Law Professor And Leading Gay Rights Advocate Dies In Apparent Suicide

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Chapman Law Professor Mary Katherine Baird Darmer, 47, a leading proponent for protections of gay and lesbian citizens. Darmer died in a six-story fall from a parking garage that was believed to be a suicide. She leaves a husband and at least one child.

Darmer was a founding member of the Orange County Equality Coalition to fight for the rights of gays and lesbians after the passage of Proposition 8. She often gave legal commentary.

Professor Darmer received her A.B. from Princeton University, with high honors, and her Juris Doctor from Columbia University, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar for two years and served as Articles Editor of the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. She then clerked for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood in the Southern District of New York and the Honorable William H. Timbers on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

She was a clearly talented and caring individual who dedicated her life to the rights of others. I have no idea what drove her to allegedly commit suicide but she leaves behind a remarkable legacy. My condolences to her family, her colleagues, and the Chapman legal community.

Here is Professor Darmer discussing torture:

Source: LA Times

59 thoughts on “Law Professor And Leading Gay Rights Advocate Dies In Apparent Suicide

  1. “A Chapman University law professor who died after falling from a building may have committed suicide, authorities said Monday.”

    “Orange County Supervising Deputy Coroner Daniel Aikin said “preliminary findings” indicated that Mary Katherine Baird Darmer, 47, took her own life Friday. But an autopsy is still pending and “our investigations are not complete yet,” Aikin said. An official cause of death has not been determined, authorities said.” (both quotes from the LA Times)

    Best to wait for the coroner’s findings…

  2. It is really rare for a woman to take thier own life in this manner. And suicide is a very ugly thing to do to people who care about you…so I would really question the conclusion that someone who appears so aware and involved in social issues to respond to a personal crisis in this fashion.

    Such a waste!

  3. I have fought this demon most of my life and I am sure if I ever lost the battle many people would be stunned. Its a hideous monster that lives in your brain, whispering ugly things in your ear. It can own anyone.

    While it won’t make it any easier for her family I hope it wasn’t a suicide.

  4. Wootsy…..

    Unless you’ve been there….talk not much or speak not often…… You don’t know what you’d do…. Just saying from an experienced one…..

  5. Anonomously…

    Wootsy is right about the manner of suicide. Women kill themselves regularly, but not in this way. Women who are socially isolated are far more likely to commit suicide than someone like this with a dense social network. People who kill themselves tend to view their life as pointless, which her prior activities seem to rule out. Clinically depressed people aren’t very active, by definition.

    Bucking one statistical average is not the norm, but it does happen. Going against three is strong cause for questioning the assumption. She may have been offed. She may have recently been diagnosed with cancer. She may have had an undiagnosed brain tumor.

  6. Frankly and AY,

    I did not say it was impossible. But I hope the authorities are looking further because it (from this article and my lack of further knowledge)….is not the norm.

    There is too much future to ever give in to the past…the act of suicide is the ultimate cop-out.

    And too sadly final…

  7. You never know what goes on in people’s heads even the apparently successful. I have no idea if this is suicide or accident or even worse but her legacy seems not to be defined by her exit.

  8. I prefer the cop line:
    Was her car parked there? Her usual spot? Where are her car keys? Was it according to her usual daily routine? What was on her calender? Who saw her last? Where was her husband? How had she appeared earlier? etc.etc.
    Routines should be followed here.

  9. Success is not an indicator of happiness and it is entirely plausible she committed suicide…but on the other hand, what information do they have to rule out an accident or homocide?

    Being a gay rights advocate, she might have peeved the wrong people off?

  10. Another supported of the sodomite damned has been judged and thrown into hell by the Lord God Almighty. May all of the wicked sodomites take note of God’s fierce judgment and repent of your wickedness.

  11. Thank you, Elisha. Now back to reality.
    For those of you interested in a detour/ramble; here’s one exploring the results of a new NC commission charged with reviewing guilty cases passing a preliminary selection process. So far 4 out of 1000+ applicants have been reviewed, whereof 3 found innnocent. The DA’s don’t like it.

    Here’s the link, see especially the comments of which I excerpt part of one.
    The editorial article is just cinnamon on toasted bread topped with warm milk.

