Baby tug-of-war puts O J out of the news

A YEAR ago it was Baby Jessica. Now America is transfixed by Baby Richard - another protracted and convoluted adoption custody case which has caused uproar in Chicago, anxiety among adoptive parents across the country, and an astounding clash between the Governor of Illinois and his state's Supreme Court.

At the centre of the turmoil is 3-year-old 'Richard', given away by his mother when he was four days old and then legally adopted by an unnamed couple in Chicago. This month, however, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed decisions by two lower courts and ordered that Richard be returned to the biological parents he had never seen.

For Otakar Kirchner, the Czech immigrant who has fought to regain the son whom his girlfriend, now his wife, had told him died at birth, the verdict is a huge victory. For everyone else, except the Illinois Supreme Court, it is a travesty of justice and common sense which puts the finer points of the law over the child's best interests.

In Chicago, Baby Richard has dislodged O J Simpson from newspapers and talk shows, where callers overwhelmingly favour the adoptive couple. But even their agitation cannot compete with the astonishing exchanges between Governor Jim Edgar, embroiled in a tough re-election campaign, and an Illinois judge, James Heiple.

Hours after the Supreme Court had rejected requests to re-examine the decision ordering Richard to be returned to Mr Kirchner and his wife, Mr Edgar lashed out at the judges for their 'smugness and betrayal' of the child and of the voters who elected them to the court. To which Justice Heiple retorted by accusing the Governor of a 'crass political move'.

After attacking a Chicago columnist for 'journalistic terrorism' in his criticism of the court, Justice Heiple departed from bland legalese to urge Mr Edgar to 'return to the classroom and study the law'. The Governor, he wrote, did not understand the case, its only interest for him was political.

Mr Heiple also gave short shrift to the argument about the child's best interests: if that were the determining factor, 'persons seeking babies to adopt might profitably frequent grocery stores and snatch them from carts when parents aren't looking'.

That judgement will not be the end of the affair. Jessica De Boer had never been properly adopted when she was returned to her birth parents last year. Baby Richard has been, giving his adoptive parents a far stronger case. At Governor Edgar's urging, the Illinois legislature has rushed through a law making the interests of the child the decisive factor in an adoption dispute. The tug- of-war will have to be resolved by the US Supreme Court, but probably not before 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Howard Marks who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer aged 69
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us