Vernell Crittendon

by Nadia Taze

September 3, 2005

Vernell Crittendon made the news again this week. He’s becoming quite a celebrity. His most recent comments were published in People magazine, although Crittendon has not reserved his talent for public speaking to print. He regularly appears on TV shows such as Catherine Crier’s Court TV show, the Early Show, the Abrams Report, CNNs Larry King Live, and the Bill O’Reilley Show to name but a few.

For those who may not be aware, Crittendon, is variously described as anything from “Spokesman” to “Public Relations/information Officer” for San Quentin State Prison.

What, you may ask, could he possibly have so much to talk about? The answer is, of course, convicted murderer Scott Peterson.

It seems that Crittendon has deemed it his responsibility to grace the public media with his presence to discuss Peterson’s incarceration on San Quentin’s death row.

Since the definition of Public Relations is “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image especially by a company or person(s)”, I find it highly surprising that there is a need for Crittendon to appear on TV to discuss inmates at all. Is this in San Quentin’s interest? How does it further the image of the prison? I can’t imagine that it does, and I don’t believe that it is in the public interest either. Scott Peterson is now convicted, so why do we need weekly or monthly television appearances by Crittendon, giving us yet another Peterson news bulletin?

Of greater worry is the content of Crittendon’s comments. Last month he made an appearance on the Catherine Crier show and proclaimed that Peterson now referred to himself in the prison with the nickname of “Scottie too Hottie”! Is that really of public interest? That comment served no purpose whatsoever. Apparently, the truth is that Peterson had been sent a letter by an unknown person whom addressed him as such. Peterson, never referred to himself by this name so is Vernell Crittendon stretching the truth in order to fill airtime and news columns?

I have never seen any other inmate’s daily life and habits discussed by either San Quentin or any other prison. I’m interested as to why San Quentin has decided to treat him so differently from all the others convicts on Death Row. Do we really need to know what books Scott Peterson is reading, what and how many pictures he has decided to put on his cell wall, how many people he has on his visitors list? Most recently, in the edition of People magazine dated September 5th, Vernell Crittendon, although totally unqualified, turned his hand to armchair psychology, enough so to describe Peterson as a sociopath. Is that ethical? I should point out that there has never been any report to date that Peterson has been professionally diagnosed as such. I’m sure that had he been Vernell would have made a special television appearance to inform us of it immediately.

Crittendon seems to enjoy his new found “celebrity” status. In my opinion, his remarks are made to feed the appetite of the ever-hungry tabloid TV stations. The longer he can continue to nourish them, the more often he will be asked to appear, however, his comments serve only to incite further hatred of this inmate by both the public and co-inmates alike. These television appearances do nothing positive for the prison system whatsoever. His motivation seems to be self-promotion rather than that of San Quentin State Prison; his actions unprofessional and highly questionable. I have to ask how appropriate this behavior is?