’t deserve to become ‘an example’ or ‘a lesson’ to others. She’s a person and none of us knew her, we never would have known her except for one thing: A man decided to murder her, because he’s not right in the head.

    I don’t want to read about the victim. Nothing in her story can help me avoid getting killed, nothing in her actions can teach anyone else what not to do. Anything else we might read is what I’d call ‘privacy porn’. We suddenly want to know as much as possible about a person we’ve never heard before, whom we’ll never meet, and who will never have an impact on our lives, but we want all the details of her life anyway, even as she’s not even alive to deny us that access should she have wished it.

    Instead, I want to read about why the killer did what he did, and how our society and we as voters can help make changes for the better. This would, of course, demand that we talk about the real reasons for his crime, namely misogyny and kyriarchy, rather than the prep school bullshit commenters here have pointed out. So I would agree with the media focus in this case: keep it on the murderer – it is his actions we can learn from.


  28. Pingback: Man shoots women: just another “dog-bites-man” story! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  29. Pingback: Wrung out. | Historiann

Let me have it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.