Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A matter of life and death

Reflections on the 'suicide' of Deborah Jeane Palfrey:
  1. It is heartening that no reputable commentator on this matter, or even most of the disreputable writers in the mainstream press, accepts this as a real suicide.
  2. Both she and her former employee, Brandy Britton, allegedly hung themselves, an unusual way for females to commit suicide. She was found in an aluminum shed attached to her mother's mobile home. You need something to attach a rope to, enough space for the rope to hang to a noose, and enough space for something to stand on which you then kick away. Was there enough height? She was, according to the additions to the letter to her mother, and if you accept the genuineness of the letter (see below), alive to the idea of botching it. Would she feel confident that the shed roof would support her weight? I also find it odd that she would kill herself in a place where her mother was likely to be the one who discovered her.
  3. The suicide notes are convincing, but they would be. The full extent of forensic document examination apparently consisted in asking mother and sister if that was her handwriting. The authorities had seized a lot of material from her as part of their criminal investigation, material which would presumably include examples of her distinctive handwriting - watch for hip ads in the new 'Palfrey' typeface - and personal information which would allow them to create plausible letters, down to the passive-aggressive tone of the letter to her sister. Note the use of the term 'exit strategy', common coin these days in Washington political and military circles, but an odd way to describe leaving your own life.
  4. I've spent a lot of time describing what she had to do to stay alive, and she didn't do any of it. Publishing the phone lists was baffling. It angered official Washington, but didn't contain enough material to prove she could seriously threaten the elites if she had to. The court ran over her like a steamroller (while carefully avoiding the issue of who her clients were), and she was left all alone, with no obvious structure in place to release the damning information should she mysteriously pass away. Failure to pay attention to the details led directly to her death. It is likely that official Washington decided she was bluffing all along - it is one thing to have big name clients, but another to have a paper trail that proves it - and decided to kill her as a warning to the 'service industry' that blackmail will not be tolerated, at least not that kind of blackmail.
  5. Dan Moldea, one of my least favorite writers on things conspiratorial, is the sole source for the idea that she was open to the idea of suicide rather than going to jail. Neither her mother nor her condo manager thought she was in the least bit suicidal. Even though the letter to her mother was dated a week before she died, she had been ensuring with staff at the condo just before she died that the condo fees would continue to be paid while she was in prison. The United States is a country where you can make a pretty good living with a juicy story, and she had one of the juiciest stories around.

Timeline: April 24, suicide note; April 28, forward-looking conversations with building manager and condo staff; May 1, 'suicide'.