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Remembering a murdered boy, a missed opportunity & questioning the system a bit...
Today is the second anniversary of two significant events in my life. Three years ago today I almost met Justice Kennedy at the 100th anniversary celebration of the historic Riverside County Superior Courthouse. Friends of Girl Ipsa know that this would have been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being the sort of legal geek that I am... How far behind can the title of "Supreme Court Justice Groupie" be? This was an opportunity that I am unlikely to be given again.
Dork and I had planned to go, coupled in our legal-geekness, together. So, I know what would of happened had I been there, one step behind or in front of Dork, since I know what happened to him. He spoke with Justice Kennedy, shook hands. Had exactly the experience I was hoping to have. It would of been mine as well. Had I been there. But I was not. Which leads me to the second event this day memorializes for me: The death of Jerel Cobbs.
Jerel was 15 years old when he died of a gun shot wound, in a dark and muddy vacant lot, a few yards from where my oldest daughter lay hiding from the man with a gun. Three years later I am still suffocated by tragedy, still made guilty by the thought "Thank God it was not my child." At this very moment my daughter is in the next room. I can touch her. I can speak to her. I can loan her my car so that she may go to the grave of her friend today to cry and leave him flowers. But always hand in hand with that is the knowledge that Jerel's father can not.
No situation I have experienced, no case I've studied, nothing I know of has ever so perfectly placed the competing interests of criminal defendants and society (The People who speak for the victim) in contrast. A boy is dead. He was bright and funny and filled with so much potential. Loved by his family and his friends. Loyal enough to run from safety and into harms way to retrieve his fallen friend. And no excuse or explanation will ever change the fact of his death. Nothing can bring him back. No I'm sorry. No plea of it was not my fault.
On the other side is the man with the gun who has not yet gone to trial. He is being treated in Patton Hospital for mental illness that a judge agrees has made him unable to assist in his own defense. The law is pretty clear on this. If you can not defend yourself, we will not try you. It is a basic tenant of a civilized system. Sanitized of all the details it is both rational and benign.
But in this case, I have to be honest and say, it pisses me off.
I am angry. Angry that the anniversary of Jerel's death (Murder) is passing, again, without any resolution for his family. For his father. For his friends. For my daughter. Another year has passed where the questions remain unanswered and the man with the gun goes on unpunished.
Another year without vindication for The People.
I don't know what the answer is. It's not right to try an incompetent defendant. It is not right to make Jerel's father wait and wait for some vindication, some conclusion, to the nightmare. But I am inclined to think (perhaps I am biased by my rage) that if neither choice is right then the hardship ought to fall on the man with the gun. He chose his actions. He should now suffer his consequences.
I hope to soon add another anniversary to my collection. The anniversary of his conviction. The anniversary of the final resolution.
Kiss your kids today. And take a moment to remember all the parents who no longer can.