I’m going to just say, up front, that I don’t know whether Jamie Satterfield should have known that Baumgartner was on drugs. I completely understand why people are casting about for folks to blame, but really, do you need to cast your net wider than the officers of the court who knew he was on drugs?
Let me tell you why I don’t believe that Satterfield knew Baumgartner was on drugs. It’s in part because of how she wrote about Henry Granju. He was “strung-out, broke, and essentially homeless.” He was a “hard-core” addict. He “craved” drugs. He was “scrounging” and “pill-sick.” I mean, he basically sounds like he was some kind of movie monster, like a zombie shuffling through the streets of Knoxville moaning “pills, pills” instead of “brains, brains.”
And maybe he was. Let’s be fair.
Except that there’s nothing in Satterfield’s story to indicate that Satterfield talked to anyone for that story, except for law enforcement. Everything in that story that describes Granju, if I’m reading that story correctly, is based on Satterfield’s extrapolation from the police file, not on actual interviews she did with Granju’s friends and family and, hell, enemies about how he behaved and presented himself. In other words, everything in that story that is descriptive of Granju’s behavior is based on Satterfield’s supposition of how drug addicts act.
And if that’s what Satterfield thinks a drug addict looks like, then it’s little wonder that she could sit in Baumgartner’s courtroom for weeks on end and not realize he is a drug addict as well. Honestly, I give her credit for at least realizing she should ask him if something was going on with him, even if she then took him at his word that he was just sick.
But here’s the thing–drug addicts aren’t easy to identify monsters. It can be hard to tell that there’s something going wrong with your child/friend/colleague/person you see every day. This is, in part, what makes it so difficult for people to deal with the drug addicts in their lives. Even figuring out that there’s a problem and what it is can be difficult. And trying to figure out if it’s been dealt with and the person is back on the wagon can be nearly impossible.
Satterfield is lucky–and I mean that genuinely–that she’s not learned that lesson before this.
I’ll be interested to see how this shapes her writing going forward.