That’s the best description I can give for my day yesterday. It was the kind of day you think about years later – or at least the aura it leaves with you when it passes.
I started out the day with a hearing – specially set – that ended well with an agreement and an (almost) win-win situation. My client is Moslem and takes faith seriously, is home-schooled, intelligent and a believer. I told her that I had heard the Koran said many beautiful things about marriage and the relationships between men and women and not to let her own bad experiences color her thinking. That basically, whatever their religion, people can chose to interpret their religion in such a way as to bring pain and suffering to others or in such a way as to bring joy, peace and light to others and the problems of life really come to that choice. You will usually know who those people are when we meet them. She agreed with me on that. We came up with a safety plan should the same situation arise again. She went home with her mother.
When that hearing was over, I remained behind in the courtroom to finish off some paperwork, since I had an hour to kill before my shelter hearings. The courtroom immediately began filling up for a sentencing hearing. A man had beaten, strangled and stabbed his 14-year-old stepdaughter to death, set her body on fire to mask the murder and ran out of the house, leaving his 7-month-old daughter in her crib in the house! He had already been convicted. The Court denied the usual motions by defense counsel (doing his job very well, a good thing) and then two members of the family came forward as part of the victim impact statement. The main spokesperson for this very close-knit African American family, a minister and a former policeman, spoke eloquently of the loss of this quiet and shy young teenager, of her cousins who lit a candle in her memory when they all turned 16 this past spring. Of the baby sister – now a toddler – who screams whenever a man comes near her and of the mother who has struggled to stay sane. This family had taken this man into their hearts without question, probably thinking that love could conquer all, with tragic results. What they probably did not know was that he had already served two prison sentences for rape and armed robbery and, most importantly, that he had no conscience. He showed no remorse for what happened and could barely hide his anger when the judge sentenced him to life without possibility of parole plus 30 years (15 each for arson and attempted murder of the baby sister – his own birth child).
I expressed my sympathies to family members sitting next to me and quickly left when it was all over to get to the shelter hearings downstairs. I couldn’t help but wonder what makes such a monster? At what point does a person’s upbringing make it impossible for them to change themselves? At what point is a human life salvageable?
The two shelters had drug abuse as their main theme. One of them, believe it or not, was one of my more hopeful cases. A young, but loving parent who is taking responsibility for her own stuff. That always gives me hope.
The other one still has me steaming. A young client of my colleague’s – we only just had her hearing last Thursday – ingested COCAINE!!!! – and (innocent thumb up their a$$es) parents have no idea where that came from! Gee I wonder – they think someone may have raked some into the home while they were raking leaves! Right! Like those crazy drug addict neighbors of theirs must sprinkle on the ground to make their lawn happy. Give me a freakin’ break! That hearing was continued because there wasn’t enough time to hear it and the Mother’s attorney (who is a good guy and a good lawyer) had a dr’s appointment. The parents probably needed some more time to think up another knee-slapper. So, we are going back to court.
Be back to finish this later.
Part two of my 11/21 saga continues. Stay tuned.