The White House Press room was abuzz this week. Everyone was talking about it. Obama? Iran? Iraq? No, it was the story of the astronaut Lisa Nowak and the attempted murder charge filed against her following the assault of U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman. During the last two weeks I have written about prosecutorial overreach as it has related to the Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby trial. This case reminds me of the same game – feather one's professional nest on the wings of some vulnerable birds. Nowak's case is even more serious as she is charged with attempted first-degree murder with a weapon. Attempted murder by pepper spray? This may very well be the first time someone has been charged with attempted murder by pepper spray.
The prosecution is basing their charge on the fact that Nowak was traveling with plastic bags, a mallet, a knife, a BB gun and directions to Shipman's home. It's hard to believe that someone who has been trained in the use of real firearms would choose a BB gun if the intention was to commit murder. Added to this, Nowak left all of these alleged deadly weapons in her car – except the pepper spray.
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I am not suggesting that astronaut Nowak get a slap on the wrist and an e ticket on the next space shuttle launch. She should be held accountable for her actions, not a prosecutorial fantasy. I looked up the definition of attempted murder on Wikipedia to see if I was being too lenient on Nowak. The common sense test of an actual attempt is ''that the defendant must have"... crossed the rubicon, burnt his boats, or reached a point of no return.'' (DPP vs. Stonehouse  2 All ER 909 per Lord Diplock.)
Nowak's actions included stalking another person, threatening them and using pepper spray. Stalking someone is very serious and is unfortunately often taken too lightly by authorities. One in 12 women is stalked in their lifetime. The stalker often becomes so obsessed that they spend hours and days tracking movements, finding out small details about their victim and losing all rationality and boundaries between them and their victim. Nowak fits the stereotypical stalker, not axe murderer. If she had the pepper spray in one hand and the mallet in the other with the knife in her mouth, she would have passed the test for attempted first-degree murder.
Nowak could be put in prison for life if she is convicted of attempted first-degree murder. She has had an exemplary life from high school, to the Naval Academy, to NASA. Up until now, those credentials have worked in her favor. Now her distinguished record is the reason she and her spacesuit are in the ringer. The prosecutors and the media are using her pain for their gain. Nowak, in a word, snapped, but she did not attempt to kill anyone. It's time we take our justice system out of the 24-hour news cycle which gives incentive to those who seek personal gain above justice.