    Excerpt from Pensive01:

    Actually I know there is a great deal of difference between a not guilty because of a reasonable doubt and actually being declared innocent. I also know that it is the job of investigators and forensic scientists to find and examine evidence, and that is something the Commision is not stopping anyone from doing. I also understand that in the course of an investigation there can be more then one suspect, but I also know that in the course of the investigation that suspects are removed from consideration because of such things as there not being evidence linking them to the crime. If Deaver had followed the law, then it is quite likely that Greg Taylor would have been ruled out as a suspect, as it requires more then just being near a crime scene, to be convicted of commiting that crime. Deaver thought he was guilty, he lied in court and Taylor was convicted. What you seem to be failing to understand is that Taylor wasn’t released because of some technicality, like evidence that was found and got ruled inadmissible. He was released because he was convicted because of evidence that didn’t exist. He was declared innocent because he shouldn’t have been on trial in the first place, as the only evidence they had was the evidence that Deaver said was there. The evidence Deaver perjured himself over by saying it was blood when he knew it was not. I would even go as far as saying that Deaver’s testimony could be consider as obstruction, since investigators tend to stop looking for a killer if they think they have the one who commited the crime already
    End excerpt.

    Not so incidentally, the innocent declared, named above, appears commenting on his own behalf in defense ot the new commission.

    Read more here:

  12. idealist707 1, February 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Due to the recent visitations I wonder if this blog has been placed on the religious nuts (note I said NUTS) list corresponding to “Places to attack today”.
    You make me so happy sometimes, I did not receive the call to troll the innertubes for heretics.

    I am not a “religious nut”. You are so kind to me.

  13. Dredd,

    I don’t think id707 was referring to you as a religious nut but rather the anti-sodomy homophobic ravings of Elisha – to whom I’d like to second the well-wishes anonymously administered above..

    Most of us think you’re a totally different kind of nut, Dredd. :D Plus, you very rarely attack. Which is so unlike you. You’ve changed so much since your days in Mega-City One law enforcement.

  14. Very nicely said, mespo.

    And a third vote to follow yours, Gene H. regarding the… searching for the appropriate adjective… Elisha.

    (Given her work in NY, I have to wonder if her past might have caught up with her. (From the LA Times: “Before joining the faculty full time at Chapman in 2000, she served as an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York, where she prosecuted public corruption, violent gang and narcotics cases.” But then I think about what mespo said… and we’ll probably never know.. Better to focus on the good…))

  15. AY,

    She thought: …limited as it is… ;-)
    She said: You’re welcome, AY.

    (It’s one crazy, screwed up world, but we have to keep fighting the good fight while we can… I thank you for your insights, as well, AY. I so appreciate the diverse perspectives on this blog… I’ve learned a lot here.)

  16. Indeed, I did not say Elisha, having thanked him in my previous post, I assumed the inference was clear. And being a bit paranoid myself, I should have known somebody would be feeling sensitive today.

    And Dredd, I do appreciate you and your knowledge, and our sharing like most folks certain idiosyncracies, ie human attributes.
    Just to show my admiration and humility (seriously now) what is meant by
    “apparent suicide”. I don’t get it. ( My clashing with you is my nature, not yours.)

    As for the poor woman, how sad. I was disturbed by the rapid assent to it being suicide. Certain sudden deaths are disturbing that way. ´ Natural death by asthma=murder by caustic soda forced inhalation, for example.

  17. AN,
    As to divergency, you are so right. But then comes the question from BobEsq or other learned: “Within what limíts is diversity allowed? And on what basis?”
    Thank goodness, such as he ignore my inputs. And as said, well that.

  18. “In a joint reporting effort, ProPublica, PBS “Frontline” and NPR spent a year looking at the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and found a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.” -from the following story/link

    “The Real ‘CSI’: How America’s Patchwork System of Death Investigations Puts the Living at Risk”

    by A.C. Thompson, Mosi Secret, Lowell Bergman and Sandra Bartlett Feb. 1, 2011


    Blunders by doctors in America’s morgues have put innocent people in prison cells, allowed the guilty to go free, and left some cases so muddled that prosecutors could do nothing.

    In Mississippi, a physician’s errors in two autopsies helped convict a pair of innocent men, sending them to prison for more than a decade.

    The Massachusetts medical examiner’s office has cremated a corpse before police could determine if the person had been murdered; misplaced bones; and lost track of at least five bodies.

    Late last year, a doctor in a suburb of Detroit autopsied the body of a bank executive pulled from a lake — and managed to miss the bullet hole in his neck and the bullet lodged in his jaw.

    “I thought it was a superficial autopsy,” said David Balash, a forensic science consultant and former Michigan state trooper hired by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department to evaluate the case. “You see a lot of these kinds of things, unfortunately.”

    More than 1 in 5 physicians working in the country’s busiest morgues — including the chief medical examiner of Washington, D.C. — are not board certified in forensic pathology, the branch of medicine focused on the mechanics of death, our investigation found. Experts say such certification ensures that doctors have at least a basic understanding of the science, and it should be required for practitioners employed by coroner and medical examiner offices.

    Yet, because of an extreme shortage of forensic pathologists — the country has fewer than half the specialists it needs, a 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded — even physicians who flunk their board exams find jobs in the field. Uncertified doctors who have failed the exam are employed by county offices in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California, officials in those states acknowledged. Two of the six doctors in Arkansas’ state medical examiner’s office have failed the test, according to the agency’s top doctor.

