Newsday reports that Nassau County Surrogate Edward T McCarty III has denied the application of Leatrice Brewer for a share of damages recovered from the county for negligence of the Department of Social Services in failing to prevent her drowning her three young children.
There are many odd twists and turns in this story. New York has long had a "slayer statute" on its books providing that a killer can not benefit financially from the victim’s death. For example, life insurance proceeds cannot be paid over to one who killed a spouse. Ms. Brewer however was never convicted of murder, having been found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a psychiatric institution. Also, as I reported earlier , any recovery she might have obtained would have been turned over to the state to defray the cost of her treatment and confinement.
The Surrogate , after holding a hearing , crafted a new rule which he has called the "Brewer Rule". Simply, he found that even though she was not found guilty of the crime, she was "morally guilty" and had an appreciation of the fact that her actions were "morally wrong". As a final twist here, the court must still decide whether or not the fathers of the children who brought the action against the county are entitled to a share of the damages. Allegations that they had abandoned their children to Ms. Brewer’s care might prevent them from receiving any of the damages as well.