Some Questions About the History of Laura’s Law
November 14, 2013
The story about Scott Thorpe, the man convicted of killing Laura Wilcox has
changed with the passage of time.
The murder occurred on January 10, 2001. Early press reports said nothing
about Mr. Thorpe refusing treatment. The reports said he was undergoing
treatment at the mental health clinic where he killed two people. The treatment
was for agoraphobia (fear of public crowds). But his mother said he had been also
diagnosed for depression and anxiety.
Then, on May 7, five months after the shooting, the LA Times published a story, “A
Case Against Liberty” by Alex Raksin and Bob Sipchen. Their story claimed, for
the first time, that Thorpe was paranoid and refusing to take his medications. The
story won them a Pulitzer Prize and set the tone for all the articles that followed
At his trial in 2003, his defense psychologist, Donald Stembridge, testified that at the
time of the shooting Thorpe was taking his prescribed anti-depressants, and that the
anti-depressants “would have worsened his condition”.
This revelation did not change the news stories claiming that Thorpe was refusing
treatment, and all the major California news outlets jumped on the bandwagon
claiming that passage of Laura’s Law would have prevented the crime. Yet even
Laura Wilcox’s parents testified that the law wouldn’t have worked for Thorpe
because he didn’t meet criteria for treatment under provisions of the law.
Yet within a year and a half of the crime, all the press was circulating stories that
Thorpe had been “repeatedly refusing treatment and medication” [e.g. article by
Annette Wells in the San Bernadino Sun in mid-2003]. This became the mantra
used to create Laura’s Law.
THEREFORE, ALL WE THOUGHT WE KNEW ABOUT LAURA’S LAW ISN’T TRUE
1) SCOTT THORPE WASN’T REFUSING TREATMENT;
2) SCOTT THORPE WAS TAKING HIS MEDICATION, AN ANTI-
DEPRESSANT, AT THE TIME OF THE SHOOTINGS;
3) IT WAS THE NEWS MEDIA, WORKING WITH OFT-QUOTED
SPOKESPERSONS FOR THE TREATMENT ADVOCAY CENTER
(TAC), THAT CREATED THE STORY OF THE TREATMENT-
REFUSING MENTAL PATIENT.