    (End of excerpt)

  19. I have dealt w/people who are trying to get over the suicides of people near to them. It is not pretty and is some of the worst grief and misplaced guilt I have ever witnessed.

    I think the most important thing that anyone can do to help a person who may be thinking of it is to have the conversation….be kind but painfully(to you!) blunt nd ask if they are or have thought of committing suicide. Ask if they have a plan. Call professional help fo back-up. If they have a plan don’t waste time…call 911. Get them information and stress that it is not a solution. Call friends and take turns sitting with….

    I have been to hell and back and the one thing I’ve learned is that there is a way back. Let them know that.

    That’s all.

  20. AN,
    My apologies. I am too too cute at times.
    You, many posts back, had expressed appreciation for the diversity of ideas here. I was only saying: me too.
    And being paranoid I thought I might get called down by BobEsq and raced to defend myself before the accusation was delivered (if ever it would be).

    I will try to stop competing in obscure references to that which occurs and especially that which might occur.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for the kind phrasing of your inquiry.
    I’ll learn to talk normal someday.

  21. Ms Darmer previously worked at Davis Polk Wardwell, the “Tiffanys” of corporate law practice. .Her husband works at Jones Day, another elite corporate firm. If an investigation is warranted it will happen. Suicide does not discriminate. A woman recently jumped from a parking garage in Dallas. She did not die but she broke all her bones. Many people that appear to have it all end up committing suicide.

  22. Anon nurse. Well said.

    I know the Mississippi pathologist in question. He also missed the fact that a college coed who was murdered in Oxford, MS was pregnant. On another case, he insisted the deceased man had committed suicide because he claimed to have found the impression of the accelerator pedal on the mans shoe sole which meant, to him, that the guy was pressing on the accelerator at the time of impact. I testified in that particular case as an expert on ‘psychological autopsy’ and was able to determine conclusively, and to the satisfaction of a Federal District Court, that the man fell asleep at the wheel and hit a tree.

    Needless to say, if anyone asks my opinion, I would not let that pathologist autopsy road kill, let alone a crime victim.

  23. On being here:

    Generally some folks are obviously way above the clouds (Olympians), so I mostly see only their asses, ie their eventual IMHO mistakes.
    So the perspective from so far below, also prevents me from seeing all the lightning streaming out of their heads. The view is still impressive.
    No one mentioned, no one forgotten.

  24. OS,

    Life does go on for the living….sometimes it even goes on for you the ones that no longer wish to live…..then one must make a choice….. And sometimes the only choice that the person can make is what is considered by others as irrational….. Albert ellis comes to mind…….

  25. SwM.

    I can’t understand all this “success” with “failure” as motives for suicide. Is this common among the successful? Certainly the threat of exposure for moral turpitude (?) would suffice. As also might mental exhaustion, although there depression does not usually follow the burnout.

    If if’s worth your consideration, please expand this idea.

  26. Her husband works at Jones Day. The family will get the best investigation possible if it is warranted. We do have a two tiered legal system and they are in the elite of the elite.

  27. I don’t know whose links or excerpts depress me the most today.

    Lots of candidates I would thank for showing us what MSM doesn’t want to, or what MSM mistakenly shows itself to be.

    No names, you know who you are. And such different angles too.

    Bedtime. I’ll read your posts while you’re still sleeping tomorrow.

  28. idealist,

    I’ll have to ask you to clarify again… I’m a skimmer, at times. I must have missed something, regarding the “2 year clearance”…

  29. idealist707. Every case is different and not knowing this woman I would not care to speculate about her. Sometimes, someone that has met with so much success as she had educationally and career wise falls into thinking, is this all their is? They are essentially empty inside. Sometimes medications are involved. Some anti-depressants produce suicidal thoughts.

  30. Gene H. 1, February 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm


    I don’t think id707 was referring to you as a religious nut but rather the anti-sodomy homophobic ravings of Elisha – to whom I’d like to second the well-wishes anonymously administered above..

    Most of us think you’re a totally different kind of nut, Dredd. :D Plus, you very rarely attack. Which is so unlike you. You’ve changed so much since your days in Mega-City One law enforcement.
    It was not an attack, it was a veiled yippee!

  31. idealist707 1, February 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm


    And Dredd, I do appreciate you and your knowledge, and our sharing like most folks certain idiosyncracies, ie human attributes.

    Just to show my admiration and humility (seriously now) what is meant by
    “apparent suicide”. I don’t get it. ( My clashing with you is my nature, not yours.)

    As for the poor woman, how sad. I was disturbed by the rapid assent to it being suicide. Certain sudden deaths are disturbing that way. ´ Natural death by asthma=murder by caustic soda forced inhalation, for example.
    My comments were apparent … but only I know what really happened.

    It is that American English thingy. Very difficult to tell when someone is celebrating.

    Anyway goood on ya!

  32. AN,

    Sorry, being obscure again. (Just to avoid being called down for wordiness, I think).
    What happened was that I was at the hospital yesterday for a routine checkup after cancer treatment. Got told all is OK. And got a reminder that as I would be, in June, passing the two year borderline after end of treatment, that it was very very seldom that cancer returns after two years. So that was my impending 2 year clearance I referred to.

    My wife passed away with her third separate cancer type, thus referral to her not getting her clearance. The irony and bitterness over that cancer strikes down the innocent and the worthy equally often as the ordinary was
    weighing me down yesterday.

    Glad you asked, as putting it all into straight language now has helped lighten my load. But in your nurse wisdom you maybe knew this would happen.

  33. SwarthmoreMom,

    Agree and disagree.

    In disagreement I can believe that even the most wildly successful, daily or at least weekly meet the “so what” reaction from within. It may be the body saying it’s tired, it may be the superego expressing disappointment with not achieving set goals, it may be the realization that our strivings, even for good ends, are an essentially Sisyphus task, or as some say “In a hundred years who will know if it mattered at all what I did”.

    So meeting and surpassing the letdown is nothing new to them.
    The question is what made this letdown stand uncountered and maybe be the cause of this mishap. As yet we can’t know, and the family maybe does not want us to know, or maybe a killer does not want us to know either.

    I don’t want her or others to be victims of the media. Nor even those indirectly implicated. Nor do you. Monday morning quarterbacking others lives is essentially despicable, we are agreed on, I’m sure. Sure, with the realization and assurance that I shouldn’t be speaking in your name.

  34. Dredd,

    That’s cool. Left me wondering as usual.

    As always, eager for more of yours. I mean for example, your ecocosmology beats the mormons own planets with spirit babies. Have you thought of starting your own church?
    And that was written only because my love of a jest is greater than my sensible side. Apologies again. (I’m hopelessly impulsive. Smile)

  35. Dredd,
    I finally got your meaning. And will for obvious reasons add, as proof of that, that you were not the only one who did not get the RN call for trolls.
    In fact I wonder if anyone here did. It was the intrusions I called attention to, wasn’t it?

  36. I have had two of three friends who have taken Chantix to quit smoking relate they had experienced completely uncharacteristic sudden (almost) overwhelming suicidal ideation, a known side effect of that drug. They were able to resist. Some are not. Sudden, impulsive suicide? First thing I would look to is prescription drug intake and balance and change – even if (especially if) it / they were taken exactly as prescribed. So sorry for her loss though and her family. Whatever the cause it’s a loss and so sad. Condolences.

  37. Having experienced many years ago the depression caused by starting with SSRIs, I understand that others might take the wrong next step.
    ( I was not clinically depressed, only obsessed with countering my heart problem with something to reduce eventual tension. Self-precription, ie asking for a specific medicine outside the doctor’s competence area is dumb.)

    I quit SSRI’s, and only returned many years later when supplementary temporary medicine to counter this “beginning treatment” side effect was co-prescribed. Caution: leaving the medication causes similar problems and should be done under medical supervision also.

  38. People. Some one from my office saw her jump! I saw her sitting on the ledge and saw her after she jumped. The media is being secretive for some reason. Her husbands office is down the street from the suicide spot. My gut tells me this was related to mental disorder , marital problems , or drugs, or a mixture of these? I wish her family the best. I hope this turns out to be a learning experience for our community, but more facts are needed and the Oc register just doesn’t seem capable ……

  39. Larry,

    As a nurse, this isn’t an issue that’s foreign to me. Given my experience, the press is often deferential to the wishes of the family when suicide is involved. I’ve seen it over and over again. Perhaps this is the case with the Darmer family, as well.

    The Darmer family is grieving. They should be permitted to have some measure of privacy. IMO.

  40. If it was suicide jumping as she did would be a way to (presumably) assure success (re the post about the oman who jumped and broke all her bones but lived).
    (As someone who was not visibly depressed when younger, active, had friends, etc, did everything to ensure people did not suspect my thoughts continually lay with suicide, everyone was very surprised when I made my try. Appearances and life success may not indcate at all what many assume it does.)
    Idealist707, I am so sorry for your loss.
    And very glad you got a good report.

  41. I know very nice and sensitive people who have attempted suicide…what people do not realize is that extreme emotion especially to those who have a history of mental imbalance, such as Bipolar disorder, is simply unbearable to these people. I do not view such suicides as selfish, merely as symptoms of an often deadly disease. Those who are bipolar have an incredibly higher instance of suicidal ideation, and those who actually go through with the act. Either way rest in peace Professor Darmer. You will be missed.

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